Monday, November 15, 2004

Schism

While the Democrats aren't looking, a significant part of their base is openly discussing a coming rupture within itself that will be exploited by Republicans, I predict, in unfortunate ways.

Middle and upper middle class blacks are beginning to turn on their poor relatives.

Within the black community there has always been grumbling by middle class types over how being associated with our poorer, more uncouth brethren is a burden. However, there was always a moral imperative to not openly abandon the black poor and to always say you wanted to "give back to the community". Whether one actually did or not is another question; however, to be seen as a moral person one had to at least pretend to care.

I was watching a C-Span show featuring something called the Low Country and Chesapeake Society. They've been featured several times in the last 2 weeks on C-Span (links to Low Country founder Webster Brooks on Washington Journal and the forum I saw may be found here: Link

Mr. Brooks and others at this forum openly discussed whether middle and upper middle class blacks could afford any longer to expend political energy trying to represent the interests of poor black people. My impression of their assessment of the situation is that if poor blacks have to be abandoned by their better off relatives in order to maintain middle class status, well that's just what needs to be done.

A schism between poor and middle class blacks is the subject of this article at The Black Commentator, No Exit in Black: Trapped by the Economy and Politics. A quote from the article:

. . . Poor black people are about to become the victims of a great political betrayal that is as predictable as it is awful. This betrayal is due to the unyielding logic of modern economic life, which has slowly but inexorably destroyed the basis for black unity. . . .


The author laments the trend. The Low Country forum accepts the trend with the stoicism of people who don't expect to pay an exorbitant price for their betrayal.

Bill Cosby recently gave voice to disgust over the style, lifestyle and life choices of the black poor and was met with understanding and sympathy by leaders of traditional civil rights organizations. I don't think I'm wrong in saying that if Mr. Cosby had bloviated similarly 10 years ago, Kwesi Mfume and Jesse Jackson would've come down on him like a ton of bricks instead of fluttering like moths around his flame today.

If you're not black and American this may not be of much interest to you, but I submit that in black America has dwelt the deepest source of desire for justice coupled with economic opportunity and compassion that this country has ever had. If that well runs dry, if the memory of a civil rights struggle that was for all black people, and not just for "worthy" black people, if that memory disappears among the people who should most cherish it, then how will justice and liberty remain as values among people who were peripheral to that struggle while still benefitting from it?

If this is the trend among middle-class black Americans, then the Republicans will exploit it, probably first using front groups whose mission is to give intellectual legitimacy to the notion of a "post-civil rights era" of dog eat dog.

"Low Country and Chesapeake Society" . . . has a lovely and melodic sound to it, don't you think? What may not be appreciated by the larger American society is that elegance is a high value among middle and upper middle class black people, more so than among white Americans of similar economic circumstances IMO. I have several friends who went to work on Wall Street in $1,000 Italian suits and were called aside and told that they just looked too fly to fit in. If I were to establish a front group as described in the paragraph above, I would be sure it had trappings of elegance and high style.

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