Carvell Wallace, “Trying to Parent My Black Teenagers Though Protest and Pandemic,” New York Times Magazine, June 21, 2020.
Written by Jeffer Koome, a male recent university graduate in Kenya:
Tribes used to provide social support and educate the youth. Nowadays, the elders to these tribes who were tasked with passing on the mantle of educating, and morally guiding the youths are compromised by corruption. The youths are being influenced by the western culture which is diluting their heritage and cultural practices. Urbanization is also to blame as most youths don’t want to stay behind and take over their parents’ farms and continue the family cultures. It’s sad.
I believe the use of the word community shows inclusivity especially among young people. We may be different in our origins but we see each other as part of one community regardless. A good example in Kenya we have tribes like Kikuyu or Kalenjin with more than 5 sub-tribes in it. Young people among a subtribe find it hard to describe another young person from a different sub-tribe of the same tribe as different from them and I believe that’s why the word community is common among the young generation to show we are one and I don’t care which subtribe or tribe you come from.
Dowry and bride price is still in practice to date. but the golden rule in all cultures is that no matter how wealthy you are, you can never finish paying the Dowry or bride price. Doing so is termed disrespectful as that is to say you don’t want to visit your inlaws again because you don’t owe them anything
Let me break it in parts since every community as a different way of calculating the dowry.
Some of the common practices that seem to cut across are:
- The modern families and some of the educated families and people living in major towns, they still practice the traditions based on where they come from but dowry is paid in cash. For example, if the tradition says you bring 3cows and 2goats, as the man you should have prior knowledge and get the equivalent cash.
- For the more traditional families in the rural areas and some very hardcore traditionalist communists like the Maasai, you have to come physically with the animal to the lady’s house. This is because to them a live animal is way more valuable than any currency equivalent.
- There is an emerging trend where inlaws that the parents and uncles to the bride will equate the bride price to the amount of money they have spent on her and if she as graduated from university, the price goes higher. Very discouraging to the lads but its what it is. In some instances, men have walked out of a dowry negotiation as the targets were too high and termed it exploitation.
- Other families especially in the educated group will tell the man to bless them with what they have since they know they have found a good wife in their daughter and that dowry price is determined by the groom.
The older generation, most of them they are having none of that, Some with daughters only see it as a retirement option. its crazy.
however, Among the young people, they feel like going through with the bride price is like putting yourself in serious debt as most can’t afford the amount even involved in the organizations as its a ceremony on its own with hundreds if not more people in some cases attending.
Many young women are opting to stay with their boyfriends and they are starting families secretly. Some live in fear of being cast out if they are found to be living with someone and they are not blessed by parents or guardians.
But the trendy option among the young couples of going to the Attorney generals office and getting certified as married, Its really gaining traction in recent time
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- “The ground is moving for the first time for progressive Generations Y and Z in opposition to Baby Boomers in power, observes Harvard pollster John Della Volpe. He points out that globally the Millennials (Gen Y) are the largest one in history. He calls them the Values Generation, evidenced by the large numbers of white protesters against police violence. Just as they were fired up by the Parkland movement for gun control to vote in 2018, he predicts the same for the 2020 election (although they didn’t turn out for Bernie Sander’s presidential campaign). Your observations about generation differences?
- Max Haskell, Oct 11, 2019. Daily Trojan
- Pollster discusses millennial, Gen Z voter trends ahead of 2020 elections
Understanding Generation Z
The following is US-centric. Please add observations from other countries.
Generation Z was born 1994 or 1995 to 2010 or 2012. The oldest in the US were in kindergarten during the 9/11 2001 World Trade Towers bombing, followed by the Recession of 2008, the election of divisive Donald Trump in 2016, school shootings as in Parkland, Florida in 2018, and the Covid-19 pandemic and economic crash of 2020. Gen Z is also called Founders (of a new society), the Plurals, iGen, and Homelanders. They’re Digital Natives who use the internet more than books, GPS rather than maps, Spotify rather than CDs, Netflix rather than videos, and girls rent fancy dresses rather than buy them. Many students were forced to do virtual learning due to the pandemic of 2020. Because they’ve been surrounded by unemployment and college students graduating with an average debt of over $35,000 in 2019, many are reluctant to take loans, they work long hours, and work for themselves in the “freelance economy.”
As a diverse generation (almost half are people of color), like Gen Y, they are comfortable with diversity (i.e., ethnicity, gender fluidity, LGBTI) and use the word “intersectional” in their organizing. They tend to be progressive and liberal in their political views, but older Americans are still more likely to turn out to vote even though youth are very worried about climate change and the environment. Some of them think politics is so corrupt that it’s not worth taking the time to vote. They volunteer at about the same rate as Gen Y but with longer hours, according to Corey Seemiller.
In an online international survey of young people in 2019, the “Future of Humanity Survey” reported the top global issue was climate change (41%), followed by the closely related pollution (36%) and terrorism (31%).[i] The survey included more than 10,000 youth aged 18 to 25 in 22 countries. The report concluded youth realize they live in a failed system, ““This generation lives in a world of widening inequality, economic instability and austerity where vast numbers of people have been left behind…. The climate crisis, pollution, corruption and poor living standards are all windows on an alarming truth about how the powerful have exploited their power for selfish and often short-term gain.”
Seemiller surveys and writes about Gen Z—mainly college students, who she characterizes as loyal, thoughtful, passionate, open-minded, and determined.[ii] They are spiritual rather than affiliated with a religion. She reports that their parents have shifted from being protective helicopter parents and more than other generation, they look to their parents as role-models. The way they learn is they want a experiential, active demonstration of a skill and then to practice it with feedback. Unlike Gen Y, they don’t prefer to work in groups, but they like “social learning,” such as studying next to each other in libraries or coffee shops. They like honest feedback from their parents, employers, coaches, etc. in contrast to Gen Y who mainly wants positive feedback. They’re more interested in being happy and making a difference in their work than making a lot of money. Relationships are important to them and nearly half intend to start their own business. They seek passion and meaning in their work so that 40% would like to invent something to help change the world. In my interviews with global Gen Z girl climate activists, many of them described themselves as passionate.
Many in Gen Z are addicted to their smart phones and some suffer anxiety if their phone isn’t nearby. (They became common in 2007.) The average teen spends more than seven hours a day on screens for entertainment.[iii] The average Gen Z in Seemiller’s surveys has 8.7 social media accounts. They get a lot of their news from Twitter and YouTube. They can suffer from information overload and sometimes misinformation. This may be part of the reason Seemiller found 83% prefer face-to-face communication, followed by texting (60%), even though they tend not to be good communicators. She found they may not even know how to flirt or banter, but she says the biggest legacy of Gen Z is belief in unconditional love. The University of Michigan Monitoring the Future researchers discovered that girls are spending less time with friends, exercising, and in nature because of time spent on social media, which contributes to loneliness and increasing rates of feeling bored.[iv]
Anxiety and depression rates are high due to high stress and loneliness, as well as they’re more likely to report mental health problems than earlier generations. A 2019 Pew Research Center found that 36% of girls reported being extremely anxious daily. Michael Gurian, the father of daughters, observes that girls have “an intimacy imperative,” that values relationships and social media is all about relationships and that it rewires youths’ brains.[v] He adds that in 2011 31% of first year college women had an overwhelming anxiety attack in their first year, but this increased to 62% in 2016. An icon of depression is award-winning teen singer Billie Eilish who said she wants to be “the voice of the people” and says she loves freaking people out.[vi] She too is uncomfortable with her body, wearing large baggy clothes. In one of her music videos, she’s tormented with cigarette butts and in another she’s poked with syringes; this helps her deal with her depression she says.
Professor Jean Twenge blames smartphones as one explanation for the increase in major depression among teens since 2010—especially for girls.[vii] Their rates of major depression increased from 12% in 2011 to 20% in 2017 and their suicide rate doubled since 2007. Based on three surveys of more than 200,000 teens in the US and UK she found that girls spend more time on social media and boys spend more time on games. For both girls and boys, teens who spend more time on digital media are more likely to be depressed and unhappy, especially for girls—and social media is designed to be addictive. Social media creates a hierarchy, Twenge says, based on numbers of likes and followers. This leads to comparing yourself to others, which can be depressing, and worry about appearance. Many of the girls I interviewed for the climate activism book told me they have body image worries because of social media.
A study of Gen Z reported that some of them are turning away from social media.[viii] The survey of over 1,000 young people ages 18 to 24 in 2017 reported that 91% use social media and 51% say they use social media almost constantly. The most popular are Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook. The problem is that 68% report that social media has sometimes(48%) or often (20%) made them feel anxious, sad, or depressed and 29% said it has hurt their self-esteem or made them feel insecure. At the same time, 61% said it had a positive impact on their self-confidence. Over half (58%) wanted to take a temporary break from social media temporarily because: It wastes too much time (41%) , too much negativity (35%), too much pressure to get attention (18%), or it made them feel bad about themselves. (17%).
However, my conversations with teens indicate they’re anxious about a lot more than social media likes or photos. High school students are working as well as trying to get good grades to get into a good college, do sports and other school activities, maintain friendships and family responsibilities. Homework keeps them up late, which contributes to depression. College students worry about how to finance their education and pay off student loans. A YouTube influencer is followed by a 15-year-old girl because, she talks about “how it’s harder being a girl than a guy, how we feel more pain.”[ix] The Gen Z girls I’ve interviewed are very well-informed, articulate, and devoted to making a difference. They are unapologetic feminists
[i] “Generation Z Ranks Climate Change Highest as Vital Issue of Our Time,” Amnesty International, December 9, 2019.
[ii] Corey Seemiller and Meghan Grace: Generation Z Goes to College, 2016. Generation Z Leads, 2017. Generation Z: A Century in the Making, 2019. Generation Z Learns, 2019.
[iii] Julia Jacobo, “Teens Spend More than 7 Hours on Screens for Entertainment a Day,” ABC News, October 29, 2019.
[iv] “Boredom is on the Rise for Adolescents, Especially Girls,” Science Daily, November 19, 2019.
[vi] Jonah Weiner, “How Billie Ellish Rode Teenage Weirdness to Stardom,” New York Times Magazine, March 11, 2020.
[vii] Jean Twenge, “Why Teen Depression Rates are Rising Faster for Girls than Boys,” The Conversation, January 16, 2020.
[viii] “Meet Gen Z: the Social Generation,”
[ix] Claire Balleys, et al., “Searching for Oneself on YouTube: Teenage Peer Socialization and Social Recognition Processes,” Social Media and Society, April 2020.
Meet the Covid Class of 2020, born after 9/11, a generation bookended by tragedy.
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All of which means that you’re going to have to grow up faster than some generations. This pandemic has shaken up the status quo and laid bare a lot of our country’s deep-seated problems — from massive economic inequality to ongoing racial disparities to a lack of basic health care for people who need it. It’s woken a lot of young people up to the fact that the old ways of doing things just don’t work; that it doesn’t matter how much money you make if everyone around you is hungry and sick; and that our society and our democracy only work when we think not just about ourselves, but about each other.
It’s also pulled the curtain back on another hard truth, something that we all have to eventually accept once our childhood comes to an end. All those adults that you used to think were in charge and knew what they were doing? Turns out that they don’t have all the answers. A lot of them aren’t even asking the right questions. So, if the world’s going to get better, it going to be up to you.
That realization may be kind of intimidating. But I hope it’s also inspiring. With all the challenges this country faces right now, nobody can tell you “no, you’re too young to understand” or “this is how it’s always been done.” Because with so much uncertainty, with everything suddenly up for grabs, this is your generation’s world to shape.
But if you listen to the truth that’s inside yourself, even when it’s hard, even when its inconvenient, people will notice. They’ll gravitate towards you. And you’ll be part of the solution instead of part of the problem.
And finally, build a community. No one does big things by themselves.
But the truth is that you don’t need us to tell you what to do.
Because in so many ways, you’ve already started to lead.
Congratulations, Class of 2020. Keep making us proud.