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How the African American middle class feels about the African American lower class Print E-mail

Friday, 30 September 2011 00:00

Written by Cheryl Barnette

Once upon a time the African American relied upon one another for emotional support through trying times. The trying times were mostly racially charged events motivated by hatred cast upon us by White Americans. Inferiority was a word insistent and all too common used to describe our mentalities. Try as we might to proclaim our self-worth and pride, self-hatred seemed to follow slightly behind. 

American magazines and media outlets would not portray an African American has having true physical beauty, so we were left only to see a White model of Caucasian features. Our skin color left us with a feeling of inequity, and our noses only furthered that falsehood. Our lips, broad and beautiful, were seen as obscene and wickedly seductive. Our hips were full, especially our woman-folk, who strode their hips with pride. But in the 1960's it seemed we united more because of our struggle for identity and we sought our own true definitions of beauty and pride, and found them.

But, class definition and salaries can destroy and shake even the most solid of foundations. Any class regardless of color, has a covetousness of the higher class. Being of a lower class should not, but does define an African American's identity at times. To keep up with the Joneses is a mighty big task to take on, but to try to keep up with the African American Joneses further compounds the envy within the same culture. It is as if we say to one another now, "We were once upon the same sinking ship, but now, to each his own." Our lifeboats have been turned into BMW's and Audis. If we do not get on-board together in a collective aid to one another, we shall be shipwrecked, if not forever lost at sea.

There is a tendency for the higher African American classes to condemn the lower African American class, for fear of the higher class being "put back in their places". There is no time for buffoonery anymore, no time for regressing back to the stereotypes of Amos and Andy. Middle-class Black America might also say, "Do not shuck and jive, nor articulate in your "ghetto-speak if I am in your presence. Leave your vernacular on the way-side." In my own personal experience, the middle class blacks are careful not to make visual contact with the lower class while out and about. It's as if they are ashamed to be of the same race, the "House Nigger" mentality. That mentality was held in the days of slavery when the slave who worked in the house was treated better than the slave that worked out in the perpetually hot and demeaning fields of hate.

As there will always be that partition between rich and poor, it does seem likely that there may be a division and collision of values and clashes of personalities between the Black middle class and the Black lower class. The classification and structure of our country itself causes this to be true.


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