I'm going to take a quick break from writing about marketing to discuss something somewhat dear to me. I was watching CNN's Black In America 2 last night and a particular segment of the 2-hour special struck me: the segment on what some twitterers are calling bourgie blacks. A quick look at the conversations swirling around #BIA2, and you'll see a mixture of opinions. Some people complain that CNN has gone from one extreme to another, without touching on middle-class blacks (a notion I agree with). Others are proud of the "well-to-do" blacks who were being highlighted, believing that they stand as a testament that there are well-educated black people. And finally, there are those who believe that the "elite" blacks are just as alienating as anyone else. One twitterer went so far as to respond to another who was asking if there were any darker skinned black people, with: "Yes they were serving folks at the Tuxedo Ball!"
And another made the extreme statement: "...and Tyler Perry will tell us how cooning is the quickest avenue to Black wealth, tomorrow on Black in America 2."
Conversations like these make some people uncomfortable, and I personally have found myself in the crossfire. Being a mixed minority myself (Black & Hispanic), but not fitting the typical stereotype of what a black person in America is thought to be, I've felt the same ire as the kid the segment was about. I didn't grow up nearly as privileged as he did, but the identity crisis is much of the same. When blacks say you don't "act" black enough, or that you're not the "typical" black person, it begs asking the question: "How am I supposed to act? How does one 'act' more black?" Is a suburban white kid who wears baggy jeans and fitted caps "more" black than I?
Racial divides haven't dissolved. It's ridiculous to say they have. But I will say that a new form of segregation has formed, and going into an industry that's all about segmentation, it's clear to see that socioeconomics have overtaken skin color as the most important demographic. Who has the money? The haves and the have-nots has largely become the ruling principle; and it has divided those within my own race.
I'm going from "not being black enough" into an industry where minorities make up a small fraction of the population. Does that make me bourgie as well? I don't consider myself elite. I've never lived in a house, I went to a school district where undercover cops monitored the cafeteria for gang activity, and I've never had the luxury of jetsetting around the world (the furthest I've been out of the country is Canada).
The point I'm trying to make is that within the community there is a divide between blacks and "real blacks," and that's a serious problem. Unfortunately, like in any culture, there are simply different "classes" (for lack of a better term). I think the problem is that CNN failed to shed any light on the middle class blacks in America; they're just as important as everyone else. As one twitterer aptly put it: "Maybe they aren't showing the Black Middle Class becuz we aren't part of the 'problem'."
All I can hope for is that the underprivileged get a chance to shine, and the privileged remain humble while remembering to reach back and help others who were not born with the same opportunities. I plan to do the same for any minorities hoping to break into this industry after me. And that's why I applaud the AdColor coalition, and hope to one day do some work with them.
And with that, I'll close with a tweet that I found particularly entertaining: "At the end of this they should have the Huxtable family come on and say "See, we ain't that bad".