A Ramble on the Failures of the Black Middle Class.


African shall develop an aristocracy of its own, but it shall be based upon service and loyalty to the race – Marcus Garvey

The Boston Brahmins revered history and worshiped their forbearers, shunned materialism and promoted art, culture, and spirituality. These Bostonians stood atop America’s caste system and were called Brahmins-after the Indians who owned a similar position in their culture’s caste structure. A lesser known social phenomenon were strata of Negros who lived adjacent to these elite Bostonians, who emulated these values. They were highly literate, loving knowledge, lived to glorify their ancestors and their sense of noblesse oblige led them to be at the for front of the abolition movement. Unfortunately, they were quite insular, practiced an odd form colorism and engaged in middle-class snobbery. They, of course, weren’t Brahmins, but middle class, Negros hadn’t the freedom to gain such a status. Still, they sat astride Northeastern Black America’s class structure and maybe even Black America’s. They also exhibited the failure of our nation’s Black upper and middle classes to lead, inability to create a model of an aristocracy based upon values owned by them. Never created a philosophy of thought particular to African Americans, matter of fact they embraced White American values wholeheartedly, though fortunately, they emulated the noblest of whites.

Today, we have a very different Black middle class, one which is crassly materialistic, hardly aware of their ancestors and their culture & values. Embracing all that middle America has to offer without the noble aspirations of their forbearers.  They practice a form of middle-class snobbery based upon only the superficial, one could make the argument that they haven’t come up one cultural innovation. They’ve certainly have not created an entrepreneurial culture. Never attempting to create enough businesses to keep black folks unemployment rates at the level of Asians. Matter of fact they have actually fought not to have to create their own businesses and are the main promoters of Affirmative Action. Before that, they flocked to politics and the church to make their livings, as Booker T Washington pointed out. Weary of having to prove themselves in the rough and tumble free market.

Of course, they have participated & prospered  in innovations started by poor Blacks quite successfully; Miles Davis and Duke Ellington in Jazz comes to mind and so does Langston Hughes, who borrowed mightily from Negro folklore, in literature and prose.  I don’t begrudge them these successes I admire all three of them and their cohorts and find Sir Duke to had a seminal impact on American culture, classed rightfully in the same lonely stratosphere as Louis Armstrong. But as a class, their contribution on a cultural and institutional level have been dismal. What few institutional and communal achievements they had, they sold them out as soon as whites decided (mostly forced) they were willing to accept them into their neighborhoods and businesses and to a lesser extent their social circles.
Every day there are kids graduating from college, joining sororities and fraternities, and starting businesses. Theoretically, there is always a chance to reverse this trend in horrible leadership. All it takes is a few in leadership roles to take assertive steps toward creating an upper middle class with a stake in the community and the ability and outlook to lead the community in the right direction. The lower segments of society would have to do their part no doubt, which so far they’ve shown no inclination to do. Leading me to think, whatever happens, it will be a long, and slow ascension.

One thought on “A Ramble on the Failures of the Black Middle Class.

  1. I think American individualism prevents any kind of collectivist sentiment, even where it might be natural, such as among people of a given ethnocultural / racial / geographical / social class community, and while the Church did mitigate such rabid individualism to an extent in the past, now that Christianity is on the decline in the West, it no longer has such a positive influence.

    I think black Americans, like their white neighbours, will find, if they want to return to stronger community spirit, they will have to return to church in large numbers, and especially to orthodox, traditionalist conservative expressions of Christianity, which emphasize particularism and distinctions.

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