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Archive for the ‘middle class’ Category

The black middle class in America (1865- ) is made up of those black families who own their own homes. Some say it is made up of those who have a university degree or own a small business. For the most part it comes down to the same thing.

About half of all black Americans are now middle class.

Because so many poor blacks live at the doorstep of the American media machine, in New York and Los Angeles, many whites have this picture of blacks as being mainly poor. They would be in utter shock if they drove through some of the all-black middle class suburbs of, say, New York or Atlanta.

It is a part of America you rarely see on television or in films, yet it is one of the most notable changes that has taken place in the country in the past 50 years.

There has been a black middle class since at least the 1860s when the slaves were freed. Most blacks were poor back then but they still needed undertakers and barbers, ministers and teachers.

The black middle class was small until the 1960s. After that it started to grow. By the 1980s it had come into its own: “The Cosby Show”, Anita Baker, Terry McMillan and so on. Even Run DMC and LL Cool J, if the truth be told.

A married black couple with university educations makes almost as much money as their white counterparts. But compared to whites they have little money saved – many live paycheck to paycheck – and their houses are not worth as much.

Their houses are worth less for two reasons:

  1. They tend to live in older, but still nice, houses closer to the centre of the city.
  2. A house in a white neighbourhood is worth more than the very same house in a mixed or black neighbourhood.

Most whites live in places where there are only a few black families. If too many blacks start moving into their neighbourhood, whites start moving out in increasing numbers. After a point only the old people are white while almost all the children are black. In time the whole neighbourhood becomes black.

Most whites do not want to live near too many blacks, even middle class ones. Among other things, they see them as bringing in crime and lowering the value of their homes.

A common idea is that the black middle class has sold out, that they are acting white, that they are not black enough. That is what the hopelessly square Carlton in the television show “Fresh Prince” is all about.

A sad fact: For every 100 black women who have a university degree, only 70 black men do. That means nearly 30% of them will never marry: most men are not willing to marry a woman who makes more money than they do and most white men are not willing to marry a black woman, who will give them black babies.

1940s

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