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 »

  1. Exactly! As you stated, why would you want to personify the type of stereotype you tried to break by striving to do your best in high school? Thankfully, someone is recognizing this posturing going on in higher education!

    I believe that when one hears the word “assimilate”, they associate it with “capitulate”, as if they believe they are sacrificing a part of themselves to conform. Cultures, however, are not enforced or destroyed at the point of the gun (usually). Contrarily, I believe that cultures can only be eliminated or integrated through personal choice. Responding to values that you place higher than your prior values is more a form of benevolent creation than destruction.

    When one considers that the human mind is tabula rasa at birth, it allows culture to be viewed less dogmatically. No one is obliged to carry out a certain culture that they have been prescribed to (by society or others). I hope this comes through clearly to others.

    PS- Thanks for the add!

    Comment by kompiled | October 14, 2006 | Reply

  2. I finally found someone else who identifies with me! I must say, it’s been a relief to find your journal. I totally agree with your statements about how people “act” to fit in with the types of people they tried so hard to escape.

    How do you justify acting like the ‘hood when you spent your entire life complaining about getting out of the ‘hood? Also, it’s detrimental to those of us who choose not to act like that; the rest of the world is just waiting for us to go out to the club, get drunk, and act stupid like the rest of them, just to hold us up as an example of “why black’s can’t get ahead”.

    Many of us who were successful enough in high school to get into college totally undermine (for the rest of their lives, most of them) all of the hard work and accomplishments acheived not only by themselves, but their whole generation, as well.

    Again, it’s been a real joy reading your post. I look forward to many more insightful postings on your journal!
    a:\>ice9.exe

    Comment by Ice9 | October 16, 2006 | Reply

  3. Interesting post. To be fair I never really considered this segment of Black Academia(middle class).
    I grew up in “the hood” and was not necessarily allowed to speak in broken sentences at home. I picked it up anyway as a “survival technique”.
    I have noticed in my undergrad and now grad studies (at a competitive university with a very small black community)that the black students that I do know(all from upper middle class families) on campus tend to use language they understand as “black speak” as a way of indeed holding on to a certain sense of self (be it right or wrong).
    I can say that many blacks live with a duality that their caucasian counterparts may not. This may account for the need to slip into another “skin” when feeling displaced or out of place or even in an effort to claim a place. I know for myself that their are certain conversations that I may have and colloquialisms that I use with one group I tend not to use with another…it is so subtle for many of us (those like myself who admit to the duality of their existence as Blacks in American and Americans proper) that we scarcely notice it ourselves unless it is brought to our attention…
    Just my two cents

    Comment by Neophytescribe | October 28, 2006 | Reply

  4. Wow. There is so much of African American culture that I don’t understand, it’s not even funny. I’m middle-class white, so I’ve never really had to struggle for the most part, or deal with a culture that revolves around poverty. I can’t imagine why someone would reverse all the hard work and accomplishments they have done, simply to retain a sense of racial identity. Perhaps this is more important to African Americans for some reason. I’m somewhat tired of stereotypes about “white” culture, considering that most caucasians are a grab-bag of genes from all over Europe, and thus don’t really have much of a racial identity to be concerned with.

    On the other hand though, it is probably just as true that African Americans are a grab-bag of genes from various African nations. Perhaps we spend too much time looking at our skin. It’s one of our least important features.

    Comment by glork | November 4, 2006 | Reply

  5. I would have to disagree with you when you say that African American culture is rooted in the projects. I didn’t have to grown up in the projects to learn about the struggle of being Black in America. I was told about it from family members who grew up in the south during Jim Crow, through my own quest for knowledge about my people. Culture is in one sentence everything. I think that you’re buying into the medias image of “black culture” and at the same time limiting it. I grew up in a place that would be considered the burbs and for me Black culture was about community, education, church…I speak proper english but when I’m amongst friends I my vocabulary can change, especially around those from New York, I believe its part of that double consciousness that DuBois was speaking of and being Black is about knowing when its appropriate and when its not….I do think that these people who are acting like they are from the hood are wrong and they need to stop frontin'(pretending to be someone they are not). I go to one on the best schools in the nation and see Blacks, not always African Americans, acting as if they are from the “hood” and in my opinion, acting out stereotypes should not be equated with “preserving” racial identity…because that is exactly what they are doing

    Comment by blackakademik | December 15, 2006 | Reply

  6. When I say African American culture is rooted in the projects, I mean that you culture is rooted in struggle. I do not believe that acting out racial stereotypes preserves our culture. Did you read my blog? I think acting like you are from teh projects when you’re not is stupid.

    Comment by youngblackman | December 15, 2006 | Reply

  7. I hate the notion that in order to be considered Black, you have to have grown up in the “hood.” I hate it when people (black and white) tell me that I’m acting “white.” Sometimes, when my white friends tell me this, I feel like they regard this as some time of compliment, instead of the insult this is. I’ve stopped speaking to many friends because of this. It hurts the worse when black people do it, simply because I can’t/don’t speak Ebonics. Why is there a standard to being black anyway? I don’t even listen to rock, I love the hip-hop community, and my current hair style is braids. What more can I do?

    Comment by booksrme78745 | December 18, 2006 | Reply

  8. I have quit YouTube and will be committing ritual suicide online.
    The Rock Star life is just too much for me.
    Here is my farewell video:

    Comment by Raymond Stolp | July 31, 2007 | Reply

  9. Yes, and…

    I’m dealing with some harassment issues in my workplace (I’m white & disabled; the harassers are black and reek to high heaven of cologne and perfume, which triggers or worsens my disability.) Short version: acting obnoxious and like you don’t give a [deleted] about anyone else will make people not like you. In my case, the reekers are stinking on purpose for the same reason jerks get on public buses with their boom boxes cranked up to 11 — because they hate everyone else and want to make sure everyone else knows it. The reekers I’m at war with are mad at me because I’m not obeying them, because I have to stand up to them (it’s not about being “irritated,” it’s about whether or not I get to keep my job or wind up on disability). In their bizarre, pathetic world view, I’m supposed to just put up with their rudeness and abuse and CHEMICAL STINK without making a peep. And, amazingly enough, they don’t understand why that would bother anybody.

    What goes around comes around. Acting “ghetto” is about hating 99% of the world, so why should it be surprising if 99% of the world doesn’t want anything to do with anyone acting that way?

    Comment by Kell Brigan | August 20, 2008 | Reply

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