The Thoughts of an Educated Young African American Male

Act like the Middle Class Negro You Are

It must be understood as a premise, that in my opinion, African American culture is rooted in the projects. Meaning, most African Americans identify the race by struggle, inequity, and hardship. Thus, to struggle is to be black. Conversely, many believe that those who do not struggle are sell-outs. There seems to be a problem in our culture claiming the middle class. African Americans who do not struggle like others still want to identify with the culture. They (we) want to belong. But, how we identify and attempt to assimilate is the problem.

 

This concept is particularly difficult for students to understand. African American students go to universties, many of them good ones, to find they are one of few African Americans there. What happens when they get to the prestigious university? They begin to act as if they themselves are from the “streets.”  Black women become loud and black men become overly aggressive. Indeed, this is mostly a freshman phenom, as older college students with career tracks attempt to assimilate back to their middle class roots. 

 

 In most cases, the African Americans who go selective colleges are from middle class backgrounds, and did not act the way they do before they got to college. So, why do they do it?  It is a vain attempt to hold on to a culture which they never neatly fit in to begin.  It is theatrics. They “act” black to let others know they are not yet ready to assimilate into white culture.

 

The problem with this act is that it is just that. Truthfully, the actor can only act that way around their small group of friends.  Inherently, they will be within a small circle because the numbers of African Americans at selective universities are small (I am saving a discussion for HBCUs for later).  The thespian can go to the club, act ghetto, shake her ass, look hard, drink, do drugs, or whatever.

 

When that happens, the whole purpose of getting good grades in high school, a high SAT score, and accepting that scholarship, or financial aid check, to that major university is fruitless. You have moved up only to act more like the people you attempted to escape.  The humorous part, if any, is that if you went back home, the people from “the streets” would not accept you because you were the person who never had to worry about anything.  They never knew you to struggle.  You had good grades.  Teachers liked you. You had nice cloths. You had a car.  They do not believe you are creditable.  And so the thespian, while trying to act like the people from the “streets,” always despises the fact that the “streets” do not respect the show.

 

Young college bound African Americans should realize that they don’t need to act. The projects, which media allows to define African Americans, is not what conclusively will define you. In the end, education, hard work, and success define people. Why cater to a group of people who you truthfully will want to deal with as an adult?  Acting ghetto, looking ghetto, and talking ghetto will leave you unemployed. After college, you do not want to work at a place that would hire people with those qualities. Those jobs don’t pay well. You did not go to college to make what you could have if you stayed at home.  

 

The ‘hood’ may not respect it, but you struggle; but, your struggle is different. You struggle in a society where you are truly the minority. There are not many African Americans in college. You struggle to compete for good jobs. You struggle to earn enough money to pay back your loans. You struggle with knowing you are in a better position than most African Americans, but still are not where you want to be. Be proud of that struggle. Be proud of progress. You are not definable by what MTV characterizes blacks to be. You are not an actor. You are a person trying to make it in our society.

 

 

Our culture has made it difficult to be able to admit that as a black person, they didn’t struggle. For instance, I grew up in the suburbs. Everyone who knows me knows that. Both of my parents, who are still married, have good jobs. My family is educated. I am not a first generation college graduate. You don’t hear, or read, rants like mine that much. It’s almost a secret of African Americans in college.

 

My point is simple. Be proud to be middle class. Say it proud. And act in a like manner. You are not a sell-out because you are smart, educated, and might have more money in your pocket than the average.  Quit acting “ghetto.” It’s not you.

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October 13, 2006 Posted by | African American, Black men, Black women, college, university | 13 Comments