Pop Culture, Race & Politics

Why “Black Middle Class” Is The Ultimate Oxymoron

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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.

 

Damon Young

Maya K. Francis is a culture writer and communications strategy consultant. When not holding down the Black Girl Beat for VSB, she is a weekly columnist for Philadelphia Magazine's "The Philly Post" and contributes to other digital publications including xoJane, Esquire, and EBONY.com. Sometimes TV and radio producers are crazy enough to let her talk on-air, and she helped write a book once. She cites her mother and Whitley Gilbert as inspirations.

  • ratchet d-Ibaka

    So in essence what you are getting at is the idea that black people are assigning themselves a class that really large in part doesn’t exist. Only a select few get to live it, but cannot be generalized. Or am I talking out of my ssa?

    Serious question, what exactly constitutes as being white American culture? To be honest, they are the only people I’ve ever come across that I find to be cultureless, if ever there were such a term.

    • IcePrincess

      Hey mami! I respectfully disagree. How I’m the world are white folks cultureless?? You got Irish/Scottish, which many rappers whom shall remain nameless, are copying their garb lately. Not to mention the most famous whiskeys invented in those regions. French gave us the eiffle tower, the beloved Louie Vuitton (lol), & champagne. Not to mention classical music: Beethoven, Bach, Chopin. All Europians. Not to mention Swiss timepieces, the best in the world. Your favorite rapper’s favorite watch- Rolex, audemar pieget, Cartier. I could go on & on. Point is, everyone has culture.

      • Sahel

        Ice has it right. I know whites who swear by the Mayflower connection

      • Epsilonicus

        A lot of that stuff is White European, not White American.

        • IcePrincess

          Yea, I kno. Didn’t see that part. was buzzing off red wine when I posted lol :)

    • IcePrincess

      My bad. I just missed the part where u said “white Americans” lmfaoooo. Hooked on phonics worked for me! ;)

    • BlueWave1

      Everyone has culture, white Americans included. However, I would argue that the things Ice Princess listed are European and not white American. If those things can be credited to white Americans than black Americans should be able to claim Reggae, Moi Moi, and Samba. But that would never fly.

    • MALynn

      I think there is a white american culture, but it is regional rather than states-wide. You clearly can differentiate a Mississippi redneck from the hipster in Portland, and so forth…

    • JayIzUrGod

      White American culture is basically the principle of America..the accumulation of several different cultures mixed into one with the arrogant assumption that nothing else matters anymore. I kind of envy them for that…to just be oblivious to facts and stuff, and reaping all the benefits. Luckily some just learn the truth and walk away from it, then adopt another kind of culture that isn’t so elitist.

    • nillalatte

      I think we (white folks) have a multitude of mixed cultural influences, including coming from Black cultures. Yes, I said cultures. As in plural because not all Black cultures are the same either and that is probably attributed to tribal groups as opposed to lumping all peoples from Africa in one tribe because that clearly is not the case.

      Back to white folks… it would depend on their heritage as to how they express their cultural norms. It would depend on which traditions have survived assimilation. In my family, nothing from my Cherokee heritage survives that I am aware. As for the Eastern European mixtures, well, I can cook kelbasa and kraut as well as some mean creamed potatoes.

      ‘Whites’ are mixed too, it’s just folks lump all white folks together when they too are clearly from different ‘tribes.’

      • http://www.twitter.com/IluminatiNYC Todd

        It also depends on what part of the country you’re from as well. In the South and West, there was a lot more pressure to assimilate, while on the East Coast and Midwest, White groups were more likely to keep to themselves. The differences between assimilation pressures created those regional cultures.

      • Sandpaper

        “‘Whites’ are mixed too, it’s just folks lump all white folks together when they too are clearly from different tribes.”

        Is that mix relevant when it comes to priviledge?

        • nillalatte

          No doubt about it.

          • Sandpaper

            Internally to the group when the holder of the priviledge is discerning, your answer is correct. Versus people of color, your answer is wrong.

            • Epsilonicus

              I would say it depends on time and space. For example, if you are a new European immigrant, you still are slightly behind the 8-bal but higher on the pole than POC. Once you give up your “European-ness” and become white, you get all the privileges that come with being white.

              • Sandpaper

                I thought that was more or less what I said.

                • Epsilonicus

                  Probably, I just threw in some more details.

                  • Sandpaper

                    Thanks. I do forget from time to time that conciseness isn’t always a good thing.

                    • Epsilonicus

                      I also find it thought-provoking:

                      Think about it. If you ask White people what they like about being White, the majority will mention the benefits of being White. Most people of color will mention various cultural attributes.

                      The takeaway is twofold. The first is that White people had to give up their culture in order to become a “cultureless” mass of Whiteness and gain these privileges. In reality, that is quite dehumanizing to have to give up your culture. White folks often borrow and take from POC culturally because they had to give up their own. Secondly. racism forces White people to come up with all these mental gymnastics in order to justify the treatment of POC. That kind of activity is also dehumanizing, not only to POC but also to White folks.

                      The final takeaway: when White people realize that racism is a trickbag game not only for POC, but themselves, then we will actually see progress.

                    • Sandpaper

                      I agree. the bad thing is that I think they (as a whole) view the privileges as worth the cost of self-identity. Their ends will always justify the means.

                    • Epsilonicus

                      The issue is many people don’t recognize the means they have to go through in order to achieve the ends.

                    • Sandpaper

                      Yep. We should start a campaign to help them see the light. It would create some enmity and diminish some of their power.

    • Val

      There are “WASP” White folks who make an effort not to be ethnic and then there are “ethnic” Whites like Italians, Irish, etc., who embrace their ethnicity.

    • http://www.twitter.com/IluminatiNYC Todd

      Maybe it’s my NY experience, but the White people I grew up around were heavily ethnic. Even the ones with money wear their ethnic identities on their sleeve to the point that the WASPs are ethnic, if that makes sense.

      • aka Papa Chowder

        That’s a “north of the Mason-Dixon Line” (+ Maryland) experience based on where I’ve lived. I believe Post-Kennedy white people just started being white people (even ignoring Catholicism and Christian sects as a whole) just started calling themselves white people. There are still majority Polish, Irish, Italian, etc neighborhoods all throughout the Northeast though so they never had a reason to let go of those identifies to just be white.

    • http://stanoffewwords.wordpress.com/ Tristan

      Apple pie, beer, hot dogs, entitlement, and guns

    • http://missrosen.wordpress.com/ esa

      ~ what exactly constitutes as being white American culture?

      it is the default setting. it’s everywhere, from what foods get promoted through the FDA (the Dairy Council is obscene) to the “proper” pronunciation of words. it’s also a Stepford Wife attitude towards a manufactured norm that is so ubiquitous that its proponents say, “We are cultureless” as a way to deny its existence.

      • http://www.twitter.com/IluminatiNYC Todd

        The dairy council is obscene huh? Well, in that case, How about some hardcore! You know how I like it rated PG when it comes to life, right? ;-) But yeah…that hegemony is a lie.

  • MALynn

    This reminds me of a question I always ask my AA friends. Is there such a thing as black suburbs? Where you have middle to upper class black folks?
    Starbucks will not come to negronia ( I’m only using this from now on), but Starbucks will also not go to little Havana, or little Italy in Bmore. It’s not a black thing, more like a safety of investment thing.
    Honestly, if there are black suburbs, there most def will be Starbucks and froyo.

    • Val

      There are Black ‘burbs. Atlanta has some. Maryland, just outside D.C., as well. Actually there are quite a few around the country. Some are brand new and some began as White ‘burbs until Black folks moved in.

      • MALynn

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

        In this case, here is the answer to that question. I am not saying every state has a black ‘burb, but if you live in an area where they do exist, why not live there?
        The upward mobility would be more apparent if middle class black folks had more burbs. Then people from the poor neighborhood would have something to aspire to. They could see that if they succeed, they can leave the poverty and still be among people where they feel culturally comfortable.

        • JayIzUrGod

          I’d rather live in an area with white hipsters than Black yuppies. Mainly because from own experiences, if I’m going to deal with posers, let me deal with the ones who benefit the most from situations, not the ones who talk more than do.

          • http://stanoffewwords.wordpress.com/ Tristan

            Inclined to agree, some well off black people are insufferable

            • http://www.twitter.com/IluminatiNYC Todd

              Talk about people trying WAY too hard. I understand the motivation, but turn it down about 12 notches. I ain’t your broke a$$ cousin Ray Ray trying to hit you up for child support money. LOL

            • JayIzUrGod

              Some tend to act like they are their own branch of royalty which q just ludicrous if you’re not a Saudi peince or something

          • MALynn

            Then we are left with no tangible solutions. Our choices to be the fly in the ointment, or live in an area where our success is lost amongst so much that it might not even inspire.

            • JayIzUrGod

              I disagree. We need to be comfortable with the fact thay we can’t always fit in, and basically have to start our own standards instead of following behind others. Every other race has done so, hence why they prosper, while we can barely afford to have our own businesses in our own neighborhoods if they don’t involve hair, food, or cell phones.

              • MALynn

                We are agreeing..but using different thoughts. Starting our own standards include among other things, having our clean and posh neighborhoods. But you think black yuppies are insufferable lol! Also, I don’t know abt chinatown in NYC, but man, little havana, hialeah and them neighborhood in Soflo are mostly hispanics and are not the business…

                • JayIzUrGod

                  I get what you’re saying. My point was basically, quite often Black folks don’t take the chance to just do what they think is tight, they end up worrying about others. If they would stick to their guns and not give in to the stigmas of conformity, that would eventually catch on foe future generations. How else did Koreans own businesses in black hoods in Cali? How else could have Middle Eastern men get such huge stakes in 7-11? Someone had to be the first and keep things going from there.

                  That’s all but you are definitely right.

                  • Val

                    But, Rewind, the reason that non-Blacks own those businesses in Black neighborhoods has to do with a very rich history of banks denying loans to Black folks in those very same communities while approving loans for others.

                    • JayIzUrGod

                      I understand how twisted the system is Val, i can’t deny that is a huge reason why we can’t have a whole lot going on in low income areas, but at the same time, potential business owners can go through their local government to us the programs they have to help.small businesses start up in certain neighborhoods. Plenty of organizations here in NY have start up money for businesses in poor areas because they have been sued before for ignoring those very same areas
                      .

                      We will never have it as easy as other groups, but trying everything and shining a light on the areas that jerk us around has far better implications than being frustrated and complaining.

                    • http://www.twitter.com/IluminatiNYC Todd

                      There’s also a big issue of children not wanting to take over the family business. In Queens, what’s happened a lot over the past 20 years is kids selling their parents business out of the community because they want the cash to do something else. I’m not sure how you stop that.

                • B.Marie

                  Miami is its own beast of a city, but there is definitely a Starbucks on Calle Ocho (i swear they sneak in Cafe Bustelo tho).

              • Sandpaper

                Why try to fit in when you ARE the standard? Faux conformity is sometimes necessary to lube the process of getting ahead but the problem is people incorporate it into every aspect of their lives. Other groups leave that stuff at the office every day.

                • JayIzUrGod

                  I agree. We don’t need to fit in, we jist need to be good at what we do bear, and srop worrying about the insignificant things

        • ForeverCC

          we just sold our house. racial demographics hasn’t even been a discussion. schools and location are top of the list. location meaning access to our lifestyle/shopping/work, how the area will hold property value (because we will probably move again in 5 – 10 years), etc. while racial demographics definitely can impact those factors, the demographics of the area isn’t a specific factor during our house search.

          • MALynn

            But…doesnt the racial/class demographic influence all those things you mention?

            • ForeverCC

              it *could* but not necessarily. for the areas we’re looking in – income is a factor bigger than race. i can’t afford to live in some of the all black neighborhoods because i can’t afford those houses lol but race doesn’t account for the proximity to my job, current daycare, and the elementary school i want my son to go to.

      • http://TheNewEve.com/ Bunni

        Atlanta is chock full of black burbs. I too thought it was a myth till I moved down here. A lot of these neighborhoods are established “old money” black folks, and you can sense the pride and protectiveness. I live in a diverse burb of Atlanta, but I would love to eventually earn enough to slide my way into a black burb cuz it seems so…..dreamy.

        • http://trulytafakari.com/ dtafakari

          I live in a Black suburb of Atlanta that was established in 1987. Peoples’ children have grown up here, the grandparents are into retirement, and they like their peace.

          • http://TheNewEve.com/ Bunni

            my aunt lives on the “other side” of Cascade, and its like Negro Pleasantville.

            • http://trulytafakari.com/ dtafakari

              Mine lives between Cascade and Campbellton and I know EXACTLY what you mean. Quiet, affluent Blackness.

            • SuperStrings

              Yeah that’s old black money. Know where else would blow your mind? Bankhead. If you drive down Bankhead and turn off onto one of those side streets, there are entire neighborhoods back there. I’m talking houses with swimming pools, tennis courts, the whole nine.

    • Rachmo

      I moved to the Black burbs in high school. Starbucks and Panera as far as the eye could see :-)

      • http://www.twitter.com/IluminatiNYC Todd

        There’s nothing more hilarious than people in Starbucks trying SO HARD to be down. LOL

        • Rachmo

          N*gga stop fronting and just order the skinny vanilla latte. It’s okay

      • http://stanoffewwords.wordpress.com/ Tristan

        Panera Bread is just subway for liberal arts majors

        • Rachmo

          We had one below Pitt’s business school. I was there all the time.

      • MALynn

        Good! The only place I saw this was in SoFlo…but even then it was a Bla-nish burb.

        • Rachmo

          Where I grew up was a bit more working class and predominantly Black. Where I moved to was middle class and you were either Black or Jewish. There are a LOT of Black suburbs in MD.

          • MALynn

            Oh I did forget abt the black-Jewish burbs too!!! But the ones I’m familiar with was black peeps taking care of old Jewish grandmas that rich sons are paying for. It was kind of awkward…to say the least. If it wasn’t so cold in MD/DC I’d most def consider moving there. I like Columbia a lot :)

            • Rachmo

              I’m not familiar with that. The Jewish folks were our next door neighbors. Columbia is really nice and VERY diverse. I’m a fan.

              • Epsilonicus

                I am not a fan of Columbia. They have too many rules about what you can/cant do to your house.

    • ForeverCC

      Memphis has several. And Starbucks is nearby. lol

      • MALynn

        Really? I turned down St Jude’s because people (white friends) told me it was a broken down and janky city…

        • IcePrincess

          It is.

          • MALynn

            Good to know!

        • ForeverCC

          every city has its issues. i do find it interesting that the loudest naysayers in memphis are the ones who have been here all their lives and aren’t trying to leave lol

          memphis is very similar to atlanta as far as million dollar homes could be 2 blocks away from the hood. and then when you start considering the greater memphis area/suburbs you get a different range of income levels.

        • Reemo

          As someone from Memphis I can tell you that it is janky and parts are broken down but there are some good parts and some parts of the hood that aren’t that bad.

          • ForeverCC

            memphis in the house! #onetown #MakinEasyMoney

  • BlueWave1

    Functional families are worth a lot more than most college degrees and consumer goods put together. The cost of being truly middle class
    cannot be paid for with salary alone. It cannot be bought like overpriced
    consumer goods. It can be attained like a useless Master’s degree.

    When you can consistently depend on family members and friends there is a wealth effect that works in your favor. A network of trusted and capable kin is what really puts people over the top. And the absence of such a network can really make you feel poor.

    If there is one thing I have noticed with immigrant groups is they tend to rely heavily on one another. Sometimes we black Americans subscribe to that individual, consumer, “doing me” stuff too much. We want to separate
    so we can do our thing. After all we want to show that we are not a monolith. Then we get out there in the burbs and realize the other folks are very much acting in monolithic ways. And we are the odd ones out.

    • JayIzUrGod

      I had this conversation yesterday. Maybe as Black people, there tend to be those that heavily depend on family but never rely on their own skills, so they drain their family of any resources while providing nothing in return, or you have Black folks who know they can’t improve their family, so they break away and do their own thing..I have been feeling for a long time that my current generations of cousins and I will not be able to uphold the family legacy of get togethers and holiday dinners because none of us really care as much as our parents do.

      All I can say for certain is when you live with one foot at poverty’s door at all times, its quite hard to tell yourself its going to be alright when you keep looking behind you unless you know for sure that view definitely is helpful.

      • BlueWave1

        I don’t think most of us have the luxury of being able to strike out on our own and realizing great success without a true support system. It doesn’t have to be blood relatives. But due to many social hurdles black people need help along the way. That even goes for those who rely on their own skills.

        I guess what I am saying is the poverty is not really from the lack of money. The poverty is from our dysfunctional families many (though not all) of us have.

        • JayIzUrGod

          I realize what you’re saying and that’s completely true. The issue to me is, screwed up families or not, we (black folks) don’t even have good ties or loyalty to our communities. We always compete against each other. Other groups can have scenarios where they can’t stand each other and still support each other, to the point where they help their enemies get rich, just to help the community. We do not nor will we ever have thay kind of structure.

    • TheOtherJerome

      “A network of trusted and capable kin is what really puts people over the top”

      Everyone does this. And we do too, just not to the same degree. Once you get out into the real world realizing how many people get jobs through their network is eye opening.

      Related: I was talking maybe 5 weeks ago, to a Jewish acquaintance of mine. He felt guilty about the network of loans and business opportunities that he had just because he was Jewish. It bummed him that others didn’t have those opportunities….. “it wasn’t fair”.

      I told him, “man, life isn’t fair, but you just make sure you pay it forward. Help someone else out if they need it. That’s what makes our society go round”.

      But anyway, Jewish and Asian people have networks bro. It would be nice if we did too.

      • JayIzUrGod

        Their networks are more deeply rooted. They all historically have people who took a chance a long time ago to make a dream come true, and it happened. Then they laid the foundation for others to follow, and as long as everyone sticks to the script, its all good.

        Black folks in general cannot make this work. Most of us never had anything and came from families who were barely able to make it. So its no surprise there is nothing to pass down for generations but debt. If you got a great uncle who owned property, and that property stays in the family, that’s awesome. But if your dad sold that property to pay for his parent’s hospital and funeral bills, you get nothing in return, and must start the process all over again. happens quite often

      • Sahel

        It’s not networks,it’s culture. Especially with Asians,they measure time using generations. Look at south koreans

      • http://www.twitter.com/IluminatiNYC Todd

        Well, you’re right about the whole networking thing being done by everyone. I remember reading an economic study using the idea of Black people and basketball to explain how networks work to provide advantage. (They used that particular example simply because it was easier to do the bookkeeping on who knew who at what time and place. It’s easier to know who played for what AAU program than, say, who went to what church.) The study said that after a certain concentration of one group of people get into the field, they tend to continue to dominate because members of the group are in close contact with people who can easily get them ahead, which gets them an advantage over outsiders.

        Still, there’s a simple way around not having a network: building one. Once I figured out what the game was, I networked aggressively and built a platform. Heck, I’ve gotten over on a few jobs, and I do my best to offer my kinfolk access to my network. THAT is how we get ahead.

        • Sandpaper

          “Still, there’s a simple way around not having a network: building one.
          Once I figured out what the game was, I networked aggressively and built
          a platform.”

          I agree that that is the way that most should go about ascending the ladder of success. Everyone can’t be an outlier who just shows up to an interview and manipulates the interviewers into a job offer.

    • Val

      “Sometimes we black Americans subscribe to that individual, consumer, “doing me” stuff too much.”

      That’s not a Black thing, that’s an American thing.

      And, it’s unfair to compare immigrants to current day African Americans.Any group of people new to a country are more likely to stick together than a group of people who’ve been in that country for a couple of hundred years.

      • BlueWave1

        You are right Val. But here is the thing. Black Americans and White Americans are the most “American” of all non-natives here. But White Americans have certain privileges that just come with being white. Black Americans don’t have those same privileges. The Asian, Latin, and African immigrants make up for their lack of White privileges by fiercely working together. We, on the other hand, try to mimic the “American” approach you mentioned above. Except we don’t get the same results as White Americans because we don’t have their privilege.

        • Val

          As for the immigrant groups you mention; how far does that working together go beyond the first generation? The second? The third? Americanization is a powerful thing. We are not immune to it nor are immigrants.

          As for mimicking Whites; I’m not sure if mimicking is the right word. I think we’re just playing the game that’s in front of us. And, had it not been for very real efforts to stymie our collective wealth we’d be doing much better than we are collectively.

          I get the point you’re making I just think that considering our history it’s really hard to make a fair comparison between us and any other group.

          • MALynn

            Dude…I am not sure about black immigrants, but the Latin and Asian immigrants stay working together. Grandmas who don’t speak english are getting jobs. This Korean lady who owns the nail salon I frequent only hires Korean people for everything. Latin coalitions are powerful forces. If that was not the case, the republicans wouldn’t be trying so hard to get their votes.

            • Val

              Yeah, but, I know second gen folks who never learn their ancestral language. I know second gen folks who become middle class and as they do become more and more removed from their immigrant culture.

              I think many folks, Black folks too, have idealized views of how much immigrants stick together. But, the force of Americanization beings to create distance once folks have been here for a while.

              Also, poverty as well as a certain non-legal status forces many to remain close to the group. Take away those two factors and you begin to see the same socialization as non-immigrant Americans.

              • arafat

                I agree with you to a certain point, majority of 2nd + generations of immigrants do tend to drift away from the group mentality, but at the same time their links to the group still exist due to the networks that were already created, if a job or opportunity arises they tend to push it to their group first and if no one needs it they push it to everyone else, and this is what we are lacking in the black community, more times than not when someone moves out of the group, they completely forget the group instead of pushing opportunities to them so we can all rise up.

              • ForeverCC

                and on top of what you mentioned it depends on where the family immigrated from…if they are from somewhere that is highly collectivist (like china or brazil) or if it was somewhere that was more individualist (like italy or france).

    • Sandpaper

      The only thing anyone has in this life that is worth anything is their health and their intellect. All else is an illusion.

      • BlueWave1

        Even family? That’s an illusion too? When health fails (and it does from time to time) that is where family kicks in. That is one of the points Maris made in her post about marriage the other day.

        • Sandpaper

          I will answer your question with a question. In your experiences, has the case been that you’ve been done dirty more by friends/strangers or family?

    • http://TheNewEve.com/ Bunni

      “When you can consistently depend on family members and friends there is a wealth effect that works in your favor. A network of trusted and capable kin is what really puts people over the top. And the absence of such a network can really make you feel poor.”

      So true. Access is the real measure of success and privilege it seems….

    • Freebird

      your whole comment is how I feel socially and politically.

  • JayIzUrGod

    i feel sorry for Black folks on the come up with money. Folks who never had money want to tell you what you should be doing and don’t like if you move on to a point where they can’t catch up, yet fail to understand that someone who’s never been in your shoes has no business telling you what you SHOULD BE DOING. Then the folks you’re aspiring to emulate have no clue what its like to start from the bottom, they’ve always been at the top, ergo they make any of your ambitions seem miniscule, especially due to being plain obvious to struggling.

    I stayed in the home of a very affluent real estate mogul in New Orleans this past week. What she told me yesterday has literally changed my life in a way I wasn’t ready for. From her, I’ve taken that there is no real place for Black people with money who just want to be proud of their achievements, nothing more. Either you’re ratchet and rich, or rich and a complete jerk…the in between is non-existent. You will have to fight to prove your own worth, and there won’t be a day that will go by that people won’t question it. Hence why I do feel pity for them.

    • nillalatte

      “You will have to fight to prove your own worth, and there won’t be a day that will go by that people won’t question it.”
      My life everyday it feels. That’s messed up tho (being ratchet and rich or rich and a complete jerk). Why? I guess it would depend on your definition of ‘success.’

      • JayIzUrGod

        Like I said, these are my experiences, I haven’t met many who are in between.

  • nillalatte

    I always thought the ultimate oxymoron was Military Intelligence. I see the list may be growing.

    • Sahel

      Hey,hey,i take umbrage to this

      • nillalatte

        Really Sahel? Then tell me where Saddam’s WMD are? HUMMMMM??? :P

        • Sahel

          That was America’s baby. Not ours

          • nillalatte

            Who is ‘ours?’ Oh, that’s right, you’re British, right?

            • Sahel

              Never said i was

              • nillalatte

                Your use of certain vocabulary suggests it. It’s all good. :)

                • Sahel

                  Eh,my syntax is american as it gets. Just don’t lump us with that waterloo that was Iraq

  • Angelheart010

    I totally understand.
    I grew up close to an area on the south side of Chicago named, Beverly (Hills).
    That and another township, Evergreen has been linked to racism like forever…and still has some issues.
    Recently like 10-15ish yrs (I think?) More and More black people have moved into the area’s mansions/townhouses/etc.
    I know these white/Irish folk aren’t leaving these houses/neighborhoods like they did my Grandmother’s once she
    moved in some 40 yrs ago.
    But its just interesting to see Beverly neighborhood changing…I just hope yrs from now it stays the same.

    Also, when discussing a house I most def told my guy that I wanted to live in a diverse area.
    It may cost more, but I’ll work for it.
    I love my people, but I cannot deal w/ the BS sometimes.

    • JayIzUrGod

      I just came back from New Orleans, I fully understand everything you just said thanks to that trip. I don’t think I’ve ever realized how disparaging it is out there for Black folks.A black person can move into a million dollar home but two blocks away, that section 8 housing is right there. And neither one is moving.

      • http://www.twitter.com/IluminatiNYC Todd

        I know you don’t have American roots, but getting a read on how Black folk in the South can live away from the big cities like DC and Atlanta is depressing as f*ck. That lack of separation is real.

        • http://uphereoncloud9.com/ Wu Young

          This is true. less than a block away from my job there are million dollar homes across the street from city housing. There are no lines of demarcation in many parts of town.

        • JayIzUrGod

          I now fully understand that. I really took for granted the steps this country takes to keep people stupid and easily manipulated

          • http://www.twitter.com/IluminatiNYC Todd

            You sound like my dad when he was going around the South. The thing was since my dad (at least to outsiders who don’t know anything about West Indians) appeared to be a full assimilated American Negro, Black people looked at him like he was special needs. If anything, he would have done better to keep the accent around those people, but that’s life.

            • JayIzUrGod

              I feel like maybe that’s what my dad felt and my grandfather felt, which is probably why they chose to live in New York. My dad didn’t have the temper for the country side here but he definitely grew up in the bush back home. My grandfather on the other hand had a lot of pride, i can’t see him being fine with not being intelligent and treated as such.

      • Shamira

        New Orleans have levels of discordance I’ve only seen in developing countries….a Bergdorf Goodman right next to the shuttle that takes folks to the ninth ward…its wild.

        Such a beautiful city but I wouldnt be able to deal with looking at faces of poverty everyday without being able to do anything. It would break my heart.

        • b sweet

          That’s typically the trend seen with cities whose economy relies solely on tourism. The city needs a solid poor/working class to supply labor to its bread and butter.

          • aka Papa Chowder

            The blue collar worker is being taken out behind the shed to shot and replaced by the white collar worker who needs to invest 10s of thousands for a Bachelors/Masters in order to get an entry level job that they were hiring anyone who simply had a good interview and references for 25+ years ago. And white collar workers don’t want blue collar workers to make anywhere near as much as they do because they spent those years and those 10s of thousands to get what they got so why should someone with a “simple” job get near what they do without going through the same? So they vote against the interests of many to make sure the few get it and hope that one day they’ll work their way up to the few. Shout out to right to work anti-union states though.

        • JayIzUrGod

          Same reasons i told myself i can’t live there. A city based on tourism is bad enough as it is. To know the school system purposely keeps folks stupid so that they would work the service jobs that feed the tourism is absurd. You see it all over the world, yet to know a city with an international airport does it here in the US, with all government standards set to keep things the way they are….im at a loss for words.

          Shamira, this woman whose home i rented, she showed me all the projects and low income housing she spearheaded to be torn down after Katrina. This woman was one of the faces of the reform of the city. The stories she was telling me, the places she showed me, it makes you want to hurt somebody.

        • Val

          Also, New Orleans has a sort of broken history. There’s the city New Orleans could have been and the city it became. Which was mainly due to the Louisiana Purchase and Southern Whites moving in and taking over. That set the stage for the kind of generational poverty seen there.

    • Val

      Is Beverly near Chatham?

    • Secret Sauce

      You grew up where my parents currently live.

  • Val

    “Middle-class Blacks are far more likely than middle-class Whites to live in areas with significant amounts of poverty.”

    In larger cities, like New York, Chicago, Houston, L.A, etc. most affluent communities are next to less affluent neighborhoods. And, there are a disproportionate amount of affluent Black folks in these larger cities as compared to more rural places/ smaller cities where suburbs usually exist. So, it makes sense that Black folks, like other city dwellers, would live in communities where affluent areas are adjacent to much less affluent areas.

    In other words, it’s not so much a Black thing as it is a geography thing.

    “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.”

    I totally disagree with this statement. I think that wealth, especially when combined with education, does create different communities of Black people socially. I think DeSean Jackson might just be a poor example.

    This post really makes some gross generalizations about Black folks.

    • http://TheNewEve.com/ Bunni

      I agree with you Val. In urban areas, thats just the nature of the beast….you turn the wrong corner and can go from bel-air to skid row…its not specifically racial….

      • Epsilonicus

        I disagree with you both in a way. You cannot talk about class in America without race. They are Siamese twins.

        • http://TheNewEve.com/ Bunni

          i get that, but geographically, classes have always lived on top of each other in urban areas. Hells Kitchen right below upper west side, right below harlem, right below the Cloisters…..you cant push poverty THAT far away, regardless of race.

          • Val

            Exactly. Just because we’re talking about Black folks doesn’t mean that other forces beyond race aren’t involved.

            • http://TheNewEve.com/ Bunni

              Its the reason cities have “Little Havanas” and “Little Italy’s” and “Chinatown’s” …its DEF not just a black thing…mayhaps its a minority thing…

              • Val

                Yep. a minority thing and a financial thing.

                • Epsilonicus

                  Its not necessarily a Black thing but it is a race thing in many ways. Remember that those groups were locked out of the suburbs and other “white” areas. European immigrants were until they “assimilated” and became white.

        • b sweet

          I agree, but the caveat is that it’s a more delineated argument in the south, where you can ‘spread out’ and create as many racial and class lines in the sand as you please.
          Urban communities are tougher to make mainly about race because of the history. Industrialization, the great migration of blacks up north and the development of city dwelling to house poor(blacks) make space more of an issue than race.

        • afronica

          It’s so odd. Often, I’ll start talking about something in racial terms when class issues start rearing their ugly head. Race and class are like a couple that finish each other’s sentences.

    • Maya K. Francis

      Wealth + education do create different communities of black people, socially, but when you factor in racism/white supremacy, those differences aren’t noted. That’s why I made my reference to White Flight. Regardless of how affluent, financially, a black person may be, the anti blackness sentiment is what causes white flight. Studies show that in some cases property values drop with neighborhood turnover. Not defending that at all, but can’t ignore that either.

      And yes, we can certainly substitute for other folks of color here, too.

      • Val

        I think the difference is that Jackson is an athlete which means one day he was not wealthy and the next he was. Whereas for most affluent Black folks wealth is attained over a long period of time. And, during that economic journey they tend to be around others on that same financial journey and less around those who aren’t.

        • 321mena123

          “And, during that economic journey they tend to be around others on that same financial journey and less around those who aren’t.” Say it one more time.

        • 321mena123

          Again, i do wonder why black people compare themselves to athletes and entertainers so much when talking about our experiences. They are nothing like us, the regular folk.

          • Sahel

            Because they are the recognizable face of what black people deem a success. Money and power.

        • Sandpaper

          Interesting analysis and there is some truth to it when applied to the masses. Individually, Some people are who they are and money doesn’t compromise them. They will do them whether they are on the corner in the hood or roaming the halls of the white house.

          • Val

            I really don’t see it as compromise. We live, we grow, we change. Our associations change. Right?

            • Sandpaper

              Partially. The caveat is whether the compromise and change is natural or induced.

      • Epsilonicus

        “Studies show that in some cases property values drop with neighborhood turnover”

        And those same studies shown that to be true even if there is no uptick in crime, destruction of property, etc.

    • Tentpole

      The statement is really about migration. History show us that the Black middle class is the transtion zone when going from white neighborhood to the ghetto.

  • Sahel

    Blacks are deserting L.A and leaving it to hispanics. I hear Compton ain’t the same one. So where are all those black people moving to

    • Val

      Black folks aren’t leaving L.A. in huge numbers. They are just less concentrated than before.

    • BlueWave1

      A lot are moving out to the desert area about 50 miles east of Los Angeles. The thing is all the resources are still in and around Los Angeles. Neighborhoods like View Park and Lemiert Park are prime Los Angeles real estate. They have been historically black going back to the 1940′s. But in 20 years I would not be surprised if most of the blacks gone. And most of the blacks left in Compton are old homeowners.

    • SuperStrings

      Ontario, Inland Empire, Lancaster, Palmdale, Bakersfield…the desert.

  • http://www.facebook.com/MentalMass MENTAL MASTURBATION

    There is a historical piece that’s absent from this article.

    Let’s not forget Black people in America, Latin America, and the Caribbean spent over 400 years as slaves. We were literally property who held no political, economic, or social clout in society.

    Emancipation came, the government gave us freedom, and suddenly we were supposed to establish functioning, self-sufficient communities with absolutely ZERO foundation.

    During Reconstruction Black people were given property to help form sustainable communities; but then the government, Ku Klux Klan, and other white institutions united to ensure the decimation of these entities which would have served as an economic base for newly freed Black people.

    In essence, there was no economic base. Moreover, we could not vote or run for office which meant ZERO political power, then throw segregation into the mix which prevented Black people from properly educating ourselves with the knowledge and skills needed to erect powerful communities.

    It’s no accident that Black people weren’t given access to economic and political rights until the mid-1960s. White supremacy is real as is the intentional disenfranchisement of Black people by white factions that want to hold on to their power in this nation by keeping minorities oppressed and powerless.

    This is why it’s more difficult to form a true middle-class Black neighborhood.

    We are literally centuries behind our white counterparts who also work against our empowerment.

    • http://vagabondaesthetics.tumblr.com/ Ricky

      Moreover, that doesn’t even begin to factor in places like Seneca Village, Rosewood Florida, and several Black Wall Streets where we did gain a foothold of some economic prosperity Black people were literally killed to and forced to move out and in Seneca Village’s case it was to make room for white people.

      • Kema

        I live in Richmond, VA and it sad to see that one of those ‘Black Wall Streets’ Jackson Ward is now the projects. Hurt by desegregation and I95 being built right through the area.

        • Prince Ricky

          Slightly off-topic: I was just reading through Tomorrow-Land: The 1964-65 World’s Fair and the Transformation of America and how Robert Moses pretty much shaped NY over 50~60 years and it’s really amazing how necessary Urban Planners are needed for the Black community. People from those communities who know what our neighborhoods need and are actually invested in making sure they don’t get torn down to build things like highways over and over again.

          • Val

            Robert Moses was an evil man.

            • Marc.J.H.

              Tell me more about this Robert Moses

              • Val

                He wrecked a lot of Black communities. Just go0gle the ba*tard.

        • Val

          And, that was done on purpose there and replicated all over the country.

        • 321mena123

          When you don’t have a voice nor control of the laws being passed, you get screwed.

          This American Life did an episode on how Mitt Romney’s dad actually tried his hardest to HELP blacks in Detroit. It shocked me too.
          http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/512/house-rules

        • Epsilonicus

          The Federal Highway Administration has perfected the art of Negro removal. Almost every major city has a Black community that has a highway running through it.

          • Robert Kalani Foxworthy

            Its so white can go through those areas with out stoping.

        • Sahel

          Am curious. Who came up with the idea of black wall streets and how did it go tits up

          • Val

            Black folks who wanted to make money and prosper came up with it. And White folks systematically destroyed them.

      • Marc.J.H.

        Whoa! Just when I thought I knew my black history. I did not know that Central Park used to be Seneca Village, i.e. a black establishment. See, this is why I have a lot of fux to give for VSB…..

    • http://stanoffewwords.wordpress.com/ Tristan

      All fact everything

    • http://www.twitter.com/IluminatiNYC Todd

      Excellent points, but I would like to add more that would square the circle a bit: White Supremacy is the greatest social democracy program EVER. Think about it for a second.

      • Epsilonicus

        Explain why. I am curious from your pov.

        • http://www.twitter.com/IluminatiNYC Todd

          First, you have to understand how jacked up poor White people were. I remember reading about how some White social activists actually advocated for White slavery in the 19th century…because they thought the slaves had a better deal than some poor Whites. And historical research has shown that your average house slave was, in fact, marginally better off than your average poor White if you boil it down to pure economics. After all, it’s kind of hard to be your master’s bed wench when you aren’t fed regularly and given halfway decent clothes lest company come over.

          Fast forward to the end of slavery. Think of whom land was taken from and whom land was given to. Even though the Natives didn’t think of themselves this way, they were VERY land-rich by European standards. On the flip side, the land from the Homestead Act went disproportionately to poor Whites. The saying “Go West Young Man” was actually Right Wing Agitprop to shut up the teeming poor White masses wanting a piece of the pie.

          Throwing it back to the South, think about the economic opportunities Jim Crow opened up for poor Whites, especially as industrialization began to take hold. Poor Whites now could get halfway decent jobs and a place to live, allowing them to climb the ladder. Now you have a property owning class that, when combined with full rights, allows them to develop a toe-hold in the establishment (and keeps them from uniting with their Black neighbors for labor rights).

          Even in the North, up until the Great Depression, a poor Black family in NYC and a poor White family were similarly situated, even if segregated. Their apartments were the same, the quality of schools and services were the same, they lived roughly similar lives. Then you bring in redlining, and now those White people can finally own a house, build wealth, have resources to do so. While Blacks were offered some opportunities, unlike the rest of America, they paled in comparison to what White people were allowed.

          Throw in the fact that the US has a ridiculous amount of usable land compared to any other place in the world, and you can see how White Supremacy can easily lead to social democracy. We as Black folk just got screwed over on the deal.

          • Sandpaper

            As you like to say, Chuuuch and tabernacle!

    • http://batman-news.com MicTheMessenger

      There’s also the HUGE gap in wealth between the ethnicities too. Wage rates are one thing, but that WEALTH tho..it’s real. I think that’s one of the major benefits that slavery gave the majority…a foundation. For FREE99.

    • Maya K. Francis

      Agree. Though not explicitly said in the way you did, there are historical examples of how white supremacy/racism suppressed the development of the black middle class neighborhood.

      We could also talk about the mortgage crisis from a few years back.

      I’d argue in many ways that White Flight contributes in the same fashion.

  • http://www.twitter.com/IluminatiNYC Todd

    I think that there are two things to point out. One, that separation from the foolishness of poverty is real. This isn’t to say that White kids from the burbs don’t get into some stuff, but that they actually have to go out of their way to run into idiots makes a difference on the margins. There are always going to be some degree of fools, even in the toniest of White neighborhoods, but the kid on the margins is heavily dependent on context. There’s a world of difference between being the neighborhood screw-up who gets busted for distribution for their boy and being the neighborhood screw-up working as a cashier supervisor at some supermarket and spending their free time chugging vodka in someone’s basement. At least the latter has a chance to turn their life around. The former is screwed permanently.

    Two is that the social isolation of living in White America is real. Being that I’ve done it before, there would have to be a lot of benefits for me to do it again. There’s something about a shared experience that greases the skids of a social existence. That doesn’t mean it’s required, but it sure feels nice.

    Also, I think a lot of people, Black and White, give the concept of social networks short shrift. Being that I’ve managed to plug in to some of those networks, it makes life easier trying to get things done. Of course, there are no guarantees, but having someone somewhere to vouch for you is much more effective than any formally organized program. I’m torn between whether it’s complete ignorance or an understanding of how networks actually work (and therefore a desire to concentrate power) as to why no one pushes for more of these opportunities to happen. Either way, we’re screwed.

    • Tentpole

      Blacks understand it is who you know. whites understand it is you knows you.

    • Kema

      My first job came about from keeping in touch with a girl I knew in grad school.