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The Revenge of The "Good" Blacks: John Ridley, Eugene Robinson, Juan Williams By Thought Merchant, Guest Commentator

Within the African American community exists an element which virulently points to the “dysfunctionality” of the Black underclass as a way to both distinguish itself from such behavior and to attack the shortcomings of the Black poor as the fault their own misgivings.

These Black elites often show more disdain for the “ghetto posturing” and ”keepin’ it real” of their disadvantaged urban brethren than the most reactionary white conservatives show.

Such class divisions are not new to the African American community. Black upper middle class sensibilities, ranging from maintaining pedigree, color complex, and concentration on petite-bourgeois material attainment, are the more stereotypical hallmarks of the Black upper middle class. But new motivations have come to play since the end of Jim Crow and the rise of right wing reactionary politics.

The Root of Black Middle Class Resentment

At the core of the Black elite’s hatred for the behavior of the Black underclass is their ultimate fear of being equated with all things “nigger”. The Black elite cannot stand the possibility of being lumped together with those who they disdain and who might threaten their status of being “ascended” above the common plight of those who “shall not rise.”

As John Ridley, an African American Huffington Post Blogger and NPR contributor, wrote in his 2006 Esquire Magazine Piece, The Manifesto of Ascendancy for the Modern American Nigger:

“So I say this: It’s time for ascended blacks to wish niggers good luck. Just as whites may be concerned with the good of all citizens but don’t travel their days worrying specifically about the well-being of hillbillies from Appalachia, we need to send niggers on their way. We need to start extolling the most virtuous of ourselves. It is time to celebrate the New Black Americans – those who have sealed the Deal, who aren’t beholden to liberal indulgence any more than they are to the disdain of the hard Right. It is time to praise blacks who are merely undeniable in their individuality and exemplary in their levels of achievement.”

For Ridley, “Niggers” are to be abandoned, shunned, and cast aside so as to not hinder the way for the “ascended” Blacks. The ”ascended ones” then will be unfettered by the possible association with those uncouth “coons,” in allowing their rise and acceptance by their lilly white paymasters.

Ridley sees the “ascended Black” as the rightful beneficiary of the Civil Rights movement. For him, they have proved worthy of all the material glory and achievement they assume the Civil Rights movement was based upon.

Ignorantly, Ridley fails to acknowledge that one of Dr. King' most important programs was the Poor Peoplr's Campaign. Furthermore, it was on the heels of the urban unrest that was brewing in America, resulting from police brutality facing the Black poor, that the Johnson Administration passed crucial Civil Rights legislation.

Ridley’s simplistic analysis of American issues of race and class shows a lack of understanding that one of the beauties of the Civil Rights movement was that, for a time, we had African Americans lift as they climbed, as opposed to kick down as they ascended, which is Ridley’s prescription for solving the problem of the “New Black Americans” – who, in reality, are not that new, but seem much more narcissistic.

What’s With All This “Black” Stuff?

Mistakenly, another aspect of Black elite identity often hinges upon the perception that they are beyond “blackness”, and as a result, able to achieve on par with their white competitors.

Moreover, to achieve success in overall American society, it is assumed that the Black elites have refined their politics beyond the “accepted” racial positions maintained by the “traditional” civil rights establishment.

As put by Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson, in his recent piece, Which Black America,

“… 'black America' is an increasingly meaningless concept — nearly as imprecise as just plain 'America.'"

Robinson argues that recent racial slights by White media figures, such as Don Imus and Bill O’Reilly, stem from the fact that America doesn’t understand that there is a “different” Black America, unrelated to all the “thug life” depicted on television and in music videos. However, Robinson fails to address why it is the obligation of African Americans to have to prove their dignity and integrity to the same media that enjoys defiling the Black image and trafficking racial buffoonery as normal African American behavior.

Moreover, Robinsion assumes that class nullifies culture, in that as African Americans move up the socio-economic ladder, they will be, in essence, “less Black.” Therefore, economic attainment will cause African Americans to lose concern for any of the social and political issues that were important to the Black community under harsher economic constraints.

Tacitly, Robinson assumes that African American culture is a culture of poverty that will be shattered as more Blacks enter the middle class. Robinson’s position belies the long tradition of Black upper middle class social organizations and institutions that did not separate their politics from the Black poor, but sought to create a unified political front with the Black poor, in order to fight oppression.

And They Can Use Silverware, Too?

Fox News contributor, Juan Williams, blames the poor condition of the African American community on a combination of the low quality of Black leadership, a constant concentration on racism as opposed to personal accountability, and an unwillingness to publicly chastise the dysfunctional behavior of the Black poor.

There is truth to much of William’s position. African Americans need to motivate individual achievement in environments that foster none, they must exercise prudent judgment in communities where such examples do not exist, and they must show responsibility in communities that encourage dangerous risk and foolish behavior.

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Yet those of Juan Williams’ ilk never seem to explain how human capital, needed to become a model citizen, is obtained in communities where 70% of the children are born out of wedlock and 25% of the population lives below the poverty line. Furthermore, when Juan Williams stood as an enabler to the racist insults of Bill O’Reilly, while he acted shocked that African Americans actually ate like civilized people, Williams lost significant credibility and caricatured himself as a self-hating negro who joys at laughing it up with the white folk at the expense of those “ignorant jigs.”

In conclusion, the revenge of the “Good” Blacks seems to be rearing its head more and more in America, as the racial climate in the country heats up.

In the past, it would be rare to hear so many African Americans publicly savage their less advantaged brethren in such times of dire circumstances. Unfortunately, many African Americans have short memories and cannot remember a time when a nice house in a black suburb, or a quality education didn’t stop the possibility of you being called a nigger…or worse.

Thought Merchant describes himself as a believer, political thinker, social critic, and student of history with a profound intellectual curiosity and uses his blog to indulge it. Click here to contact Thought Merchant.

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October 18, 2007
Issue 249

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