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  • So on the surface,

  • Troy is the kind of millennial that think pieces are made of.

  • He's arrogant, self-centered

  • and convinced that he is smarter than people give him credit for.

  • His favorite topics of conversation are girls, sneakers and cars --

  • not a surprise for someone who was a teenager just a few years ago.

  • But Troy's mannerisms --

  • they reveal the patterns of someone who is scared,

  • troubled and unsure of the future.

  • Now Troy also embodies the many positive qualities

  • his generation is known for.

  • An entrepreneurial spirit,

  • an independent streak

  • and a dedication to his parents.

  • He believes in hard work

  • and has tried gigs in both the licit and underground economies,

  • but he hasn't had any luck

  • and is just trying to find his way

  • and still dances between both worlds.

  • When I met Troy a few years ago,

  • he had been employed as a golf caddy at a local country club,

  • carrying bags for rich men and women

  • who often never even acknowledged his existence.

  • Before that, he sold sneakers on Facebook.

  • He even tried selling candy bars and water bottles,

  • but he wasn't making enough money to help his parents out

  • or save up for a car any time soon.

  • So Troy saw how hard his immigrant mother from Jamaica worked

  • and how little she got back in return,

  • and he vowed --

  • Troy vowed to take a different path.

  • So he ended up selling drugs.

  • And then he got caught,

  • and right now, he's trying to figure out his next steps.

  • In a country where money equals power,

  • quick money, at least for a while, gives young men and women like him

  • a sense of control over their lives,

  • though he said he mainly did it because he wanted stability.

  • "I wanted a good life," he told me.

  • "I got greedy and I got caught."

  • Yet the amazing thing about Troy

  • is that he still believes in the American dream.

  • He still believes that with hard work,

  • despite being arrested,

  • that he can move on up.

  • Now, I don't know if Troy's dreams came true.

  • He disappeared from the program for troubled youth that he was involved in

  • and slipped through the cracks,

  • but on that day that we spoke,

  • I could tell that more than anything,

  • Troy was happy that someone listened to his dreams

  • and asked him about his future.

  • So I think about Troy and his optimism

  • when I think of the reality that so many young, black millennials face

  • when it comes to realizing their dreams.

  • I think about all the challenges

  • that so many black millennials have to endure

  • in a world that tells them they can anything they want to be

  • if they work hard,

  • but actually doesn't sit down to listen to their dreams

  • or hear stories about their struggle.

  • And we really need to listen to this generation

  • if we hope to have a healthy and civil society going forward,

  • because millienials of color,

  • they make up a fair chunk of the US and the world population.

  • Now when we talk about millennials,

  • a group that is often labeled as entitled, lazy, overeducated,

  • noncommittal and narcissistic,

  • the conversations often swirl around avocado toast,

  • overpriced lattes and fancy jobs abroad --

  • you probably have heard all these things before.

  • But millennials are not a monolith.

  • Actress Lena Dunham may be the media's representation

  • of this generation,

  • but Troy and other voices like his are also part of the story.

  • In fact, millennials are the largest and most diverse adult population

  • in this country.

  • 44 percent of all American millennials are nonwhite,

  • but often, you wouldn't even know it at all.

  • Now sure, there are similarities within this population

  • born between 1981 and 1996.

  • Perhaps many of us do love avocado toast and lattes --

  • I know I do, right?

  • But there are also extreme differences,

  • often between millennials of color and white millennials.

  • In fact, all too often,

  • it seems as though we're virtually living in different worlds.

  • Now black millennials,

  • a group that I have researched for a book I recently wrote,

  • are the perfect example of the blind spot that we have

  • when it comes to this group.

  • For example,

  • we have lower rates of homeownership,

  • we have higher student debt,

  • we get ID'd more at voter registration booths,

  • we are incarcerated at higher rates ...

  • we make less money,

  • we have higher numbers of unemployment --

  • even when we do go to college, I should say --

  • and we get married at lower rates.

  • And honestly, that's really just the beginning.

  • Now, none of these struggles are particularly new, right?

  • Young black people in America have been fighting,

  • really fighting hard to get their stories told for centuries.

  • After the Civil War in the 1800s,

  • Reconstruction failed to deliver the equality

  • that the end of slavery should have heralded,

  • so young people moved to the North and the West

  • to escape discriminatory Jim Crow policies.

  • Then, as segregation raged in much of the country,

  • young black people helped spearhead civil rights campaigns

  • in the 1950s and 1960s.

  • After that, some people embraced black power and then became Black Panthers

  • and then the next generation,

  • they turned to hip-hop to make sure their voices were heard.

  • And then Barack Obama,

  • hopeful that he, too, may bring about change.

  • And when that failed,

  • when we realized we were still brutalized and battered,

  • we had to let the world know that our lives still mattered.

  • Now, when technology allows more video of our pain and struggle

  • to be broadcast to the world,

  • we wonder, like, what is next?

  • Our country feels more polarized than ever,

  • yet we are still being told to pull up our pants,

  • be respectable, be less angry,

  • smile more and work harder.

  • Even the attitudes of millennials themselves are overdue for an update.

  • Research done by the Washington Post in 2015 about this supposedly "woke" group

  • found that 31 percent of white millennials think that blacks are lazier than whites,

  • and 23 percent say they're not as intelligent.

  • These are, like, surprising things to me, and shocking.

  • And these responses are not that much different

  • than generations in the past,

  • and it shows that unfortunately,

  • this generation is repeating the same old stereotypes

  • and tropes of the past.

  • Now, a study conducted by David Binder Research and MTV in 2014 --

  • it found that 84 percent of young millennials were taught by their families

  • that everyone should be equal.

  • This is a really great thing, a really positive step.

  • But only 37 percent in that group

  • actually talked about race with their families.

  • So I could understand why things may be confusing to some.

  • There are definitely black millennials who are succeeding.

  • Marvel's "Black Panther,"

  • directed by black millennial Ryan Coogler and showcasing many others,

  • broke all sorts of records.

  • There's a crop of television shows by creatives like Donald Glover,

  • Lena Waithe and Issa Rae.

  • Beyoncé is, like, the queen, right?

  • She is, like, everything.

  • Young black authors are winning awards,

  • Serena Williams is still dominating on the tennis court

  • despite all her haters,

  • and there's a crop of new politicians and activists running for office.

  • So I don't want to, like, kill these moments of black joy

  • that I too revel in,

  • but I want to make it clear

  • that these wins are too few and far between

  • for a people that's been here for over 400 years.

  • Like, that's insane, right?

  • And most people still don't really understand the full picture, right?

  • Our stories are still misunderstood,

  • our bodies are still taken advantage of,

  • and our voices?

  • Our voices are silenced

  • in a world that still shows little concern for our everyday struggles.

  • So our stories need to be told

  • in a multitude of ways

  • by a range of voices

  • talking about diverse and nuanced topics,

  • and they really need to be listened to.

  • And it is not just here in America, right?

  • It's all around the world.

  • Millennials make up 27 percent of the world's population.

  • That's around two billion people.

  • And with countries like India, China, Indonesia and Brazil,

  • along with the United States,

  • accounting for 50 percent of the world's millennials,

  • it's clear that the white, often male, heterosexual narrative of the millennial

  • is only telling half the story.

  • Now, there's many people trying to broaden the palette.

  • They're fighting to get their stories told and bust the millennial stereotype.

  • Whether it's students in South Africa protesting statues of Cecil Rhodes,

  • Michaela Coel making us laugh from the UK,

  • or Uche Eze, who's framing views about Nigerian life, online.

  • But I want to make it clear --

  • I want to make it really clear to everyone

  • that just because things look more equal than they did

  • in the 20th century,

  • doesn't mean that things are equitable at all.

  • It doesn't mean our experiences are equitable,

  • and it certainly doesn't mean that a post-racial society,

  • that thing that we talked about so much,

  • ever became close to being a reality.

  • I think of Joelle,

  • a middle-class 20-something who did everything the "right way,"

  • but she couldn't go to her dream school, because it was simply too expensive.

  • Or Jalessa,

  • who knows she can't be mediocre at her job

  • the same way that her white peers can.

  • Or Trina, who knows that people judge her unconventional family choices

  • in a different way than if she were a white woman.

  • Or actor AB,

  • who knows that the roles he takes and gets in Hollywood are different

  • because of his skin color.

  • And then there's Simon.

  • So Simon, by all means, would be an example of someone who's made it.

  • He's a CFO at a tech company in San Francisco,

  • he has a degree from MIT

  • and he's worked at some of the hottest tech companies in the world.

  • But when I asked Simon if he had achieved the American dream,

  • it took him a while to respond.

  • While acknowledging that he had a really comfortable life,

  • he admitted that under different circumstances,

  • he might have chosen a different path.

  • Simon really loves photography,

  • but that was never a real option for him.

  • "My parents weren't able to subsidize me

  • through that sort of thing," Simon said.

  • "Maybe that's something my children could do."

  • So it's these kinds of stories --

  • the quieter, more subtle ones --

  • that reveal the often unique and untold stories of black millennials

  • that show how even dreaming may differ between communities.

  • So we really need to listen and hear the stories of this generation,

  • now more than ever,

  • as the baby boomers age and millennials come to prominence.

  • We can talk all we want to about pickling businesses in Brooklyn

  • or avocado toast,

  • but leaving out the stories and the voices of black millennials,

  • large swaths of the population --

  • it will only increase divisions.

  • So stories of black millennials, brown millennials

  • and all millennials of color

  • really need to be told,

  • and they also need to be listened to.

  • We'd be a far better-off country and world.

  • Thank you.

  • (Applause)

So on the surface,

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