John Seven: Millennials showed proper chutzpah in Missouri protests


NORTH ADAMS >> It's disheartening to watch my own generation fall into the cycle of those previous, so quick and so delighted to point out the shortcomings of millennials while skipping over our own at their age.

The growing salvo of describing the next generation as "infantilized" hit a shameful peak this week, as anti-racism actions at University of Missouri and Yale were misrepresented so often in the media as further indication of the entitlement of the young.

This just in: Young people are not perfect. Neither were we. Neither were our parents, nor our grandparents.

One of the pivotal moments at Missouri was a confrontation between protesters and a news photographer over whether he had the right to enter their "safe space." The photographer argued his point eloquently and correctly, even though there were calls for "muscle" to push him away. After the incident, he responded with grace, asking that people pay attention to the real issues of the protests and not that one incident. The argument was captured on video by another journalist.

As presented in the media, this was a clear case of an assault on free speech that magnified the entitlement and ignorance of the young. There's a big problem with that representation, though. The photographer and the journalist who videod the incident are young student journalists. The people who were calling for "muscle" and inciting the protesters against the press? Those were two older staff members. The so-called villains of the incident were the people of my generation. The heroes of free speech were the millennials.

But most people have chosen to ignore that, instead going with the accepted narrative of sensible older people tsk-tsking entitled young people. The irony of this is that it is exactly the reason protesters at Missouri stated they did not want press to enter their immediate space. They have stated that they did not trust the media to represent their narrative in a factual way.

They, like anybody else in a conflict, were doing their best to steer the message that got out to the public. In the media's representation afterward, it showed off the exact troublesome tendency that the protesters expressed concern about.

I recall when I was younger, and the older generations were fond of explaining reasons that I or my contemporaries shouldn't whine. It was done so much that it became a cliche that we all made fun of. We hadn't lived through the Great Depression or World War II. We hadn't lived through the tumultuous '60s, hadn't faced Vietnam.

The difference between my generation and the millennials is that my generation mostly accepted these arguments and went about the business of taking very little action, of electing Bill Clinton as a farcical face of liberalism and embracing a conservative Christian stance because we can't see anything through the eyes of other people.

But in all that, we did something right. We raised the millennials. We raised a generation that does not hesitate to stand up for itself, a generation that does not need prodding to fight injustice. That's not entitlement, that's chutzpah.

We may not always agree with everything millennials fight for, with the frequency in which they fight or every method they use, but that's just so much nitpicking. The millennials were raised to take action, to speak up for themselves, to not accept the dismissive nonsense that so often comes out of the mouths of their elders. I applaud them for this.

They're everything I wish my own generation had been. They can't be made to shut up and I like that.

Do they need me to speak for them? Hell, no. And so I am happy to defer to them.

John Seven, a writer, lives in North Adams. He can be reached at or at


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