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Black...ish

                  
by The Urban Blabbermouth
~
Black..ish is a new TV show exploring the affluent black middle-class cultural identity.  The implication from the show is that black people lose their cultural identity when they become affluent.  I say the show has it wrong.  Instead of losing black culture, we see the development of a new black middle-class cultural identity.

For the first time in American history, there is now a sizable black middle-class.  There have always been educated and affluent black people but they were small in number and tended to blend into the black community and were not so visible.  They were part of the existing black community and were part of the existing black culture.  Now that we have a large and visible black middle-class, perhaps it is time to develop a black middle-class culture.

Ironically, the closest example to the development of a black middle-class is the European immigrant experience.  The first European immigrants, let's call them the founding immigrants, came here and kept many of the old country ways. Their children, the next generation,  became the hyphenated generation, Italian-American, Irish-American, and so on.  The Hyphens observed the old country ways in their homes but when they walked out the front door, they put on American clothes, went to American schools, and ate American hamburgers.  The third generation, the grandchildren, were completely assimilated and were completely American.

Black people, in many respects, are immigrants in their own country.  There was a great migration of black people from the south to the north.  They brought with them black culture that was created from slavery, Jim Crow, segregation, and from the Civil Rights movement.   The next generation did become the hyphenated generation of African-Americans.  Unlike the European immigrant experience, generation here is not parent to child to grandchild.  No, this generation is a cultural generation and consists of parent, child and grandchild as one generation. The next generation is the establishment of a black middle-class identity.

I am no seer so I cannot tell what the new middle-class black identity will be.   There may be clues to be found in observing black celebrities like Jay-Z or Sean Combs. They came from hip-hop and appear to be morphing beyond their hip hop beginnings.  I can only say that in observing white culture, there will be a two black identities, The Haves and The Have-Nots.

To Mr. Johnson, the father from Black...ish, I say don't worry.  Take a look at your children's faces.  They are black and will always be black.  Unlike other immigrants, they cannot blend in and become invisible.  No amounts of American clothes or American hamburgers can change this.  Your children will always and forever be black and whatever they chose to do or not to do will automatically be Black Culture.

Comments

Vol-E said…
I haven't seen the show yet, but hope it does well. This has been remarked upon by other TV critics, but IMO, it's important enough to bring up again. Too often, comedies that start out wanting to address serious topics devolve as the networks attempt to go for the simplest common denominator: The laughs. This happened with "Good Times," where the working class family was ultimately eclipsed by Jimmie Walker yelling "Dyn-o-mite!!" a dozen times per episode, and "Family Matters," which at one point had Grandma recounting her days in the Civil Rights struggles, too soon became all about Steve "Did I do thaaaaat?" Urkel. This is a shame. I believe John Amos quit "Good Times" for this reason, and since leaving "Family Matters," Jaleel White has steadfastly refused to reprise the Urkel persona and expresses deep regrets at where the show ended up. My hat's off to the Cosby show and (to a lesser extent) "Fresh Prince" for resisting this trend, and hope there's enough money behind "Black...ish" to allow the actors to add a funny yet dignified series to their resumes.

More on "Good Times" here: http://blacklikemoi.com/2012/03/10-facts-you-may-not-know-about-the-tv-show-good-times/
The success is measured by ratings (followers for bloggers) and that is so hard to resist.

The selling out also happens at my level too. One of the book bloggers that I follow does not posts on some adult books not because he does not think them worthy but because he is afraid of upsetting his followers.

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