WHAM Radio Host Compares “OK Boomer” to the N-Word

Luke O'Connell, Editor-in-Chief

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     In response to the rise in popularity of the phrase ‘OK boomer’ among young people, WHAM radio host Bob Lonsberry tweeted, “‘Boomer’ is the n-word of ageism. Being hip and flip does not make bigotry ok, nor is a derisive epithet acceptable because it is new” on Nov. 4, 2019. 

     Stemming from the phrase ‘baby boomer,’ ‘OK boomer’ was popularized based off of the idea that older generations caused many social issues of the 2000s, like the 2008 economic collapse, climate change inaction, and high college tuition rates. It has become very divisive, adding to the already ever-present divide between the old and the young.

     Throughout 2019, the phrase has grown popular on all sorts of media platforms, including Tik Tok and Instagram, and one clip in particular has generated a lot of buzz. An older man argues that millennials and Gen Z’s have ‘Peter Pan Syndrome’ and need to realize that the world isn’t fair. Social media users took the clip and ran with it, responding with all sorts of videos, and in some cases even dropping custom merchandise in response. Going off of that, major news platforms like radio shows and newspapers have discussed the issue, which is where Lonsberry comes into the spotlight. 

     As a reporter on NewsRadio WHAM 1180, which Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity also work for, Bob Lonsberry hosts right wing news shows frequently. He discusses controversial topics in stories like “Kaepernick Can Kiss My Ass” and “‘Impeachment Inquiry’ is a Media Stunt.” He also served time in the U.S. Army, worked as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and wrote for the Rochester Times-Union.

     Lonsberry has a history of controversial statements and in 2003 was let go from his current radio station due to racist remarks. In the radio station’s town of origin, Rochester, New York, an orangutan had escaped the zoo, and Lonsberry commented about the event on air, stating, “A monkey’s loose up at the zoo again – and he’s running for county executive.” This remark was clearly directed at the black mayor of Rochester, William A. Johnson Jr., who was running for county executive at the time. Though Lonsberry was let go for his remarks, he was brought back after sensitivity training.

     Additionally, Lonsberry has commented on Barack Obama’s presidency, creating controversial “FUBO” and “NOBO” apparel lines, which, respectively, stand for “F*** U Barack Obama” and “No Barack Obama.”

     All sorts of people chimed in regarding the recent controversial tweet, including both The Late Show host Stephen Colbert and Dictionary.com. Colbert called the tweet “grade-A casual racism” on his talk show, and Dictionary.com responded to the tweet itself, stating that ““Boomer is an informal noun referring to a person born during a baby boom, especially one born in the U.S. between 1946 and 1965. The n-word is one of the most offensive words in the English language.” A less popular Twitter user, @LouisatheLast, chimed in, stating, “Saying your generation’s official name is the equivalent of the most heinous racial slur in America is some real Boomer s***.”

     On the other hand, many came out in support of Lonsberry, including Myrna Birth, the Senior Vice President of AARP (formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons). In response to the rise in the usage of ‘OK boomer,’ Birth stated, “OK, Millennials. But we’re the people that actually have the money,”  in an interview on Tuesday. Since then, AARP has apologized for the statement, and Birth has received plenty of backlash online.

     The meme has reached both teachers and students at Hellgate, who have been using the term in a variety of ways. Hellgate junior Coral Scoles argued that the phrase is funny, but needs clarification.  “I think it’s just a meme, and we shouldn’t take it so seriously. We should also establish who the boomers are.” She raised questions like, “Are the boomers just the actual generation? Are we possibly referring to our parents as well?” 

    Hellgate English teacher Rhian Clark responded to the Lonsberry tweet and Birth quote, “To me, those two quotes demonstrate the exact generational frustration with Baby Boomers — that this group is out of touch, focused on their own perspectives, and belittling of the perspectives of others.” She went on to question the two, “In regards to Lonsberry and Birth, there have been criticisms and stereotyping of ‘millennials’ for years now, so why is this new criticism of Baby Boomers suddenly bringing up concerns of ageism?”

     Sophomore Ashley Young said, “I don’t think (Lonsberry) should compare that to the N-word. I think that (‘OK Boomer’) would affect relationships between generations…but it’s also a joke that people take too far.” 

     As the ‘OK Boomer’ trend continues, more people are sure to use it. “Only time will tell if ‘OK boomer’ is just a trend or has long-term effects on intergenerational relationships… Maybe ‘OK boomer’ trending is the reminder that some of us are frustrated and we want to be heard about our frustration,” said Clark.