Some baby boomers I know (and like quite a lot!) who are able to respond well to discussions of sexism and racism are really struggling with the concept of generational privilege. I'm getting a lot of, "But I had to work hard to get where I am! I'm not responsible for how things are!" Often accompanied by a deer-in-the-headlights expression.
And I tell them, yes I know you had to work. But it's the same as with other forms of privilege: the advantage of when you were born has meant that the work you put in was more meaningful. Hard work was necessary, but also a sure bet most of the time.
If you're a white male Boomer and you worked hard in pursuit of a thing, chances are you got the thing! Whereas that's been less and less true for younger generations. We work hard ... and don't get the promotion that was vaguely alluded to when we were hired. We work hard, and get laid off anyhow. We go to college and work hard to get good grades ... and graduate with massive debt and only marginally better job prospects. (I did not graduate with massive debt myself; I got lucky with regard to scholarships and college being cheap enough to work my way through, and us Gen-Xers were I think the last generation to find that kind of luck.)
I was talking last night with one of my best Boomer friends, and he was reminiscing about the time he worked for CompuServe: "They paid tuition for staff. If you got a college degree while you were there, it meant an *automatic* promotion and pay increase!"
And I replied, "That's cool. That sounds really nice. Contrast that with my being an adjunct creative writing instructor. I got my MFA in creative writing while I was working there, with no help from that particular university. I figured it would at least solidify my position there? Maybe open up other opportunities? But they don't seem to care. If anything things have gotten worse for me there in terms of the money I make."
He blinked. "They don't care that you got a terminal creative writing degree? But that makes you a better, more knowledgeable instructor! How can they not care?"
Me: "Apparently it's very easy to not care about adjunct instructors!"
And that cuts to a lot of the things that get a response of "OK Boomer": the assumption certain Boomers make that any financial predicament suffered by younger folks is the result of just not trying hard enough.
And it is so, so frustrating to have someone who's pulling down a six-figure household income from a single job that they were able to land without a college degree tell you that when you're working the equivalent of two full-time jobs and making maybe a third of what they are. And then you try to explain that, and then they start talking about "well when I was young I had to pay my dues, too." And then you just want to flip a table.
I feel like I've been paying dues for about 25 years now. My day job resume is a series of jobs that require a high level of knowledge -- tech support, content editing, network operations -- that were nonetheless considered "entry level" and had no path to advancement. Or they've been contract gigs like my adjuncting job where you're always contingent and fundamentally disposable. There is no end of that in sight. I've been hitting not just glass ceilings but glass walls. And I know it's even worse for people younger than me. Like, a lot worse, in particular because of that crushing college debt I was old enough to avoid.