They wear wardrobes of designer suits and bags and shoes that together cost about as much as their grandparents’ first home. They buy condos in swanky neighborhoods and find ways to fit the fact that they own condos in swanky neighborhoods into daily conversation. They jetset on weekend getaways and take trips to exotic locations that some folks only get to enjoy as screensavers. Education has unlocked the gateway to enviable salaries and a foothold in the rungs of the corporate ladder. They are the upwardly mobile new Negro, and they have arrived.

On the other side of their world are their polar opposites: the lost ones, the tragically ghetto Black folks who can’t get it together, the men and women reporters always seem to stumble on when it’s time to cover a story about the goings-on in the ‘hood. They’re the Antoine Dodsons of the community, good for a chuckle or a share on Facebook but so outside of the comforts of the new Negro’s reality. To them, lower-class Black folks are a “they,” not a “we.”

There aren’t many positives to highlight about the Jim Crow era. In the grainy, black-and-white playback footage, it seems so long ago but in actuality, is barely a generation past. It humiliated our parents and grandparents, and emasculated brothers in particular by snatching their manhood and demoting them to “boy,” no matter how old they were. To make matters worse, they couldn’t do anything to defend their own honor. Break tough about not being able to eat at a certain restaurant or shop at a certain store and see if that rabble rousing didn’t get handled by law enforcement and their gang of dogs with a preference for dark meat.

But the one good thing about that time is that we were all in the same boat. Black was Black was Black, no matter how much money it made, what kind of degree it had behind it, or who it had allied itself with. We were a community once upon a time. We had to be. Black business owners were, for the most part, interdependent on Black customers. Neighbors leaned on one another because it was literally us against the others. Because of that, we took our brother and sisterhood a lot more seriously and we understood one another’s struggle.

Now we’re a people divided between the have’s and the have not’s and, for some, getting an education and ascertaining a little clout behind their names has disconnected them from the issues and needs of the entire community. They’ve pulled away from the pack as self-made success stories and as a result, they’re on that Booker T. Washington, pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps program. Unemployment and poverty and their coinciding health and social disparities don’t affect them. They turn their noses up at the little people way down there but the privileges that have been afforded to them actually make them more responsible to do something to help remedy the hurting in lower class, more disadvantaged circles. Yes, it is an obligation. To whom much is given, much is required. It’s a Biblical principle, true. But it’s also a universal call to action.

The eagerness to move up has also left our neighborhoods wide open to gentrification and purposeful rezoning by politicians with a real agenda to herd all the money-making constituents into one area and leave all them broke bottom feeders in distant memory. You know, we so often blame White folks for razing our landmarks and blasting through our Bed-Stuys, our Bronzevilles, our Anacostias. But we’re not treasuring our own histories. Family homes that could be passed on from generation to generation are being sold. Sometimes it’s for financial reasons, and those I can empathize with. But there are others of us who just don’t have any allegiance to the effort our parents and grandparents invested into building our neighborhoods. The moving-and-shaking new Negro can’t be somebody unless they’re residing in an upscale, exclusive area with an impressive-sounding address.

Being educated actually holds us to a greater responsibility to empower the rest of the community. Lifting as we climb isn’t the kind of mantra that gets dusted off solely as part of our Kwanzaa celebrating or our Black History Month rhetoric. It’s a living, breathing duty. When we think about the sacrifices laid down not all that awful long ago to make it possible for us to have gotten this far, it seems like just a tiny contribution to make for the greater good of our people—from the ones in the PJs to the ones in the glitzy high rises.

Like Us On Facebook Follow Us On Twitter
  • EssDot323

    Rather than dumping this “Uplift My People” mission on the laps of the Black middle class (which is becoming the Black lower class and struggling to stay afloat), can we see this as a SHARED sacrifice? In a perfect world, Black entertainers would really be the most ideal candidates for this job. Let’s be honest here: the hood has zero respect for the people that bust their ass (for many years) in school. Functionally Illiterate rappers, singers, and athletes garner far more respect. Does anyone take issue with them and their toxic ideals? Rappers are far more influential than a Black CPA or engineer.

    My friend is an ER doctor that noted until 2009, she’d been attending school since she was in kindergarten. Young Jeezy and Waka Flocka get more respect than her based on how much money they earn, their visibility, and the time it took them to become famous and rich. Meanwhile my friend has a safe career while musicians bitch and moan about label politics and changing trends.

    • Justsayin

      No because it’s SOLELY the duty of us “cowardly” middle class blacks to uplift the race…not some wealthy rappers/entertainers. *rolls eyes*

    • grandgryph

      a few things:

      1. they are struggling partly due to `america’s’ racist-classist reaction against black ‘progress’. that is part of what the housing crisis was about – using real estate and the american dream to suck wealth out of black and latino families and secure a pliable working class (see: the ascent of money).

      and, this was entirely predictable given america’s history race politics and real estate. not having created economic options beyond those permitted by the `let’s integrate’ impulse made them all the more susceptible to what most reasonably educated (formally or informally) people should have seen coming.

      2. creating an institution doesn’t necessarily take money (at first anyway). it is about building an organisational and exchange culture that is adapted and applied to the specific needs of a group of people. it isn’t based on trust or love – though those things might help. it isn’t charity or good-heartedness to `hood’ people. it is a commitment to common-sense and economic options besides those allowed by a system that historically has oppressed and found ways to get rich off that oppression. the dysfunctions and pre-occupations of `hood’ people have little to do with it, really.

      3. entertainers have historically been a semi-privileged class that money-whore themselves to `the powers that be’. to expect them to be anything differ is a bit naive – to want the kind of `respect’ they have is even more so. granted, there was a time when black music was politicised, but thinking that they aren’t going to play minstrel and – capture the hearts and minds of fans – is just silly. their business is charisma and popularity. why a doctor would want to compete with wayne or lil john is beyond me.

      tell your friend that influence and “adulation” aren’t synonymous (as evidenced by the fact that most entertainers and athletes are controlled by bigger interests). tell her to seek influence over adulation. and let’s be honest, many blase bourgoise bootstrappers are nearly insufferable. if people don’t like them it isn’t just because of their `success’ but because they are obnoxious and contemptuous.

      4. is it really `dumping the responsibility on them’ if institution-building was part of their “raison d’etre”? no one is really saying give up your savings so shaquanna can buy a beyonce weave but a) actually acknowledge that “institution building” was part of the plan that the bmc has suppressed for nearly a half century and b) through example and attitude promote organisational, economically autonomous ideas instead of just cow bawling about how racist white people are; how phony and judgemental afro-centrists are; how ghetto-types are setting `the race’ back and bragging how cosmopolitian you are for being `open’ and `post-‘ black.

      for so long they have stalled, deflected and made noble sounding excuses, but the bmc more that anyone has the education, experience and skill-resources to build the culture that prepares a critical mass of black people for the next phase of liberation. however late it might be.

    • JustSayin..

      “actually acknowledge that “institution building” was part of the plan that the bmc has suppressed for nearly a half century.”

      This is another thing I fail to understand. Whose plan was this? Neither I nor my parents signed any agreement with other black people that we would do any institutional building. That is someone’s expectation of this class…not something this class of people agreed to do.

      “for so long they have stalled, deflected and made noble sounding excuses, but the bmc more that anyone has the education, experience and skill-resources to build the culture that prepares a critical mass of black people for the next phase of liberation. however late it might be.”

      And again this is someone’s expectation of them. They don’t have to do this and they didn’t agree to do it. Because this class didn’t agree to do this it is WRONG to try to force them to do it.

      I didn’t go to college/graduate school to be burdened with a whole race of people. I went for MYSELF, for MY future, and for MY family.

    • JusSayin..

      “actually acknowledge that “institution building” was part of the plan that the bmc has suppressed for nearly a half century.”

      This is another thing I fail to understand. Whose plan was this? Neither I nor my parents signed any agreement with other black people that we would do any institutional building. That is someone’s expectation of this class…not something this class of people agreed to do.

      “for so long they have stalled, deflected and made noble sounding excuses, but the bmc more that anyone has the education, experience and skill-resources to build the culture that prepares a critical mass of black people for the next phase of liberation. however late it might be.”

      And again this is someone’s expectation of them. They don’t have to do this and they didn’t agree to do it. Because this class didn’t agree to do this it is WRONG to try to force them to do it.

      I didn’t go to college/graduate school to be burdened with a whole race of people. I went for MYSELF, for MY future, and for MY family.

      Where is the shame on the masses for being welfare cases???

    • JusSayin

      “actually acknowledge that “institution building” was part of the plan that the bmc has suppressed for nearly a half century.”

      This is another thing I fail to understand. Whose plan was this? Neither I nor my parents signed any agreement with other black people that we would do any institutional building. That is someone’s expectation of this class…not something this class of people agreed to do.

      “for so long they have stalled, deflected and made noble sounding excuses, but the bmc more that anyone has the education, experience and skill-resources to build the culture that prepares a critical mass of black people for the next phase of liberation. however late it might be.”

      And again this is someone’s expectation of them. They don’t have to do this and they didn’t agree to do it. Because this class didn’t agree to do this it is WRONG to try to force them to do it.

      I didn’t go to college/graduate school to be burdened with a whole race of people. I went for MYSELF, for MY future, and for MY family.

      Where is the shame on the masses for being welfare cases???

    • grandgryph

      @ jus sayin

      given that you’ve glossed over so many salient points in my response, i gather that there is plenty that you don’t understand – or just to don’t want to.

      of course, being close-minded and making ignorance and selfishness seem like enlightenment will always get some support. but really, you are illustrating the attitudes and emotional investments that help create the problem. that ,and you are being intellectually lazy.

      it show be obvious that the fact that you were able to do the things that you so modestly pat yourself on the back for because someone you’ve never met was inspired to do things for themselves – yes – but also for those that’d come after them. because of those strangers you had chances that you were able to take advantage of.

      them reproducing the narrow, selfish attitudes that you so promote quite likely would have meant that you’d have life chances similar to those ghetto types that you work so hard to distance yourself from. and, there would be no guarantee that your `hard work’ would amount to anything (but given your mental laziness, i do question your work ethic)

      however, no one is obligated to do anything – and that’s how it should be. i don’t think it is the bmc’s duty to free black people. but, in looking at the problem of oppression we need to look at the entire problem and how we – regardless of colour – might be implicated. fact is, the bmc IS implicated in the oppression of black people – including themselves. and while rappers (many of who are middle class blacks PRETENDING to be hood – ice cube, too short, lil john, biggie – and use black vernacular to sell the american dream, black menace and boot-strapism) do get flack, the full effect of the bmc’s laziness and cowardice isn’t really considered.

      generally, it is deflected with class-based insults or other stupidity. but, it has become quite evident that limiting themselves to `integration or bust’ aspiration has actually helped under-develop black people of all classes and dumbed down the political conversation.

      and, i’m just saying, you’ve proven to be excellent evidence for that truth.

    • JustSayin..

      @grandgryph

      Can you please STICK THE TOPIC and stop with the personal attacks? We are not living in 1954 anymore. We are living in the year 2011 and black people TODAY aren’t anything like those of 1954. Black people living in 1954, who opened the doors, will tell you that.

      I assure you I plan to do for my kids, grandchildren etc what my parents and ancestors did for me. I will do everything in my power to see to it that future generations of MY family are set. But the next black person’s issues, problems, kids, etc are not my personal responsibility.

      I don’t have a thing to do with the next black middle class individual. What Biggie, Ice Cube and ’em portray has NOTHING to do with me. You need to go drop your two cents about them on their doorsteps.

      My question to you was where is it written that middle class blacks are supposed to follow some plan to build black institutions? That is all I want to know. Can you answer that without bursting into emotional insults?

      I question your so-called intellectual thinking because it goes against logic.

      This: “for so long they have stalled, deflected and made noble sounding excuses, but the bmc more that anyone has the education, experience and skill-resources to build the culture that prepares a critical mass of black people for the next phase of liberation.”

      Is Bull-ISH that goes against reality of today’s black people.

    • EssDot323

      It is completely dishonest to discount the envy and/or hatred of those deemed “suckers” and “White acting” for racking up degrees. The hood doesn’t resent the college-educated people because they may slap them in their faces with their degrees. I mean, how could they? More than likely, if you’re college educated and trying to make your way out of the hood, you just live there. If you’re already college educated and out of the hood, you’re not looking back. Why look back to a place where your safety and peace of mind will be compromised?

      They think that committing to school is for suckers. I’ve heard people call their younger siblings “nerds” and “[email protected]” because they enjoy reading. Try to coerce them into underage drinking and then insulting them because they didn’t want to drink. The honor student that was beaten to death in Chicago, I doubt that he flaunted his good report card into this animals’ faces. And even if he did, so what? I remember Will Smith saying he had to hide his homework in a pizza box so he wouldn’t be harassed on his way home from school. I had haters in my ear back in high school talk reckless because I was in the honors program. And now they’re living the lives that I predicted them to have.

      A lot of times this BMC/BLC strife reminds me of that low-value guy with no personality mouthing off about some broad is stuck up and thinks she’s too good to talk to him. But he’ll never consider that his approach is wrong or that he’s nothing to offer.

      For the record, I used my friend as an example of someone that would get shit on in the hood because she doesn’t rap or sing.

      We were part of a Black organization on campus during undergrad and most of the time, Black people would show their faces if they needed help with racial issues or if there was a fundraising party we were sponsoring. The idea of speaking on campus issues and trying to be supportive of each other wasn’t attractive.

    • grandgryph

      “Can you please STICK THE TOPIC and stop with the personal attacks?”

      this is unfair. you get to insult poor people but i can’t `insult’ you? what kind of world is this. ftr, i’m not attacking you. i’m attacking stupidity and meanness. `you’ just so happen to be collateral damage. stop being stupid and mean and things will get better. i promise.

      “We are not living in 1954 anymore.”

      hope! this is the first thing you’ve been right about.

      “We are living in the year 2011”

      gasp! 2 for 2…i’m impressed.

      “…and black people TODAY aren’t anything like those of 1954. Black people living in 1954, who opened the doors, will tell you that.”

      sigh…and here ends the streak.

      do you think these difference to be genetic or some how irreversible? was it the cisco?

      and oh, did you know that the civil right movement wasn’t really as mass movement and was in fact OPPOSED or given lukewarm treatment by most black people. and, many of the views and class tension that existed then, exist now. if you’d done even a modicum of research on the matter, you’d know that.

      generally, it takes a relatively few organised people to change things. it is rarely the masses rising up to do it. and, so the supposed point about black people being `so different’ now, has not so much relevance.

      “I assure you I plan to do for my kids, grandchildren etc what my parents and ancestors did for me. I will do everything in my power to see to it that future generations of MY family are set. But the next black person’s issues, problems, kids, etc are not my personal responsibility.”

      that’s great. being a citizen means being concerned about others citizens (even the black ones). that’s actually what makes a `society’. the mi familia attitude you espouse is actually borderline parasitic.

      “I don’t have a thing to do with the next black middle class individual. What Biggie, Ice Cube and ‘em portray has NOTHING to do with me. You need to go drop your two cents about them on their doorsteps.”

      yeah you do. everyone on in this world is connected in some way. even black people. the question is and alway is, what connections do we value and which do we ignore and which do we try to sever. and of course what is the politic behind those choices?

      and, bmc are so quick to complain about the immorality of entertainers and ascribe that to the black working poor when in fact that image – like the array of assumptions and mistruths you’ve spread here – is a middle-class caricature – a type of `blackface’. and when that gets too much attention, middle-class black cry about how that affects how people see them and deliver a swift kick to ghetto black when the financial reality is that rap is middle-class or lower middle class black using `the ghetto’ and black vernacular to sell the american dream to multi-cultural but predominantly white audience.

      rap has affected racial identity and is part of the reason black folks today aren’t like black folks in 1954. but some how, i’m sure you’ll find a way to `prove’ (snicker) that this dynamic has had no effect on you. even though it does.

      “My question to you was where is it written that middle class blacks are supposed to follow some plan to build black institutions? That is all I want to know.”

      given the stridency of your comments, you should know exactly where it was “written”. and actually, dubois himself wrote several times about the need to build black institutions – and as i suggested in a previous post – he said so with this life. he spent his last days help kwame nkrumah. what do you think that might mean?
      maybe that’s to tea leavy for you. martin luther king too said so in ’67 or ’68 – there are several youtube clips of him talking about taking a more nationalist bent after seeing what dubois and frazier saw happening. and, the larger civil rights schematic is described in paul gilroy’s seminal “the black atlantic”. it is in plenty places. i’m surprised you’ve missed it.

      “Can you answer that without bursting into emotional insults?”

      just because your pandering to stupidity has been exposed doesn’t mean i’ve had any emotional outbursts. each of my answers have been based on facts and sound reasoning. yours have been based on misplaced pride, fabrication and racist assumptions.

      “I question your so-called intellectual thinking because it goes against logic.”

      uh yeah. i’ve studied logic. believe me when i say there is no semblance of it in anything you’ve written thus far. it follows you can imagine that i’m not at all worried about your `questioning’. but in the spirit of sportsmanship, i say bring it on. let’s go. i’m ready. what do ya got.

      “Is Bull-ISH that goes against reality of today’s black people.”

      um…what?! this is it? you’re big logical, intellectual counter argument? did your post get clipped or something? lol, just stop. it’s got to be your bed time by now.