Your Unique Cultural Lens: A Guide To Cultural Competence

Layer 3: Generation/Age – Generational acculturation and experiences


Most people alive today are members of one of the following generations, generally referred to, at least in the United States as: G.I. Generation (birth year 1900—1924), Silent Generation (1925—1945), Baby Boomers (1946—1964), Generation X (1965—1979), Millennials (1980—1997) or Generation Z (1998 and beyond). While these are sometimes useful, though artificial, conventions in many parts of the world, it’s important to also keep in mind many other countries have created their own generational conventions based on local events. For example, the generations shown above make no sense to people in South Africa. They find it far more useful to refer to those who were school age during the struggle against Apartheid as the “Lost Generation,” while those born since 1994 (when Apartheid came down) are often called the “Born Free Generation.”


A contributor’s example of Layer 3:

I made my debut in the world in the spring of 1985, which makes me a part of the millennial generation, those born between 1980 and 1997.



The internet boom, affectionately known as the dot-com bubble, unfolded during my formative years as an “old millennial.” From 1995 to 2001, the use of the internet and advanced technology became a way of life. I find that I am reliant on technology, and I embrace advances in technology. I use, have grown accustomed to, and rely heavily on the information and services that are at our fingertips due to technological advances including rideshare, social media, search engines, news, online banking and shopping.

The Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks are a vivid memory. I recall being in high school when an announcement was made over the announcement system that we were on lockdown until further notice. As word of the attacks began to spread among our teachers and staff members, classroom televisions were nervously turned to the news, and my level of anxiety and confusion began to skyrocket as we watched the second plane hit the second tower and learned about attacks at the Pentagon and the downed plane in Pennsylvania. Soon after the Sept. 11 attacks, the Maryland sniper was on the loose in Montgomery County, Maryland, shooting innocent bystanders who were doing daily activities like pumping gas.



This made me fearful of completing daily activities. Additionally, attacks like Columbine, Oklahoma City, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, Charleston Church, the Boston Marathon and in movie theaters are also vivid memories for which my heart weeps. Intense emotions, including fear, about terrorism and unexpected tragedy have evolved within me.

I also witnessed very controversial presidential elections and scandals. I recall being a child and witnessing the impeachment proceedings of President Bill Clinton. This led me to mistrust leadership because, my young mind reasoned, if we cannot trust the president, who can we trust? Later, I had the honor of following Barack Obama’s presidential campaign and engaging as a millennial, the generation that is said to have voted him into office.



As an African-American, this was a moment that was beyond the wildest dreams of my ancestors and the generations before me. That election marked a feeling of hope and optimism for me. And, I also became more aware of the hatred that exists in the United States as I heard racist commentary and political opinions rooted in racism. Recently, bigotry and hatred have become even more apparent to me. Protests have become more common, and my trust in political leaders and equity has hit a new low.



I realize I have an expectation things will and can be done quickly, if not instantly, and I expect that technology be integrated when possible. As I navigate the world, I must exercise patience and manage my expectations around the use of technology. I also have to be mindful of the trauma associated with terrorist attacks. I find that I have become numb to tragedy. I often shut down and avoid discussing and dealing with tragedy. In fact, I often will elect to avoid reading “too much news” to maintain a positive outlook on the world in spite of all that is going on. I find that I am disappointed and dissatisfied with the political climate and continue to dedicate my time and resources to fighting for social justice, diversity and equity.