Product Of My Generation

Product Of My Generation

By Alicia Taylor

Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of soul-searching and really examining my life and its twist and turns. Why has my life been so different than what my parents raised me to be? It has had its ups and downs. This life has known its share of experience building poor decisions. Like all lives, this life has been shaped by lessons taught in childhood, political events and pop-culture.

In 1988, I was a Peer Counselor in high school and, in addition to working with unwed moms, abuse survival counseling and children of alcoholics, I was also a tutor. An African American boy in danger of being tossed off our school’s national championship football team called for Algebra tutoring. My dad informed him abruptly to never call the house again. His lecture still rings in my ears. “Those people have their place and we have our place. We aren’t better, but we do not mix.” Thankfully, my parents no longer believe that. They have experienced an epiphany for one reason or another. Equally thankful, I never did believe that. Why was it so easy to walk away from that “separate-but-equal” speech and other equally intolerant indoctrinations?

However, my parents do still hold firm to some of their sexual stereotyping. There are things that a man is responsible for. Some household duties should be delegated to the women. Men should be the breadwinners and, while it’s acceptable for a woman to work in a gender-approved role, they still rule the roost when it comes to caring for the home. If women want to work in any job that is typically reserved for men, they must first prove they are worthy – and very few women can actually meet those challenges. Granted, my parents are products of their generation. But, So am I.

Sally K. Ride

Sally K. Ride

My eyes really started to open up to the world around 12 years of age. It was 1983 and really big things were starting to shake up the world. On the political front, Margaret Thatcher was the Prime Minister of England. There were several women that held political office then, but she actually held an office of political power. She had real authority, and she was a woman. That same year, Sally Ride became the first American woman in space. I was so jealous that it wasn’t I soaring in the Challenger. Of course, at the time, I had never heard of Valentina Tereshkova, a Russian cosmonaut and first woman into space. We just didn’t learn much about women’s history in school at the time.

Speaking of the Challenger, Guion Bluford became the first African American in space later that same year. We also crowned our first African American Ms. America. African Americans were finally given a holiday, too. Ronald Reagan created a bill that designated Martin Luther King Day an official federal holiday. All of a sudden, white people were taking off work to celebrate a black man’s birthday. And it wasn’t only women in space, but also black men – and it was perfectly acceptable for people of two different genders or two different races to occupy the same shuttle. My world had just gotten a lot bigger.

At 12, I was really just starting to get my feet wet in pop culture. While I did flirt with Valley-Girl lingo, I was obsessed with Culture Club and Boy George. Here was a man, dressing as a woman, and being accepted. My parents didn’t approve, but my generation did. “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me” lived at the top of the charts for several weeks and ended up being one of the best songs of the year. Ironically enough, “Every Breath You Take”, a song about Sting stalking his ex-wife, was the number one song of the year and was pedaled to the populace as a love song. Well, I guess not everything was moving forward.

1983 was a year that shaped who I was. I am a product of my generation, just as my parents were. Civil liberties were at central focus, just as they are now. My children’s generation is currently experiencing a new paradigm shift. We have our first African American president. Gays are pushing for equal rights, and women are now considered viable presidential candidates in the US. Surviving the 80’s with my own identity intact has been a reminder to actually listen to my children and not let my own pre-conceived notions stifle their realizations.

So, what year do you think influenced you the most and why?

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  1. We are all a product of our childhood. But we all grow out of it as well. It is interesting to examine one’s own history and determine which elements have sustained themselves.

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