Millennials in Their Own Words

On November 6, 2013 Applied Research Center (ARC) was rebranded as Race Forward: The Center for Racial Justice Innovation. The content on this page was published on the ARC website prior to the rebrand.
May 23, 2012

ARC Studies on Millennials are available at
Listed below are select quotes from those reports. 


Focus Group Quotes, ARC's 2012 Report Millennials, Activism and Race
Focus Group Quotes, ARC's 2011 Report Don't Call Them 'Post-Racial'

On a dominant economic ideology based on individualism:
I would say that the economic system is built to produce the results that we see in everyday life. So [society’s] lack of empathy is built on the fact that the economic system thrives on competition, and we are supposed to compete with each other instead of work with each other in order to produce profit…
--Stan, 25, Chinese-American community organizer (Oakland)

On the “Non-Profit Industrial Complex”:

I think what’s keeping people from pushing back on these systems is the fact that our movements, our social justice movements like the civil rights movements were all moved within the system by creating 501(c)(3)’s.

-Karen, 25, multi-racial (African-American / white / American Indian) female employee of a social justice organization (Portland)

On electoral politics

I am very involved in local politics but somehow voting is part of becomingcomplicit in the system. I think it is bullsh*t that people think voting is their civic engagement duties and that is it.
--Kim, 30, white female Occupy Wall Street participant

I don’t think Obama was necessarily a complete sham, I think putting all your hope in him as the savior of the country was completely naive to begin with and I don’t think anybody should have ever had that hope, because he is one man at the top of a corrupt chain.
—Sadie, 20, Ethiopian-American Occupy Atlanta Participant

Local politics affect people’s lives more directly. I think Occupy affects local elections more than campaigning. We have challenged a lot of city councilmen who have had to make a stand. Some have moved to the left. Occupy is our way of affecting local politics.

--Thomas, 29, white male Occupy Wall Street participant

On personal motivations to do social justice work

When I realized that what was happening to me and my family was not an aberration but was part of a plan. My passion came from my personal experience and my rage about it came from understanding that it was broader. Poverty is a political issue, so is immigration enforcement, etc. It’s all part of a plan to keep people down.
--Derrick, 27, African-American male employee of a social justice organization (New York)

On representation within the Occupy movement

I should be the most motivated to be part of Occupy … But as a person of color I’ve had zero interest in entering the space in Portland… And I think, just who you see, and how you see different things taking place, dramatically impacts who sees themselves as part of the movement… I feel like I’ve seen lots of pictures of white folks as part of Occupy. And it’s just been hard to imagine myself as part of it.

--Jessica, 27, Latina community organizer (Portland)

On intersectionality
They are all interconnected and all different in many ways. And that is the complexity. You can’t solve sexism without talking about racism or class or gender inequality… You can’t talk about race without talking about class. You can’t talk about class without talking about race. It becomes this web.
--Alex, 25, white transgender Occupy Atlanta participant

The reason why [many Occupy movements] are not addressing various issues -- mainly gender, sexual orientation and race – is that the movement is so fluid. We are constantly occupying these spaces and people are flowing in and out.
—Adrian, 28, Latino/white Occupy Atlanta participant

On Housing Discrimination

I’m taking a a very poor, Black neighborhood. It’s been a great learning experience for me. A classmate of mine worked for a mortgage company and said they are less likely to give someone a loan if they had a last name that was different. Or if they did have an American last name, then they felt more comfortable maybe letting them slide if they didn’t fit one of the other requirements. There are certain ways they can manipulate rules to treat people differently I guess.
—Ed, 24, Filipino-American, part-time student, part-time product developer

On Race and Class

There’s no way to say, “A + B = C”... It’s, like, super-nasty complicated. And that’s why we keep coming back to this “Is it race, is it class? What is it?” It’s both.
—Pilar, 23, Latina graduate student


On Criminal Justice

I work in the Marina del Rey, and, yes, they [whites] get pulled over too, but they don’t get approached the same. Not at all. I hear more people cussing out cops than anything that a cop has to say about the individual. “What the f*ck did you pull me over for!?!” And they know...they just did something stupid [with their car]!

—Donnell, 24, African-American, part-time sales rep


Criminal justice [is] definitely [racist]. I mean, just in Arizona they passed that law [SB1070]. How’re they gonna do that? They’re gonna stop you because you look like you don’t belong? 

—Sofia, 21, Costa Rican American college student


On Exceptionalism of President Obama

Well, I think this could be just an edge-case situation time somebody from a minority group is elected. But if you look at Congress, it’s still like 99-percent old white men. I think that once we see more... minorities in all types of government, we can say that race doesn’t have that big of an effect anymore. Because right now we elected one half-black guy. That doesn’t necessarily mean anything in the long scheme of things. 

—Courtney, 19, white college student


...On Education

I think students don’t have the same opportunity. If you look at segregated high schools—those schools are predominantly Black. There’s, like, probably, like, 1 percent white. And these are not equal opportunities. These schools do not have the same resources, same neighborhood support, and stuff.

—Duc, 19, Vietnamese-American college student