Why “Black Middle Class” Is The Ultimate Oxymoron


***Maya Francis offers her take on Jamelle Bouie’s recent piece about the difficulties we (Blacks) have with being truly upwardly mobile***

Someone managed to find a photostock picture of Black folk in fair isle as the accompanying photo for this article about what happens when Black people make a little money and come up in the world. It’s a weird photo, mostly because the kid in the center of it looks like the kid from Everybody Hates Chris, the dad looks like Ronald Clifford, and the caption, which mentions “substantial pockets of poverty” is used to frame this photo of smiling-ass Black folks. Photostock of Black folks is hard to come by, so I’ll allow it, especially since this rant has nothing to do with anything I have to say. I just wanted these thoughts acknowledged.

DeSean Jackson was cut from my hometown’s football team essentially because he’s a headache. And, apparently, part of this headacheness is due to the people he knows from back home. Whether its true that Jackson’s people pose a problem in his life is irrelevant. The point is, Jackson was expected to get a new set of friends because he became successful, a practice also known as “selling out.”

The reality is that many successful Black folks are just a stone throw away from poverty, either because they’re newly arrived in their own success, or because the bounty of success hasn’t spread over their entire family tree. And so while buppies have taken on the sacred ritual of mimosa toasting downtown during Sunday brunch, they also drive to their grandmom annem’s house on the south side during holidays when it’s time for the whole family to get together.

And when they leave grandmom annem’s, they go back home…which is also on the south side.

A “nicer” part of the south side, perhaps. But, for many of us, the “nice” part of our neighborhood and the “hood” part of the neighborhood are separated by half a football field. Sometimes just a backyard.

Jamelle Bouie writes:

“The key fact is this: Even after you adjust for income and education, Black Americans are more likely than any other group to live in neighborhoods with substantial pockets of poverty…It’s tempting to attribute this to the income disparity between Blacks and Whites. Since Blacks are more likely to be poor, it stands to reason that they’re more likely to live in poor neighborhoods. But the fact of large-scale neighborhood poverty holds true for higher-income Black Americans as well. Middle-class Blacks are far more likely than middle-class Whites to live in areas with significant amounts of poverty.”

Consider this: When looking for a place to live (rent or own) do you consider the racial demographic of the area?

Not sure about y’all, but being the fly in the ointment is something I can accept in school and the workplace, but I don’t want to deal with it at home. Fact is, Black neighborhoods tend to be mixed in their income level, where culture is the bonding factor. But, for outsiders, this also conflates poverty with Blackness, rendering them one in the same.

Culture is a bonding factor for White folks, too. Consider also White flight in cases where upwardly mobile Blacks move to non-black neighborhoods. Again, because the face of poverty is Black, there is only so much mobility that happens. Starbucks aren’t being built in well-to-do corners of Negronia [(c) the homie Jamilah Lemeiux]; money, access, amenities, follow along racial lines, putting an economic chokehold on people of color.

So back to Jackson. It’s unfair to assume that wealth would create any level of distance for Jackson socially, as it very rarely does for Blacks in other aspects of their lives. Richard Sherman wrote a great piece outlining how absurd it would be to think that he would. As any Black folk with a modicum of success could tell you, you can never go home again, but you can also never leave home.

You can follow Maya @MF_Greatest. And, if you don’t do that, she will follow you. Like, in real life. She will literally follow you to your house. 

My Favorite Conspiracy Theory by Panama Jackson

Moon...or New Mexico?? You tell me.

Conspiracy. (noun). An agreement to perform together an illegal, wrongful, or subversive act.

I think too much (and I also know that I shouldn’t give too much credence to conspiracy theories).

And as is such, I tend to come up with lots of random conspiracies and non-sense that at the time may seem to make sense. Though I’d like to point out that the Law of Averages says that somewhere along the way, at least one of my rants is going to be on the money. For instance, I’m still convinced that Starbucks is indeed “the man” that we speak about in our day to day activities. I’ve never been fully convinced that West Virginia actually exists as a state but is more or less a place that aliens and white people come from and use as training grounds in case black people get too “uppity” because most normal people have never been to West Virginia nor questioned its existence.

But there is real conspiracy out there that is threatening black existence in inner cities everywhere. It is the precursor to Starbucks. It is what makes it possible for the idea of Starbucks in the ghetto to exist. It is none other than…

…the white listserv.

Yes. You read that right.

What is the white listserv?? I feel a definition coming on.

White Listserv. (noun). formerly known as the white phone call, white fax, white morse code. Created in the 1960′s and evolving over time, this white listserv is the means of communicating to white peoples (primarly WASP’s) across the nation of the neighborhoods in particular cities that are scheduled to be relieved from Blacks and/or Latinos control and transformed into inner city urban enclaves of gentrification and just all around whiteness. Synonyms: Starbucks.

Let’s examine this shall we? Yes, let’s. In the beginning there were neighborhoods. Inner city neighborhoods. They consisted of mostly white people and black people were confined to the slums and ghettos of the city. One day, a lone black man, let’s call him, James, made some money and started the trend of other black folks making money and decided to move to where the white people were. They didn’t mind one black face and James seemed nice enough. His wife was high yaller and his kids could read. But more black folks made money and followed James. And it started happening throughout the country.

We reached the residential tipping point. So what did white people do? Created suburbs and got the hell out of dodge. So now the slums just moved to where ever James was because as is fact, when everybody finds paradise, it ceases to remain paradise.

Say it unison with me: Damn damn damn James.

This occurred for a good 30 years.

Well one day circa 1980, James’ old neighbor, let’s call her Jenny, decided that she wanted to move back in to the city. That’s where all the amenities and services were, as well as the parks, black men, and Icey’s. But Jenny wasn’t sure where to move because all of the neighborhoods were inhabited by les negroes. She asked a friend who asked a friend and that’s when it happened.

The first white phone call. The call intended to tell Jenny where a prime spot would be to move because they were taking it over. Who is they?? The white people. She was told the area, found a place and moved in and lo and behold, the neighborhood changed. This situation began to occur in major cities everywhere but more slowly and with more subtlety and to mostly fringe areas close enough to the suburbs but still in the city.

Now they’re everywhere. Now they’re in neighborhoods that only a few years ago white people wouldn’t dream of walking thru for fear of being robbed in their sleep. But lo and behold, there they are. Walking down Georgia Avenue in Washington, DC; or Atlantic Avenue or Fulton Street in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn; or down Lowery Blvd (though it will forever be Ashby Street in my heart) in Southwest Atlanta’s West End community. You know those places where seeing a white person initially made you do a complete double take; one that almost made you crash.

However, there they were walking their dogs or jogging as if they didn’t realize they were playing with their lives.

These are all people who today get “the e-mail.” Yes that one from the white listserv who told them that if they bought in now, they would see tremendous gains on their property value becasue the neighborhood was going to be flipped into an inner city enclave of diversity, though the goal would be 65 percent persuasion and 35 percent unpersuasion. If they could live with it for 2 years tops, their dreams of inner city living complete with all that the city has to offer would become a reality.

They took up the offer.

And it’s still going on across America right now. White e-mails are being sent out left and right. Neighborhoods that normally would be be black through and through are now becoming enclaves where white people feel safe because they got the email. It’s my thought that somehow when you’re born and receive a Social Security Number, that they tag you if you match the necessary criteria. They have some white indicator. This same white indicator pushes you to different white listservs if you marry a black person and have black children. You’re priority becomes different…however you’re still on the list and when you receive that first email, they make you pledge to never tell a person of color, unless your husband or wife is indeed, colored.

All thanks to the white listserv…existing in a community near you.

So um, yea, that’s my favorite conspiracy theory…what’s yours?? You read books, I know you’ve got one!



***DC PSA: For all you suckas that don’t know, on June 2, 2012, VSB is bringing you another edition of the monthly party dedicated to all 90s everything: REMINISCE. Except this June edition is extra special because it’s not only the Gemini Birthday Bash…it’s also PANAMA’S BIRTHDAY!! So If you’re in DC, please come out and celebrate Panama’s birthday with him so he can personally thank you and try not to take so many shots that he passes out and doesn’t remember the evening! And remember…it’s free before 11pm with RSVP (link coming soon), open bar from 930-1030pm, and no dress code. It’s the best damn house party at a club in the city!! Wear shorts! Be comfortable. And party with Panama!!!!***