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Black Class Complexities

By Kathy Y. Wilson · March 24th, 2004 · Your Negro Tour Guide
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Money is the new crack for America's monied black middle class.

Settle yourselves. No one's begrudging the African-American (wo)man's green-eyed quest to validate the hyphenated American scheme.

Go on. Brush your shoulders off. Everyday black wealth and black ownership do not equate black greed and aren't synonymous with the type of culturally stultifying behavior I'm talking about.

For every non-offensive Oprah Winfrey, Tiger Woods , Earl Graves and Dr. Ben Carson there's 10 clueless, new-monied Negroes money-grubbing their way to glass-ceilinged corporations, cornered in offices and bored rooms that require sell-out crowds.

They have no regard for the blood on the fast tracks of their collective ascension, and they merely want to rise.

Black wealth is adding up to mean black apathy, the worst black-on-black crime there is.

I'm no one to be slamming black middle class privilege. I'm as middle class as they come.

But this black middle class in question forgot -- or never learned or believed -- it could be simultaneously wealthy, angry and demanding.

My sights are set on a black American middle class purporting to be filled with the creamy nougat of House Nigger Status -- well-intended, educated with Jack & Jill memberships but who booked and paid for a middle passage in the wrong direction. That is, a long way from the rest of us.

Worse, they're unleashing on us a population of lazy, disaffected and detached children preoccupied with what their parents' access will get them but not with how they'll co-exist in a rapidly changing world. And the colored girls sing: "It's a different world than where you come from."

Further, the newly aloof black middies eschew responsibility for their role in the sagging status of black America, afraid that the poverty, poor health care and substandard education tripping up the remainder of us might rub off on them.

Now hear this: Nigger ain't contagious. Thus, separate and unequal resonates within the Negro rank-and-file just as it used to elbow blacks and whites apart.

Remember that? Funny how we now intraracially ape much of the same bigoted and classist behavior once utilized mainly by white men to oppress and diminish us.

So postmodern black greed isn't only dangerous -- it also solidifies faux bling mentality, brings to bear our deeply entrenched self-loathing and exposes our scant knowledge of self. See, if we knew ourselves, we wouldn't be so quick to emulate someone else.

The black middle class perpetrates (and perpetuates) subculture status on its own, so fearful of The Others -- gays and lesbians, the poor, the non-permed, non-Christian -- populating the colored section outside VIP that we end up directly reflecting the age-old subjugation(s) white men have heaped on the world since the beginning.

What's going in our gated communities? The same shit as outside.

Ironically, the black middle class bloated off its own recent grandeur propels the erasure of "the black community." That is, if there ever was one to begin with.

"The Complexity of Black Progress," newly released by the National Urban League (NUL) as part of its report on the State of Black America, doesn't come right out and say any of this, but the tone's there.

The statistics are sobering, and they don't all point to a lone white supremacy or white accountability as the cause of black America's ills. Rather, read between the lines, and it's systemic racism left intact by blacks once we lulled ourselves into believing federal and state statutes would Armor-All us for life from battles that instead require daily monitoring and manicuring.

To us, communities are now defined by Zip codes and not by a network of need.

We stopped looking after one another. We stopped struggling in ways that'd lead to substantive change. We left hard work to those ill equipped to chip away at the monolithic systems of education, housing, child care and health care.

According to Marc Morial, NUL president, 50 percent of blacks do not own homes while 70 percent of whites do; blacks are denied mortgages and home improvement loans at twice the rate of whites; and, while poverty is down by 50 percent, the disparities in poverty between blacks and whites remains staggering.

I've long held the black middle class just as, if not more, accountable as "the white man" for how far we haven't come since the Civil Rights Act 40 years ago and the groundbreaking decision in Brown vs. Board of Education 50 years ago. We ought to know by now that by "protecting" us with social programs and court decisions, while necessary, our government has also summarily dismissed us, leaving us to rot in the space between the black classes.

The rest is up to us.

"The nation is changing," Morial says. "We're moving toward a more diverse demographic, and it's time to finish the work started by the civil rights movement."

A rallying cry if ever I've heard one. But some among us are so, so deaf.



Kathy's collection of columns, Your Negro Tour Guide: Truths in Black and White, is available in bookstores now.
 
 
 
 

 

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