Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Intersection Of Race & Class: The Interesting Position Of The Black Bourgeoisie


As I age I find myself dealing with a number of issues related to class and race. I never faced these issues before becoming a member of the black middle class. Moving up in the world is great and I am enjoying the fruits of my labor and education. However, moving up has forced me to examine class and race from my new middle class perspective. I have been thinking about my future, my plight, the plight of other African Americans and what it means for me.

Sometime in the near future I plan to buy a house. There was a point when I wanted to buy a house in the Atlanta area. That is no longer the case. Why? Because I'm convinced this city is going straight to hell like Detroit, Chicago, D.C., Gary, Philly, Harlem, Cleveland, Newark and every other so-called black mecca. I've lived in Georgia my entire life. This is the land of my ancestors on both sides of my family. I've lived in Atlanta since 2004. In that time I have watched the following:

  1. Black people from all over the country are migrating here because they have heard it is the place to be...for whatever reason. 
  2. The poor have become poorer.
  3. Someone figured out concentrated poverty is a bad idea so the poor are now spread out thanks to section 8 vouchers. Gone are the projects. Now these folks can find private housing in "good" apartment communities and the suburbs. This is great for them. However, it sucks for the people already living in those communities. Why? Because our stupid BLACK Democratic leadership has yet to recognize that poverty is not just financial for a large number of black folks...it's also a mentality. Folks living in these previously NICE neighborhoods now find themselves living amongst folks who don't have any type of home training, discipline or morals. Not to mention they don't have any interest in keeping up the neighborhood because the cost of living there isn't coming out of their pocket. It's just a matter of time before the people in the community move out and the poverty is concentrated again. I wrote a post about this on Facebook. Go HERE to check it out.
  4. The school system here is one of the most fucked up school systems in the country. I'm sure you've heard about the cheating scandal that made national news. 
  5. The government and the school board is mediocre and corrupt as hell. The mayor of Atlanta suffers from a speech impediment and I struggle to understand why/how he was elected. Leadership in this city sucks big time and it has for a long time.
In short, Atlanta is not a place I want to buy a home or raise a family. This brings me to my next issue...

The black middle class is in a very unique position in this country. Like most Americans, we want good quality housing for our families, good performing schools for our children and crime free neighborhoods with clean accessible stores within a short mile radius. These things are not often found in communities that are dominated by blacks. Instead they are almost always found in areas dominated by whites (at least here in the south). Therefore, members of the black middle class often take up residence in majority white neighborhoods. 

For the first two or so years all is well for them. Then suddenly they look up and find there are a number of FOR SALE signs going up in the neighborhood. They realize that all the people selling are WHITE and all the people buying are BLACK. Hell, even they bought their house from a white family.

The white neighbor who previously had no problem with you and the other black family living around the corner now finds himself alarmed by the changing demographics of the neighborhood and the surrounding school system. He decides to pack up and move. He sells his house (which has depreciated in value given the change in demographics) for a BARGAIN price to a black family and leaves. 

Now about five years in their home, the black middle class family, suddenly find themselves living amongst a black majority in a community that five years earlier was almost completely white. Like their previously white neighbors, they have watched as the value of their home depreciated with the rampant "blacking" of the neighborhood. Homes that previously cost $160,000 are now going for $120,000. 

At first this new black majority seems no different than the previous white majority. The neighbors are polite and friendly. Everyone is black and middle class. Everyone gets along fine. Everyone is maintaining their yards and their homes. The neighborhood is the face of black success. They all agree they got a good deal from the whites who previously lived in the neighborhood, though none of them are in denial as to why they got such a good deal. 

The neighborhood gains a reputation as the place to be if you are BLACK and MIDDLE CLASS. The original black middle class family looks around and is pleased to see so many black families like their own living amongst them. For a while it's a great place to live.  

But then something begins to happen.  

Black people, who could only dream about living in the neighborhood before, now find they can afford to live in said neighborhood due to it's declining value and prices...and so it begins. 

Bad elements begin to invade the neighborhood. Black middle class families watch helplessly as young black men walk around their neighborhood with their shirts off and pants half-way down their ass. Loud music blast from homes and cars in the middle of the night when folks should be sleeping. There have been reports of home invasions and car break-ins. The high end stores that surrounded the neighborhood previously begin to close shop. They are replaced by liquor stores, Family Dollar, Taco Bell and pawn shops.

The school system has gone completely to hell. The children from black middle class families come home and report they aren't able to learn because the teacher has to stop teaching every five minutes to discipline Lil Ray Ray, the class clown. 

At this point black middle class families have a choice: They can either cut their losses and sell their homes to other black families looking to move into the community or they can continue living in the neighborhood, install bars on their windows and watch as their once middle class neighborhood becomes a full-fledged ghetto...and at that point it would be damn near impossible to get rid of the property or get a moderately good return on their original purchase price.

This is the kind of stuff I think about and fear. I'm sure I am not alone. I have seen it happen time and time again. It happened to the black middle class community I lived in shortly before my parents separated. It has happened to my mother's neighborhood and it's slowly happening to my father's neighborhood.

I don't believe in forcing myself into a situation where I'm clearly not wanted due to the color of my skin (referring to white communities), but at the same time I don't want to live in a majority black community either because they go to hell at some point and they lack the structure and resources to sustain over the long-run. 

This is the position members of the black middle class find ourselves in at some point when considering buying a home. We can either buy a home in a white neighborhood and move when we see the white folks starting to move or we can buy a home in a black neighborhood and watch as the values of our homes depreciate faster than they would in a majority white neighborhood...not to mention the situation with the school system, stores etc. 

The only other alternative (and this only applies to the SUPER well-to-do black folks) is to buy a home in a neighborhood that very few people can afford to live regardless of race. This is probably not a realistic option for most members of the black middle class.

I honestly would not mind living in a majority black community if said community didn't go to hell at some point. Enclaves of middle class black families are almost ALWAYS invaded by bad elements. We can never have nice, quiet, peaceful, well-maintained, crime free communities because a lot of black folks are fucked up beyond repair. Let me explain...

White people, for better or worse, value their communities. They know the value of their property. They know their homes are their biggest investments. They take great pride in their homes and communities. You won't catch them littering their communities, pissing on the sides of buildings, loitering on street corners, walking around looking like thugs in their neighborhood or selling drugs in their neighborhood because they KNOW what that shit will do to their property value.

Certain black people are the complete opposite. 

I have seen black folks throw thrash on the sidewalk, in the neighbor's yard, in front of the neighborhood public library etc. I have seen black folks pissing on the side of the public library. At some point black folks stop giving a damn about their property values (and maybe this comes from financial ignorance). They let their homes become dilapidated and their yards look a mess. The only thing they add to their homes are BARS on the windows and doors. In a community where this is the norm (meaning every house on the block looks like this) said community is labeled the GHETTO.

Why the hell can't black people have nice things without everything going to hell? Why don't we value our communities the way that whites value their communities? Why can't our neighborhoods look and function like those of whites? Why can't we sustain polished upstanding black middle class enclaves?

Think about that for a second. 

How many black middle class enclaves have you seen sustained for decades? I can't think of any. But I can think of several white middle/upper class communities from my hometown that have been around since the town was founded!

This shit is sad, but it's the reality that black middle class people have to face in this country. I'm convinced that class and race hurts the black middle class more than any other group. We cannot fully assimilate into white communities and we cannot fully escape the trappings of the black community. 

It sucks to be us sometimes.

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