Classism and the Black community

William T. Robinson, Jr.

Blacks have constantly been led to believe that the greatest obstacle keeping them from becoming united and solidified in their pursuit for social, political, and economic equality and equity in this country is racism. The practice of racism is a leading factor contributing to the historic disproportionate distribution of wealth for Blacks and instrumental in promoting self-hate among Blacks. Although racism and discrimatory practices have deterred African Americans’ progress since their arrival in this country, we are now confronting a more prevalent and rising culprit among Blacks.

Classism has produced an undeniable rift between the have and have-nots, especially in the Black community. This division or rift is not coincidental, but was cleverly engineered by those continuously seeking to oppress Blacks—knowing the power Blacks would have if they were to become united. Make no mistake, those who oppress Blacks have always known their victims’ greatness and potential, seeking vehemently to change the positive narrative of Blacks. They know Blacks really are the descendants of great kings, warriors and the architects of advanced civilizations.

Those seeking to oppress Blacks have always presented a negative narrative of dehumanizing stereotypical depictions, hoping to historically deter African Americans from sharing the economic gains from their free labor used to build this country and catapult White wealth—a wealth that they continue to bestow on their descendants through inherited generational wealth. Whites have been able to maintain their economic, political, and social control by subconsciously leading many Blacks to believe they deserve less because they are supposed to be inferior and undeserving. But the gains Blacks are making show those slights to be false and inconsequential in their quest for excellence and inclusion.

The children of White oppressors were taught to believe that Blacks were lazy, dumb, unmotivated and less than human, warranting our dehumanizing treatment. You must wonder how fearful a society must be to deny a designated group opportunity for education and economic advancement. The systemic and institutional constraints put in place against African Americans are born more out of fear than hate—fear that Blacks will realize their greatness and be formidable competition that may keep established Whites from retaining jobs for their children. That would eventually negate their economic advantage.

Regardless of unrelenting attempts to try to stifle Black progress, an impressionable and growing number of Blacks have been able to achieve middle and upper class status regardless of the many obstacles put before them. All too often, you find Blacks who have reached a comfortable and blessed position in life tending to be more condemning and judgmental against those who have less. This attitude is even more compelling toward other Blacks, keeping Blacks as a whole from uniting and working together to improve their overall plight in society.

No one should have to apologize for appreciating education, working hard and acquiring success to better his or her lots in life. But you find some Blacks achieving high positions and acquiring distinguished titles who feel they have arrived through education and available opportunities. This affords them admission to middle and upper middle-class status—snubbing those who have less than they do. These Blacks have become apathetic and indifferent to the struggles and hardships of their downtrodden brothers and sisters. Coming together united to combat social injustices and discrimination is therefore hindered.

In-house classism among middle class or upper middle class, highly successful Blacks has allowed current oppressors to sit back and literally watch Blacks do their dirty work. Those adamant to keeping Blacks from coming together often find or appoint Black spokespersons who rebuke Blacks’ attempts to unite toward establishing social, political and economic emancipation.

I am referring to the Blacks who are quick to claim that Blacks have arrived and everything is equal because they personally don’t feel there is any racism or discrimination toward Blacks. These Blacks are the spokespersons for those seeking to keep other Blacks oppressed. They usually are well educated, basically from predominately White universities. They work for corporate America, are successful in their chosen occupations, live in White communities, and many times were raised in sheltered environments surrounded by White counterparts. Many Blacks consider these Blacks the exception to the rule. They understand the extenuating circumstances making them immune and insensitive to the harsh reality surrounding so many other Blacks who are not as fortunate.

Sometimes you have Blacks who marry Whites and feel they are accepted; therefore, they don’t feel they are part of the discriminatory practices affecting other Blacks. They often have no inclination to identify or fight for injustices affecting other Blacks, even condemning and judging Blacks for initially being contributors to their own dismal plight.

Not knowing our true history makes many young Blacks unaware of the horrendous and horrific treatment of African Americans in this country. Some Blacks (not personally feeling the sting of avert racism) cannot relate to fighting for racial equality for others. Classism is among a plethora of factors in play to keep Blacks from uniting and realizing their destiny.

Classism is used to promote jealousy and dissention among groups by provocateurs of racism. But Blacks must learn the games and practices used to keep them in economic, social, and political bondage. As it stands now, some would conclude (because of classism) that some Blacks are working against the advancement for all African Americans.