"J'appelle bourgeois tous ceux qui pensent bassement."
Metropolis is a silent science fiction film released by the famed Austrian-German director Fritz Lang in 1927. The film is set in the year 2026, in the extraordinary Gothic skyscrapers of a corporate city-state, the Metropolis of the title. Society has been divided into two rigid groups: one of planners or thinkers, who live high above the earth in luxury, and another of workers who live underground toiling to sustain the lives of the privileged. [Wikipedia]
One of the major lessons of this past century, if any, is that "the exploitation of man by man" has no political or economical ideology, it manifested under different forms on either side of the Berlin wall, before and after the fall of the wall, it has no color, no particular ideology or social class per se, and it exists all over the world, on this side of the Atlantic as on any other continent - whether it is noticed or not is all a matter of intensity (how tolerable or visible - or how well hidden- it is), and the level of social indoctrination or the degree of smug self-satisfied complacency on the part of those who for one reason or another (regardless of their race, gender or social origins) have the good fortune of being among the few who, knowingly so or not, happen to profit from the exploitation of their brethren.
Essentially, it is a dynamic that has been and still is, more than ever, very much part of the human condition (a thing the Founding Fathers of the American Republic, which was intended to function on a system based on a separation of powers, understood well). Not that there is something necessarily inherently or endemically "evil" about the heart of man - though the pursuit of wealth and power can be a vicious and ruthless game - rather, there is there something that functions more like a mindless phenomenon, some form of entropy by which those who live lives of privileges tend to credit their success to the strength of their character and their own personal virtues, while blaming the shortcomings of those who live less fortunates lives on their lack of moral fiber. Things are of course, more complex than that, but such fictions are a convenient myth which assuage one's conscience while at the same time being addictively flattering to the ego of the so-called "self-made man."
Black bourgeoisie is not immune from such fictions.
According to a Pew Center poll released tuesday (11/13/07), a majority of black Americans have apparently joined the ranks of those who blame individual failings -- not racial prejudice (or socio-economical inequities) -- for the lack of economic progress by lower-income African Americans.
Interestingly, the result of the survey made the front page - no less - of the Los Angeles Times.
"The survey found that there has been a convergence of values held by blacks and whites. For instance, a majority of both groups say that rap and hip-hop music have had a negative influence on society."Really, now?
Is that what the problem is?
Well, maybe, they've got a point here, I can see how, say, Wagnerian music, perhaps, would work better in the current cultural and political climate as a more appropriate embodiment of the American Dream under the presidency of George W. Bush - and, now, isn't our President the ultimate poster-boy of what "self-made" means?
The article has elicited a few healthy heartfelt responses in the commentary section of the LA Times website:
Knowing how many AA's sit in prison, lacking education, many innocent of the crime they are charged with (DNA cleared AA's), and many who have known nothing but poverty, drug infested communities and crime as the only way to make ends meet. To those who overcome these odds, I applaud you! For many others, the odds remain formidable, and the racism that existed for centuries is alive and well in this country. Yes, there has been some improvement, but it's modest at best. Until we enter the ghetto and find it's not predominantly black (or brown), then I could agree with this article.While the survey is interesting in itself, if only for the social perception tendencies it points to - that's the vocation of surveys - it is regrettable that the LA Times didn't see fit to publish as part of the article an investigative piece exploring more in depth statistics and the reality of the facts beyond the mere perception presented by the survey - that would have been interesting - that's the vocation of investigative journalism.
---Submitted by: freedomanjel, November 14, 2007
Far from reflecting the adoption of a neutral point of view by news media, the increasing reliance on opinion surveys illustrates one of the biases of contemporary journalism where opinion are presented as fact - a tendency that has been carried to an amazing extreme by television network with so called "news" program in which opinions and "some say" comment are frequently presented to insinuate a point without providing facts to back it up. Perception shapes opinion, and opinion (especially media-published opinion) shape perception. This is precisely the reason why it is the duty (and ethical responsibility) of any responsible reporter to go beyond the mere publishing of the stereotypes (any stereotype) of the perception of his or her time, anything less is irresponsible journalism, or, else, yellow journalism (i.e. biased opinion masquerading as objective fact.)
If one is interested in opinions, well, there are other places in a newspaper than the front page - like the opinion section, for example. And if one is interested in opinions, one might always pick-up a book. There are plenty of them around. Bourgeoisie Noire, 1955 (translated in 1957 as Black Bourgeoisie) by E. Franklin Frazier comes to mind. The author was known for his thorough scholarship and his mastery of skills in both history and sociology, and the way I look at it, I figure, hey, if one is going to go for "opinions," one may as well go for "informed opinion."
Is that 1955 book still relevant?
You tell me.
As over the years the divide between increasingly prosperous middle-class blacks and their increasingly desperate "underclass" brethren has grown into an almost uncrossable chasm, I'd say the book remains as relevant as ever - maybe even more so today than it was then. (And so is Metropolis.)
"When the opportunity has been presented the black bourgeoisie has exploited the Negro masses as ruthlessly as have whites. As the intellectual leaders in the Negro community they have never dared think beyond a narrow opportunistic philosophy that provided a rationalization for their own advantages."
---E. Franklin Frazier, "Black Bourgeoisie"
Posted by Tom Bombadil on 11/14/2007