“O.K., Boomer” and Lonsberry gains a measure of vindication at the Supreme Court

“O.K., Boomer” and Lonsberry gains a measure of vindication at the Supreme Court

“Stephen Colbert mocks radio host Bob Lonsberry” ‘OK boomer,'” Syracuse.com, Nov 6, 2020

Normally, I call Bob Lonsberry to chide him when he acts as an apologist for Trump’s demagogic rhetoric.

This morning — fair is fair — after reading “‘O.K., Boomer’ and Baking Spice Up an Age Bias Case” in today’s The New York Times, I called to acknowledge that Bob gained a measure of vindication at the Supreme Court. The headline of a similar ABC News article was “‘OK Boomer’ makes its way into Supreme Court during age discrimination case: The viral phrase was uttered by Chief Justice John Roberts.” The term “OK, boomer,” a viral meme among millennials and Generation Z, exploded last year on the TikTok social media app, where countless mocking videos are calling out what young people perceive as out-of-touch Baby Boomers and their patronizing opinions.

The New York Times, 1/16/20

The now viral phrase used by Roberts occurred during oral arguments in an age discrimination case:

The chief justice’s question about a stray if stinging remark of “O.K., Boomer” — dismissive retort used by younger people — was meant to test the limits of Mr. Martinez’s argument. “So calling somebody a ‘boomer’ and considering them for a position would be actionable?” Chief Justice Roberts asked.

Mr. Martinez stood his ground. If a jury “were to conclude that that statement was one of the factors going into this decision,” he said, “I think it absolutely would be covered” by the age discrimination law.

Whether the argument will resonate with the Court is unknown, but Robert’s question opened the possibility that “O.K., Boomer” — as a pejorative ageist label — is a term with legal consequences.

As you may recall, on November 4th, 2019 Lonsberry compared “Boomer” with the “n-word.”

Lonsberry later deleted the tweet. While ageism is a form of bigotry, I think Lonsberry’s analogy is rhetorical overkill. Perhaps a better comparison would be: “O.K., Boomer is the t-word (trailer trash) of classism.” Lonsberry grew up in a trailer park so he understands how a term sometimes used in jest can be hurtful and discriminatory.

Warranted or not, Lonsberry’s tweet went viral. As described in “Bob Lonsberry compares ‘boomer’ to N-word; Dictionary.com tells him to watch his language”(Democrat and Chronicle, 11/05/19), most of the response was snarky and negative.

In “Stephen Colbert dunks Lonsberry for ‘grade-A casual racism,'” The D & C piled on, reporting on a short skit by Stephen Colbert criticizing Lonsberry for watering down the corrosive effects of the N-word.

In “OK Boomer: Rochester T-shirt company makes up for Lonsberry n-word tweet with new shirt,” the D & C milked BoomerGate for all it could.

When I told Lonsberry about the NYTimes article, he defended himself, arguing that our society has a seemingly selective view of bigotry.  For example, racism is rightfully condemned, while ageism is tolerated if not celebrated, such as in the hip and flip O.K., Boomer.

Lonsberry’s reference to the n-word was ill advised — the t-word analogy is more apt and interesting — but the Supreme Court has at least tacitly acknowledged the derisive Boomer epithet can be a phrase with consequences.

About The Author


Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History and a Storyteller in Residence at the SmallMatters Institute. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY, Lake Affect Magazine and Brighton Connections. My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.

1 Comment

  1. Michael Nighan

    A Trump apologist criticizing someone for making what they claim to be a derogatory comment is only slightly less ludicrous than Melania Trump’s one-time involvement in a campaign against bullying. With apologies to Bill S., Oh brave new world that has such people in it !


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