Thursday, August 27, 2009

Black Elites, the Kennedy Family, You & Me

I've wondered from time to time why it seems certain benevolent whites have often had more sympathy for the plight of blacks than other black people. Especially when it comes to the black elite. Perhaps hate is too strong a word to describe the standoffish attitude, but disdain or indifference could probably work equally as well. The deaths of Eunice Kennedy Shriver earlier this month followed by Ted Kennedy two days ago has me wondering about the legacy of the Talented Tenth. Lest someone accuse me of being envious of those who reside on lofty perches my reply is, nice try but no cigar. I'm considering the numerous contributions the Kennedy family have made that are of benefit to the masses. From the creation of the Special Olympics to the fight for health care we can point to specific things done on a wide scale without needing to search too long for something. Now any comparison would have to take into account the political stature of the family in question, but if you're an elite then aren't you similarly connected? Is it expecting too much to look forward to seeing similar acts of charity from others who have so much?

Would I like an excessive amount of money? Yes. Do I want education to be a goal for all my family members? Absolutely. Generational wealth? Ditto. An intact family. For sure. A network of people with influence? Sign me up please. But do you need to be an "Only One" to have those things? Last time I checked, we are free. Perhaps once and for all we should be certain to shatter any delusions about any black person being under any obligation to do anything for anybody else. We're not an island, however. Being that we discuss why black women should be able to make decisions as free agents when it comes to indoctrination of the "black community" mindset of self-sacrifice and in not choosing race as the most important quality in a potential mate, why not be free to form our own neighborhoods, make friends and follow Dale Carnegie's book about influencing others?
The black elite in the South of the United States started forming before the American Civil War among free blacks who managed to acquire property. Of the free people of color in North Carolina in the censuses from 1790 to 1810, 80% can be traced to African Americans free in Virginia during the colonial period. Free blacks migrated from Virginia to other states as did their neighbors. Extensive research into colonial court records, wills and deeds has demonstrated that most of those free families came from relationships or marriages between white women, servant or free, and black men, servant, free or slave. Such relationships were part of the more fluid relationships among the working class before the boundaries of slavery hardened.

Catering services and other skilled employment were important because they had the white contacts needed to remain within the “status quo”. The black elite also enjoyed the benefits of living within the white neighborhoods which further isolated them from the darker-skinned negro which caused them to blame them for the downward shifts in life-style choices. They felt that by “emulating” the white man could social standing and class be achieved. Wikipedia would seem the more things change the more they stay the same.

Now we know there's class of white elites and they probably break it down a bit further by ethnicity/culture as well. Other groups have their "One-Percenters" also. We can learn something from non-black (and non-African American) elite groups. They actually make an effort to maintain some cohesiveness amongst their collective. Sure Pat Buchanan, Rush Limbaugh and their band of merry racists will trot out the red meat to throw at the white underclass but that's to keep them chasing their tails and being mad at non-whites. It's a well-documented misdirection so the wealthy can stay wealthy. If people don't do their own internal analysis of ways they've been indoctrinated they'll never progress.

I'm just curious though: what does the so-called black elite do? I think at one time it was a few people who banded together for the purpose of surviving and thriving. The focus on building intact families is normal human behavior. Yet there were always other pathologies in place that weakened their efforts from the onset. The men were engaging in gender-based skin shade racism against darker-skinned black women. I imagine that would be akin to white elites demanding all the women in their class had to have a certain hair color from birth. You can alter hair color though. Charities are great. Great publicity. Foundations can do a lot of good. They also shield family wealth and are tax-free entities.

We have a history of great philanthropy from many families. We recognize names like Rockefeller, Ford or Vanderbilt. We cannot ignore these families built their wealth doing things that would be frowned upon - or were outright illegal. When non-whites try to do the same thing no one is willing to look the other way. Some want to be invisible which is prudent. Are we wrong to have expectation of them giving something back? Families like the Johnsons - who started a publishing empire with Ebony and Jet magazines DID do something great. They contributed to the media the image of civilized, productive family-oriented and hard-working blacks. [It's a shame they weren't able or willing to change with the times and adopt to keep the magazines solvent. By comparison Black Enterprise has a print and digital version, a video widget and an Editor In Chief who uses social media.]

By contrast you have another Johnson who created BET and sought to destroy all the work of the former. I'd say "Bobcat" Bob has been wildly successful. Oprah isn't a member of the black elite though I suspect she has done more to uplift black women and girls than most of them combined. Oprah is likely to be included in Lawrence Otis Graham's follow-up book to Our Kind of People though. It gives an account of the black elite, a registry of who's in - and who's not. It seems the categorization of who gets in may have shifted slightly to allow for some favored people. The strictest definitions used to be that you had to have generational wealth. Oprah's billions are newly acquired during her lifetime which is no mean feat!! Michael Jackson is a record-breaker not only for his music but as we've discovered since his death the most generous music artist with his philanthropy.

We're constantly discussing behaviors and pathologies of the working class or lower classes and why certain things just don't work in our best interests but it's incomplete without evaluating members of the upper crust. As a collective there may be obvious separation but numerous individuals display some of the same behaviors they frown upon. We don't need to know every single venture but we can study patterns of behavior to guide us what future steps are likely to be undertaken.
"If you, as an African American, have ever wondered why some "brothers" seem to ignore your existence, even if you have the same education, this book will fill in a lot of holes for you. As I read it, I continually said to myself "So THAT'S why so and so treated me like I was the invisible woman!" I feel more sad than angry for the blacks described in the book. They are caught in a no man's land partly of their own making. They believe they are above other blacks without the family bloodlines, wealth, and education they have. Yet the Caucasians who should be their peers reject them as social inferiors because of their skin color--even if it is lighter than most other African Americans. It's a tragedy; their skills and talents are needed by us all, yet they are lost because of their own snobbery and the racism of others. Read this book, then live your life differently from these black "elite." Amazon reviewer quote.
I read a blog called The Black Socialite. I find it informative. The blog host had to turn off her comments section well over a year ago due to the vitriol of those who had axes to grind, but some people did have legitimate criticism. A certain former hip-hop Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was featured in a post for example. It was before he was charged with his crimes and booted out of office but the word had already gotten out about his nefarious behavior. So in situations like that I think it is not only necessary but wise to question why certain people would be thought of as "separate and special" from the masses when they're simply (would-be) criminals with a "pedigree".

Here are some simple facts. We have a vocal vanguard within the ranks of the so called Black Elite who are still out there inflicting pain on some people. They often quoted in the media and they run around making outlandish statements about class, color, and ‘pedigree.’ They are a small but loud minority who had to claw their way to the manor and are somewhat vicious in their treatment of others......They are NOT representative of the majority of the so called Black Elite. Most of the people featured on this blog go to work each day, volunteer tons of hours for community service, and leverage their resources for causes that matter to them.
That Toure article about the Martha's Vineyard crowd comes to mind. It's where the Obamas (non-elites) are vacationing, er summering right now. Now my personal pet peeve is to ask why the President is on vacation with health care circling the toilet but that's just me I guess!

So I imagine it is very similar to those of us from middle class and working class backgrounds having to see the black underclass and those with that mentality wear their dysfunction like a banner, waving it proudly. Especially if they've achieved fame and fortune from music or starring in a reality show. It's not only embarrassing but it's down right infuriating. We have a lot of fools running in our midst. Yet I wonder if by the very nature of someone declaring themselves special don't they have an added responsibility somewhere down the line? Why can't non-elites offer a similar critique often levied against them by others outside their group?

If it's just about them and their family why do they deserve any attention at all? They're not the ones keeping the Civil Rights Industrial Complex (i.e NAACP, etc) going, it's whites donating a majority of the operating expenses. Regardless of their lofty positions they are still in the end deferring to the dominant group. Why haven't they effectively elevated themselves to a dominant position? Own a major network? A movie studio? Run a distribution network? A major chain supermarket? Having 3-4 generations of an intact family is a feat considering the obstacles blacks had in place, but does that make your family elite or simply smart with a little luck thrown in? Comparing yourselves to the plight of others in your racial category who aren't doing well isn't exactly a high standard. Wouldn't a more accurate analysis come from measuring oneself against other groups' elite families?

When you do that there is no comparison. Real execution of domination required working in concert with the masses because we are a minority population in this country. Instead it would seem many have actively worked against them. So like so much within a diseased and disordered mentality there are those who like to believe they are surrounded by rarified air. Just like those of the underclasses who blame everything on "whitey" and don't want to change. Where does that leave the rest of us? Getting into one group's "club" isn't a guarantee of a quality life it's just a membership to hang out. It's another system of control. If we're leaving the Matrix we have to be free from ALL falsehoods.

I have to note that blog host hasn't revealed her identity (wisely), is an African American woman, seems to be compassionate and is fully divested. She doesn't reveal much of her life but has mentioned she's an AKA (sorority member) and her significant other is a white male. I mention these things because I think even amongst her peers she is probably living the life of a "radical" akin to how many of us regardless of our social class are taking steps towards doing. So brava to her. It just proves we have to be our own women regardless of any preconceived advantages. So many members of prominent families engage in questionable behavior that often gets swept under the rug. It only proves that in the end we're human and solely responsible for our mistakes...and what we may contribute to society in the wake of our absence.

Supplemental Reading: Our Time Will Come, But Not Likely In Our Lifetime and Banking On Our Own

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rikyrah said...

I will also add about Johnson Publishing...

Ebony Fashion Fair has meant over millions in the coffers of whatever charity was linked up to it.

but, I hear you.

Business Week did a story on philanthropy, and that Oprah has given away over 300 million...quiet as its kept, most of that is in this country, and is going to the Black community..another reason why I pay no mind to hateration on Oprah.

Be mad at Cosby if you wish, but the man has been giving serious checks to the Black community pretty much since he began making money in the 60's.

Faith at Acts of Faith Blog said...

Rikyrah: Yes! Ebony Fashion Fair is a brilliant production. I used to go every year - that and Alvin Ailey. I just wish there had been more value put into keeping up with technology trends and lowering overhead. As for Oprah she does what she likes as she should. She doesn't owe anyone any explanations about what she does with her own money. The Cosbys have also supported numerous black-oriented institutions. I don't mind his criticism of certain pathologies either despite his being a flawed individual.

Khadija said...


You asked, "I'm just curious though: what does the so-called black elite do?"

My answer: NOTHING that actually matters.

They don't control anything that I care about. They don't control access to anything that I want entry into. They are NOT captains of any industry, much less the industry that I'm entering as a business person. They don't have dominance over anything. At all.

No, I don't believe that they owe anybody anything. I also believe that it doesn't matter that they don't owe anybody anything. These people are totally irrelevant as far as I'm concerned.

My heroes are people like the former South Korean dictator, General/President Park Chung-Hee. General Park literally changed the fate of his country and his people in one generation during his rule.

South Korea went from being a very poor, very hungry country to being an industrialized nation of well-fed people selling cars to the rest of us. My South Korean personal trainer often talked about how instead of greeting each other with "How are you?" people would literally ask "Did you eat?" when he was a boy in South Korea.

He also often talked about how South Koreans literally became taller and bigger in just one generation as a result of the prosperity created by this dictator. For all his flaws, this man really made a difference for his people.

"Grew-up-poor-then-made-it-rich" AA strivers like Oprah and others are the ones that are making the real difference among our people.

I already contribute to our people, in accord with my means. I hope to do even more once I come into my money as a "grew-up-middle-class-working-on-making-it-rich" person. *Smile*

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

Citizen Ojo said...

Once the black folks that came before us were able to enjoy the benefits of civil rights legislation it was a wrap. Instead of learning from "The Man" and teaching and preparing us they told us to go work a job for 30 years and wait for a gold watch. All of these black politicians and yet still no lobby group to address our concerns? We have the experience to create one so why don't we? My point is this - if regular black folks ended up being CEO's and Congressmen and Congresswomen don't do anything why should we expect a black billionaire too? Bob Johnson turns everything to dust that he touches (that's if it doesn't make money for him).

Faith at Acts of Faith Blog said...

Khadija: Thanks. I bring this up from time to time because class and race intersect and often race is the only thing being focused on. Yet we're being evaluated for behaviors that may be erroneously attributed to one class and not to others.

Citizen Ojo: You bring up some interesting points. I agree that encouraging blacks to simply be employees of (racist) whites did nothing to empower the masses.

Unknown said...

As for Oprah she does what she likes as she should. She doesn't owe anyone any explanations about what she does with her own money. The Cosbys have also supported numerous black-oriented institutions. I don't mind his criticism of certain pathologies either despite his being a flawed individual.

Faith, naturally I'm not a member of the black elite, but I wouldn't admit it if I were. I have mingled with them. They lay very low and do not call attention to themselves because they know how other AAs view them with scorn. You may even know some of them, but most likely they'd never admit they're elites. LOL! Also, they know other AAs will want them to do something for them, which always involves giving, giving, giving.

I think some black folks criticize Oprah and Cos (not me) because we all know by now that money is not nearly enough to lift people up. As a matter of fact, money is the easiest thing to give (particularly when it's a tax write off). We know that money is not the answer because all we have to do is look at all the billions that went into the 'war on poverty.' I've heard people criticize both of them for not going into the ghettoes and getting their hands dirty, helping folks. SMH

AAs need that RUCOSS (reasonably uplifting culture of some sort). I know y'all might get tired of me saying that but no people have risen without having a culture that the bulk of them subscribed to. Check history. Without that, no amount of money is going to make a significant different. This is the main reason I'm now urging those bw who can to just MOVE ON. They've waited long enough for black folks to catch a clue.

The underclass does not need money. A lot of the underclass need TONS of 24-7, in-their-face hands-on guidance. They need to be FORCED to do certain things. Even middle class blacks need to be forced to do certain things (like support black businesses, start private schools, get married, etc.)but we see all the arguments that causes.

Khadija, I think that if we could be a dictator like Park Chung Hee, we would also be effective at lifting up black folks, but unfortunately the underclass person in this country has "rights," including the right to self destruct and destroy as many others as possible. I'd love to be a dictator for a month. I could do a lot in ONE month. LOL!

And Faith, what would be in it for the black elite person to get involved with the rest of us? They don't need the rest of us. They have money and they DO have a culture that they've formed due to their self-induced isolation for all of these generations. They marry each other and stay unto themselves and/or mingle with whites. Remember that they have lots of private organizations, clubs, certain neighborhoods, etc. They are not black nationalists at all and don't need to think about their "black"ness most of the time. Their "green" trumps "black" in most cases in their lives because their "green" is organized through their social and financial networks. Middle class blacks do NOT have "organized money," so it won't much matter to our progress how much money we get. We will tend to spend it willy-nilly and the benefits rarely come back to us. The black elite has "organized money" and they are likeminded. However, as time goes on, more and more of their offspring will also become variations of the ABCs. So they too will vanish at a certain point.

Yeah, in some cases like the Gates situation, the black elites are reminded that they're black, but for most of them, things like that NEVER occur. However, even in his case, his "green" trumped his "black." (not saying that he's a member of the black elite.)

Faith at Acts of Faith Blog said...

Evia: You'd be surprised by the number of blacks I've had conversations with in the past three months who insist that having more money would resolve numerous "issues".

If blacks received that often thought of reparations check how many would actually put it to good use? How many would know how to best utilize it? We have no way of knowing had the 40 acres & the mule been distributed if the collective would be better off today. As we see the subsequent generations have destroyed much of the progress gained.

I don't mind you talking about the need for a sustainable culture. It's true. Especially when the rap music/love of criminality/white racism is the only problem/black women are flawed mentality is what's being touted.

You're correct about the hand-holding 24/7 as well. I'd call it corrective monitoring with needed consequences for violation.

Khadija said...


You said, "Khadija, I think that if we could be a dictator like Park Chung Hee, we would also be effective at lifting up black folks, but unfortunately the underclass person in this country has "rights," including the right to self destruct and destroy as many others as possible. I'd love to be a dictator for a month. I could do a lot in ONE month. LOL!"

Yep, I could also straighten a lot of things out within a month. But the pity is that I don't it would require a dictatorship to make a dramatic change. All AAs need to do is to STOP subsidizing and cheerleading destructive behavior.

As things stand, we're literally paying the nuts to be nuts! We pay through our tax dollars. But more importanly, we "pay" AA degenerates through our consistent, LOUD advocacy on their behalf. We're constantly screaming in support of them.

Basically, normal AAs function as permanent, unpaid lobbyists on behalf of the Black underclass.If more AAs would just stop doing this, there would be a dramatic improvement. And it wouldn't take long.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

Faith at Acts of Faith Blog said...

Basically, normal AAs function as permanent, unpaid lobbyists on behalf of the Black underclass.If more AAs would just stop doing this, there would be a dramatic improvement. And it wouldn't take long.

I'm reading the Dunbar Village reports from the trial as well as the pending excuses from Chris Brown's mother that have been released in advance of their Larry King interview, thinking about the women that sat on the R Kelly jury and declared him legally innocent and I agree.