More Than Money
Issue #14
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Young and Wealthy

Table of Contents

“Slack This!”

Like other so-called Generation Xers, I have spent my entire political life shivering in the shadow of the '60s. On the one hand, I'm awed by the extent to which the '60s generation in its youthful heyday was able to destabilize the government and change some laws. On the other hand, if I meet one more old head who attempts to rein in young militants with a statement about how he"marched with King," I'm gonna hurl.

If you ask me, it's way past time for the new generation to step out into the warm sunshine of our own achievements. The old school certainly deserves respect, but I hardly ever hear its members--or any Gen Xers, for that matter--giving props to the new jacks.

The political history of our generation, which includes people in their 20s to early 30s, began in one of the toughest political periods imaginable: the Reagan-Bush deep freeze. Yet Gen X activists during that time launched successful struggles to support revolutionary movements in both South Africa and Central America. Nelson Mandela is president of South Africa in part because of us. And by calling for an end to the nuclear menace, we kept the world's attention on the arms race while Ronnie's finger was on the button.

Gen X activists maintained a 10-year offensive to make college campuses less hostile to "outsiders" and successfully won or defended multi-cultural academic programs. We mobilized for peace on the streets through the gang-truce movement, and made the nation aware of environmental injustices. Gen X optimism and commitment fueled the tidal wave of volunteer community-service projects, such as Citycorps and Americorps, that swept the country in the early 1990s. In 1990, members of our generation mobilized opposition to the Persian Gulf war, and it was the creative theatrics of Gen X activists in ACT UP that helped put the AIDS epidemic on the national policy agenda.

Our politics far outstrip the classic 1960s agenda of civil rights, women's rights, and peace. We also passionately support queer liberation, the rights of people with disabilities, community control of police, human rights for immigrants, and sustainable ecological development. We use technological innovations to raise our voices above the mass media din, and we eagerly embrace cultural celebration and spiritual renewal. If you compare our track record to that of the baby boomers after the 1970s, it's hard to see why anyone would call us slackers.

-- by Van Jones,reprinted with permission from the September/October 1996 issue of the magazine Third Force : Issues and Actions in Communities of Color. (To contribute to Third Force's Community Subscriptions Program, send donations to the Center for Third World Organizing at 1218 East 21st Street , Oakland , CA 94606 .)

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