[Hutchinson] The Dilemma of Two Black Americas | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

[Hutchinson] The Dilemma of Two Black Americas

Bill Cosby, comedian turned black-morals pied piper, has got to be beaming. His relentless pitch for blacks to get their act together and stop blaming the white man for their failings almost certainly has done much to spur the radical reversal in black attitudes on race. A new Pew Research Center survey found that more blacks are willing to finger point themselves for bad grades, bad behavior, high unemployment and poverty than they were a decade ago.

But there's a kicker in the Pew survey. The ones that did the greatest finger pointing were middle-class blacks, and the ones that got the finger pointed at them were poor blacks. It's no real surprise that blacks are rivers apart from each other in their view of who's to blame for the dreary plight of poor blacks. To even think that they wouldn't and couldn't have different views, or express divergent opinions and ideas about race, politics and life issues—just as any other group—is to lock blacks into the tightest of tight racial boxes. There is not, and never has been, anything that even faintly resembles a monolith of racial thinking among blacks.

For decades, two black Americas have co-existed uneasily side-by-side, yet hardly equal. In fact, a significant number of blacks told Pew researchers that blacks should not be viewed as a "single community."

Despite a drastic economic backslide during the last decade in the incomes of black males (detailed in a Brookings Institution report released shortly before the Pew survey), the class fissure between the black haves and have-nots has continued to widen in recent years.

Black executives still hold the top spots at three of America's leading corporations. There's Oprah and the legions of multi-millionaire black superstar athletes, celebrities and professionals. There's a bona fide black presidential candidate, Barack Obama, whom most whites applaud for being in the race. There's been a big bump up in the number of black households that earn more than $50,000 annually. Black wealth, like white wealth, is now concentrated in fewer hands than ever. The top one-fifth of black families earned nearly half of all black income.

But this is not new. In the 1950s, sociologist E. Franklin Frazier warned that many blacks were becoming what he scornfully branded a "black bourgeoisie" that controlled the wealth and power within the black community, having turned their backs on their own people. Many members of Frazier's black bourgeoisie had begun to ape the values, standards and ideals of the white middle class and distance themselves from the black poor. In the Pew survey, black college graduates said that they had more in common with the white middle class than poor blacks.

In the 1960s, federal entitlement programs, civil rights legislation, equal opportunity statutes and affirmative action programs initiated during Lyndon Johnson's administration broke the last barriers of legal segregation. The path to universities and corporations for some blacks was now wide open. More blacks than ever did what their parents only dreamed of: They fled the blighted inner-city areas of Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Detroit and Atlanta in droves.

By the end of the 1980s, a significant number of blacks were affluent enough to move to the suburbs. The expansion of tract homes, condos and apartments made their move easier. In the 1990s, the stampede of black businesses and professionals from these areas accelerated.

The greening of the black middle class hasn't erased the lingering—and some fear deepening—cloud of discrimination. Black professionals, politicians and celebrities may be light years apart from poor blacks in their wealth, status and attitudes about race, but color is hardly a thing of the past. It can sting a black millionaire just as easily as it can a black homeless person at any moment. Many affluent blacks still fume in anger as taxicabs speed past and blithely ignore them. They can be stopped, shaken down and spread-eagled by police. They are subjected to poor or no service in restaurants. They file countless EEOC complaints and lawsuits against corporations for stacking them at the low end of management positions.

The Pew survey found that even as blacks blame other blacks for their shortcomings, they have no illusion that discrimination is dead and buried. In a seeming paradox, the black middle-class respondents said they were more pessimistic about their future than a decade ago. That pessimism is tied directly to jitters that their economic gains can be snatched away at any time. A sharp economic downturn can dump more than a few of them back in the same crumbling neighborhoods they worked long and hard to get out of.

That's the dilemma for the two black Americas that no amount of internal fault-finding can wipe away. Even Cosby might agree with that.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new book is "The Latino Challenge to Black America: Towards a Conversation between African-Americans and Hispanics" (Middle Passage Press, 2007, $19.95). Contact him by e-mail at [e-mail missing].

Previous Comments

ID
75592
Comment

Amen brother Earl. The late and great Dr. W. E. DuBois failed to calculate the selfishness and gullibility or susceptibility to the dollar or the American Dream of his devised Talented Tenth that were supposed to get educated and learned then morally and orderly fight for and pull up the rest of the race from the shackles and crippling effects of slavery and abject racism. Nor did he calculate properly the resistance of Jim and James Crow, Jr. to real and enduring change. How could he see it though, he wanted to provide hope to black folks, a good thing; although he personally gave up on white folks and left the country for years. I adore DuBois' legacy because we needed him to counter Booker T. Washington's legagy of urging us to eternally placate and accomodate whites as their neo-slaves or subservants. I'm all for taking responsibility for what is clearly our fault. Cosby is right to a large degree, but he's also wrong to some great degree. He's a talented and blessed man who would have a different life and perspective if not so blessed. But we have to handle our individual situations the best we can before blaming anyone else. We shouldn't be expected to be perfect though. No other group is. And I don't know any other group who don't have some or many of the conditions we have that too often are viewed as black problems until enough of the right people have them too. I purchased Cosby's and Poussaint's recent book, but haven't been able to force myself to read it yet. For sure, "Lots of dirty laundry comes home at 3pm." The Talented Tenth soon because the Light-Skinned Negroes though not all are ligh-skinned any more. They just act like the ole ones did and do. He, he.

Author
Ray Carter
Date
2007-11-21T15:36:39-06:00
ID
75593
Comment

I agree totally...the question becomes when and where have the talented tenth received access... all too often we equate progress with concessions -H. Rap Brown (i think)

Author
skipp
Date
2007-11-21T16:09:07-06:00
ID
75594
Comment

We shouldn't be expected to be perfect though. No other group is. Such a sad observation. But true. And when some of y'all do the same thing people of my race do, it's considered so much worse.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2007-11-21T17:29:55-06:00
ID
75595
Comment

Another excellent article by Mr. Hutchinson. For decades, two black Americas have co-existed uneasily side-by-side, yet hardly equal. In fact, a significant number of blacks told Pew researchers that blacks should not be viewed as a “single community.” HELLO! So true, so true. The black community has never been single. Even when blacks were slaves, they weren't single (house slave/field slave dynamic). They file countless EEOC complaints and lawsuits against corporations for stacking them at the low end of management positions. This is why I think black entrepreneurship is important, but in my opinion, too many of the black bourgeoisie act like it is beneath them to support black-owned businesses that haven't "made it" yet, if they support them at all, in favor of businesses in predominately white areas so they can feel like they "made it". Yes, enjoy the freedoms of not having to live under Jim Crow, but don't forget your own, either.

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2007-11-26T12:47:55-06:00
ID
75596
Comment

The luxury of being american, is not and has never been afforded negroes. I must say negro, because, of who it is now that's shaking it in front of the video cam and other such d-v-d-ish, contraptions. The negroes who marched on those years, were not lulled into the belief, that we had not to be concerned about "letting your people down". What we have now is a group of decendants' of slaves, who have been so misled as to believe, "that american caucasive society"; generally, will not, does not and have not accepted "people of color" as equal. When you are written in to the "founding documents of a nation" as less than human--; then, maybe - - it is time for a CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION to accept the mis-steps, correct the inequities, re-write the documentation and move on. Imagine that! A Constitutional Convention to correct the inequities! Let us be real with it, the systems that permeate the continual "genocidal affects of an american system, "that devours its own", the indigenous, the tired & poor is not only a direct route to a hellish nightmare, subject to immorally explosive out comes, "of like such that may occur in america's ground-racial-zero" on January 21, 2007. You know, I've said this before, I remember, when the system, made sure one of the prerequisites for "welfare" was that the government would find no men in a welfare subsidized home, coupled with sterilization offers in the late 60's & early seventies of young teen black girls, in order to receive assistance. From slavery to now, in some form or the other, a white man's boot, has kicked in the door and took from us, under threat of death, the whip or incarceration; what should have been ours. A black rage, exist in the primordal goup of successive attempts to subjugate the descendants of slaves. "When they lock us up, who is the first eyes our women, look into?" Prophet

Author
Prophet
Date
2007-11-27T06:30:24-06:00
ID
75597
Comment

read...."The Senator and the Socialite" wonderful snap shot on Blacks and the "societal hierarchy". It's the biography of Blanche Bruce, the Black Senator from reconstruction era Mississippi. His rise from Slavery to the pinnacle of American Politics and his great effort to stay there. Also his dynasty and the rise and fall of same through his decendants. All of the primary black politico's of the era are in the book. I finally learned who John R. Lynch was (Lynch Street) and how very important he was to the black community in reconstrucuion and after. Why no monument to Bruce and Lynch in Jackson? Maybe this could be a part of the Old Capitol "Grounds" restoration.

Author
ATLExile
Date
2007-11-27T11:32:39-06:00
ID
75598
Comment

Segments of black America are in a rebellious emancipation stage. Similar to the 1920s which were called the roaring 20s. People do not understand that just because blacks have been in the U.S. from the beginning, we did not come along at the same rate as the free races did. Denying a race of people life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness has an effect. I have faith things will settle down. The problem I have with folks like Cosby is that he blasts a lot of people for their lifestyle without making mention of how his was. He was the one that frequented the Playboy mansion, had a kid out of wedlock(while married), and contributed to poor language skills with Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids. Its a whole lot easier for his past not to have kept him down because he is rich. He made the same mistakes as the people he is fussing at and does not seem to convey that.

Author
Goldenae
Date
2007-11-27T14:05:16-06:00
ID
75599
Comment

I ain't mad at Dr. Cosby. I'm glad someone is speaking up. He may not be above reproach but it doesn't lessen the value or significance of the issues he's raising.

Author
Jeff Lucas
Date
2007-11-27T14:15:24-06:00
ID
75600
Comment

Bill cosby has appeared to border on complete senility in some of his last tirades. He's a coot that's on a quioxtic rampage against those he feels are lesser than him. guilty of what I have always termed "Preaching from upon high" ..pointing the proverbial finger while returning to his sheltered wealthy self. He's out of control..someone please stop him.

Author
Kamikaze
Date
2007-11-27T14:50:19-06:00
ID
75601
Comment

i say the same thing about rappers...

Author
skipp
Date
2007-11-27T20:35:58-06:00

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