Archive for June, 2011

MSNBC's Eugene Robinson breaks down the new reality of being Black in America

Since I started regularly watching television newscasts during my college years, MSNBC’s Eugene Robinson has been on of my favorite commentators. The Washington Post Editor and Columnist can always be relied on for a level-headed viewpoint that is both entertaining and informative. Yet somehow, I missed out on reading his book Disintegration: The Splintering of Black America upon its release in 2010.

The basis of the book is that in the 21st Century, “Black America” no longer exists as a single entity as it did in the first-half of the 20th Century. Robinson classifies Black America as four distinct groups:

  • a Mainstream middle-class majority with a full ownership stake in American society
  • a large, Abandoned minority with less hope of escaping poverty and dysfunction than at any time since Reconstruction’s crushing end
  • a small Transcendent elite with such enormous wealth, power, and influence that even white folks have to genuflect
  • two newly Emergent groups-individuals of mixed-race heritage and communities of recent black immigrants-that make us wonder what “black” is even supposed to mean

I have literally devoured this book in the last 48 hours. As the book goes along, he gives a comprehensive break down of how these divisions took place, where they currently stand and their prospects for the future. But it was an experience of my own that brought home Robinson’s theory for me personally.

After work, I stopped into a dinner party for some friends who have spent the last few months in China, working at a school to teach English. The party took place in a nice neighborhood in Cary, one of North Carolina’s most upscale cities. There was food, soft drinks and a few beers thrown in for good measure. I watched from a distance as the party-goers of all ages and races embraced the couple with hugs and kisses and mingled with each other. Between family and friends, I’d guess that the crowd was about 60 to 70 percent Black with a sizable number of  Caucasians and other races.

Thinking back to Disintegration, I marveled at the fact that a simple social event like this could not have taken place 50 or even 40 years ago anywhere in America, much less the South. I realized that I was seeing the Black Mainstream at work. I took it in with a self-satisfying pride that I was amongst that group.

About two hours into the celebration, someone tapped me on my shoulder, telling that the police were outside and that I may have to move my car, which was one of about ten or so parked curbside alongside the double culd-i-sacs. My crystalized the tenuous nature that comes along with being a part of the Black Mainstream.

“Why the hell did somebody have to call the police?”

If we were inconviencing any of the residents by parking in their allotted space, why didn’t someone just knock on the door and ask the owners of the vehicles to move them?

Later, someone pointed out the possibility that the police showed up on their own. Having lived in the area for two years now, I can say that it is very likely. They didn’t harass anyone and to my knowledge force anyone to move their vehicles. Even still, I can’t understand why they would approach the house without being prompted to by one of the local residents.

This evening’s events cemented the fact that as a self-identified member of the Black Mainstream, I live in two worlds. Thanks for the reminder, Mr. Robinson.