George Floyd Death: Are Digital Age Millennials Altering the Political Discourse?

By Abdi Musse, A London-Based Commentator on Global Geopolitics and current affairs.

Statue of Edward Colston brought down by protestors in Bristol City (United Kingdom)
Statue of Edward Colston brought down by protestors in Bristol City (United Kingdom)

Ever since sociologists, psychologists and public relation gurus invented social engineering theories that incrementally took over the role of parents, family and local customs, social values were almost manufactured through perceptions that were constantly created towards a certain defined direction. However, the scientific manufacturing of social practises imposed on the masses seems to be eroding nowadays among the younger generations due to the arguably unintended consequence of social media or digital age, including within conservative societies or and traditionally parents-led communities.

Parent’s views were formed through the conviction of adhering to media asserted values-those conformant with certain directions each society was destined to travel.

However, in 2020, and in light of George Floyd’s death, we see defiant youth from Washington to London, from Brussels to Tokyo and from Berlin to Sydney, all stand up for the elimination of injustices and inequalities that exist in their own countries and beyond.

Unchartered Territories

Social media has given a new dimension to this horrific killing with non-black youth feeling outraged as the video of Floyd being suffocated by the knee of a white American policeman went viral.

The demonstrations against the brutal killing of Floyd witnessed in the last few days in many cities around the globe raise new questions as to why these young white generations are protesting in huge numbers?

While expectations were that Black Lives Matter movement is an issue isolated to black people only, the currency and pace these protests have reached in “unchartered territories” that cannot be underestimated.

These changing paradigms raise other important questions. This phenomenon goes against the assumed perception of most white young people are indifferent of what happens to black people.

Independent News Consumers

Today Young white and black people consume and receive their information independently from various sources and follow the trends of the world news content not from the traditional mainstream media that educated, entertained and informed their parents. They rather pick and choose from social media that broadcast to them, sometimes live, uncensored injustices and inequalities that surfaces around the world.

Digital media tools have given them greater autonomy of information and personal judgement over events, something their parents and grandparents didn’t enjoy.

Calling the Shots

The unrestricted feed of these transgressions and dissimilarities led young people to be defiant of social norms their parents and authorities wanted them to adhere to.

The reactionary protests which are more or less peaceful around the globe are clear manifestation of how the Millennial Generation interpret the content they consume as news or current affairs.

It lets in the belief that the Digital Age is nowadays calling the shots by controlling the widespread narratives of the youth. An issue that is becoming problematic to governments — and parents alike- who have yet to grasp what is happening around them.

If this Millennial Generation decide to enforce their willingness to resist all forms of prejudice and disparities regardless of origin or entities it emanates from, it has the potential to shake up the core assumptions as well as the centuries-long conventional wisdom.

Specialists use the fact that these protests are in fact taking place despite the global health crisis caused by Covid 19 pandemic and the ensuing economic hardships shows that the global youth are determined to make their voices heard.

Humanising the Victims

It’s an essentially human reaction according to Deborah Rivas-Drake, professor of education and psychology, from the Department of Psychology at the University of Michigan in the United States, who examines how adolescents navigate issues related to race and ethnicity in school, peer and family settings.

It’s a way to “Humanize the victims — they are parents, sons and daughters, friends, members of a community who are suffering their loss’ writes the professor in an article published on the American institution’s website.

Many experts, such as prominent sociologists, anthropologists, Public Relation professionals agreed the new trajectory is moving fast and authorities are failing the catch up with reality.

These specialists also acknowledge that if young people of all colours stood up for George Floyd in solidarity in pursuit of justice and equality, there is no reason to believe that they will not also stand up to other daily injustices practised by governments and rulers of all kinds.

Is the Gene Out?

To conclude the design and manufacturing of social norms and value passing-on-chain method between the mainstream media, parents, authorities and young people has been shaken or even broken.

It is apparent now young people have discovered and combined their political energy with autonomous information, which -like the waves of a tornado- will make their movements and direction of travel unpredictable and challenging for all concerned.

Whatever its original intentions, social media seems to arguably transform ways and thinking of young generations, something that is having an impact on how they observe the world around them and their relationship with it.

This state of affairs offers a fascinating chronicle of a period of change in our history where young people with diverse backgrounds across geographies and races have mobilised towards fairness and sameness. The genie is out of the bottle.

You can reach the author by Amusse@fohof.org

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