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Black America: Divided It Stands

In a review of Ellis Cose’s The End of Anger: A New Generation’s Take on Race and Rage, The New Republic’s John McWhorter discusses an interesting (though not entirely surprising) finding: young, affluent and well educated Blacks in particular are now much less likely to see pervasive racism as an inhibiting factor to their success:

Sixty-two percent of black Harvard Business School “Believer” graduates think that they are on equal footing with white colleagues, while only 48 percent of older graduates do. About 55 percent of black adults see a glass ceiling in their workplace, while the percentage for younger blacks hovers in the mid-forties.

I would hope that Harvard Business School grads would feel pretty good about their prospects — and African Americans who got that far can reasonably assume that white America is not trying to hold them back.  But not everybody is in this position.

Cose avoids a crucial question: to what extent is the current state of black America, divided between some haves and more have-nots, unusual in an economically stratified country? White Harvard graduates are not exactly “representative” of American whites, after all. Certainly black poverty rates remain much higher than white ones. Yet almost three in four blacks are not poor. (Among whites the figure is about nine in ten.) Black poverty rates fell faster in the 1990s than ever before, and the Latino poverty rate is almost identical to the black poverty rate […]

More and more, the black community’s ills are, while real, not of the sort that elicits “rage” of any coherence or purpose. Historical baggage, human cynicism, and politics (such as Washington, D.C., mayor Adrian Fenty offending his heavily black constituency) are often more at fault than any animus against people with black skin. Cose is aware intellectually that the new problems demand something beyond the old-style mentality of protest. But he is so deeply rooted in the culture of the Dreamer that he finds his chipper Believers—as well as blacks telling pollsters they are optimistic about black people’s future—arrestingly curious.

As elite Blacks increasingly enjoy opportunities that most non-elite Americans (of whatever color) can only dream about, the fissures within Black America widen, and class differences undermine bonds based on racial identification.  Poor and rich Blacks increasingly live in very different countries.

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  • brad

    This development, although long delayed by the social policies of the best and brightest in Washington, gives testament to black self-determination in which identity with the community of origin is optional.

  • Mrs. Davis

    Is this what assimilation looks like?

  • Toni

    If “bonds based on racial identification” among Blacks are desirable, why aren’t “bonds based on racial identification” among whites?

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