What’s Your ‘Hood Status?

Especially since this summer, anyone who has been around me knows what two kinds of cars I want.  First of all I drive a 2001 Chrysler Concorde right now.  When I got down to ATL my friends, well Supreme Uppity nick named it “The Cruise Ship” or “The Boat.”

I remembered when we got like 10 inches of snow back last December how I really wasn’t all that worried about getting stuck on Chicago’s unplowed side streets.

Me driving my parents car to go pick them up from O'Hare...yup that's the Cruise Ship

4900 Block of Kimbark totally covered in snow.

1300 block of East 49th with the Kenwood Park on the left.

Anywayz…

What I really wanted was a Chrysler 300 prior to the 2004 models.  It was just something about ‘em, but I just didn’t want to pay for the one’s I saw, so I went with the Concorde–which has served me wonderfully! 

Then 2006 came and Dodge dropped the Charger.

Well, this was a throwback to the old two door muscle car Charger manufactured by Dodge in the 60’s and it just screamed muscle car.  It had been a while since on production level had the American public seen something like it.  And the marketing tools worked for the Chrysler company.  The 300 was regarded as the ‘Hood Bentley and the Charger just gave you plain ol’ hood status.

Slowly my love for the Charger grew.  Ya know, everytime I would go to the dealership with my dad to get one of our cars fixed, we’d always go and check out the new cars.  The Charger just always felt right.  So this summer, believe it or not, one of the kids shared my affinity for the Charger and ever since I’ve been on Charger watch.

Anyone from any major urban center knows how these Chargers look.  I’ve seen all creme with creme colored rims, two-tone green and navy blue, taxi cab yellow.

So, this summer when I was back home, I had walked up to that wonderful Chicago establishment Pepe’s on 53rd Street and I was just mentioning to Uppity Friend that I wanted a Dodge Charger and she asked why–and my answer was “So I could have ‘hood status.”

Well, for those of you that have read her guest blogs, then you know how she responded.

I didn’t really have a long answer prepared, but I was quite clear that aside from the aesthetic appeal, I wanted that car for hood status.

Well why, pray tell, would an uppity Negro want ‘hood status, of all things?

Here, I’ll tell you.

There is a fine line between uppityness and elitism.  There are times when I can be quite the elitist, but it’s something that leaves a bad taste in my mouth.  I think it screams elitism when you go to IHOP or Applebee’s and you expect the same service you get from Houston’s.  I almost cringed when I went to Bar Louie’s with Uppity Negress and she didn’t want to tip the server because “he took too long.”  It wasn’t like we were in a rush and I convinced her finally to leave a tip.

In my own twisted world I want to be able to still be on level with people who don’t have a college degree and who aren’t in a dual masters degree program.  Ya know, I heard my pastor talk about growing up poor and as I got older I just rolled my eyes at the notion.  I’m not saying that they didn’t struggle at times–but being the son of a minister in an inner city church, and coming from a family where both sets of grandparents had college degrees prior to 1940 does not constitute poor.

Poor is my mother, who’s mother came up on the train from country Mississippi in 1949 with three kids and pregnant with the fourth, moved into Altgeld Gardens on the South Side and lived with two other WHOLE families and then moved to the West Side on 16th and Christiana until she was seven and then grew up in Ida B. Wells.  That’s poor.  Even my dad recognises that in some respect he had it better down south simply because his parents owned their house and somehow sent ALL five of their kids to private Catholic school.

No, trust me, I’m not bemoaning the fact that my parents felt it special enough to drive to Anchorage, Alaska and back and further solidifying an uppity Negro experience, but I just want to be able to have a conversation with some of my friends and not have them think that I think that I’m better than them because I went to car-ledge (**in my best Madea accent**).

There exists this age old tension between the have and the have-nots, the privileged and the under-privileged and daresay, the unprivileged.  Uppity Friend, along with another friend I mentioned it to, engaged unapologetically, their DuBosian ideals of elitism and simply responded “Well, why would you want to be affirmed on their level?”

I’ve thought about it in many ways.  First, I think part of it really is me buying into the whole materialism of this world.  I mean, I read magazines like Vibe or Complex and I’ll pick up GQ from time to time and the magazine, as anyone knows is majority advertisements, and often fashion and car advertisements.  Clearly, from my post on yesterday, you can see that I am quite aware of fashion–may not be able to afford it, but meh, who cares, I want it. 

Hood culture is heavily materialistic.  Some would argue over-materialistic and I would ask, over materialistic compared to what?  Most certainly not compared to this country where one’s wealth and value is placed on what they can buy?  The bigger the house, the better; the bigger the car, the better; the more clothes, shoes, cars, houses one has the better–just ask Sen. John McCain and his wife.  Truth be told, blacks are still the ones a day late and a dollar short on the whole materialism thing.  While whites in this country had since the early 1600’s to lay the foundation for their wealth on this continent, we’ve only had 143 years.

The difference is that blacks just always were more flamboyant with our material possessions, we just want everyone to make sure that they know that we have more.  Even though whites buy and drive Chargers, you’d almost never see a 30 year old white guy driving one of those cars up above–but go into any ‘hood in America you’ll see a 30 year old black dude driving it, with a sick paint job and rims to match it.

I said all that to say that, it all boils down to I want someone to look at me when I drive through the neighborhood.  I want the status attached to it.  I want to be a head-turner.  I want people to look and talk about me.  I want to get props for having a Charger.

Secondly, I really think it’s because of the attention that I would get for it that it would keep me on level with some of my friends. 

I’ve read many articles and stories about the black kids that get teased for “acting white” because they they did well in school or talked with proper diction and pronunciation and enunciation of their words.  While I did get teased for that in high school, it wasn’t merciless and it wasn’t to the point at all where I let my grades slip.  What I’m afraid of is being labeled one of those “I have arrived” Negroes. 

You know who I’m talking about, those, somewhat like my pastor, who has somehow forgotten in the weirdest of ways where they came from.  Those are the ones where there is a disconnect between them and, how shall I say “the common people.”  I don’t mean “common people” as a put down, but for lack of a better term, I want to get my point across.

The problem for me is that I’m not a “common” person.  The fact that I graduated from college no longer made me average.  Slowly but surely, there are other qualifiers that get attached to my description.  No longer am I just a young black male, I am a young black male who graduated from college.  No longer am I just that, but know I am a young black male who’s in a dual masters degree program.  And prayerfully I’ll be a young black male under the age of thirty with a Ph.D.  I mean, that affects my worldview.  My outlook is NOT the same as my friends who didn’t graduate college!

So, if a Dodge Charger is what keeps me connected to those friends in my life, then dammit, I want a Dodge Charger.

Okay, I really got into this one.  I’m quite sure that I’m going to do a part two on this one tomorrow.  Question:  Do you really think that the uppityness versus elitism really exists?  How does one go about maintaining relationships from the past–particularly when you don’t want to come off as condescending in conversation.

Keep it uppity and keep it truthfully radical, JLL

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11 responses to “What’s Your ‘Hood Status?

  1. Love your page, just have to say, as a fellow uppity negro (negress), currently working on my Ph.D which I’ll have before I’m 30. But you pose a couple of very interesting questions. I’m not sure if there exists (in the minds of outsiders) a difference between uppityness and elitism. By outsiders, I mean for lack of better words “common” folks. But I do think that for us, academically educated folks who fall into this uppity/elitist class, there is a difference. I think we have to differentiate the two words in order to secure us in our own humility. There’s no denying that one word leaves a more sour taste when we (members of this uppity/elitist class) say it: I think that the word elitist is unpleasant and for me has too many unpleasant connotations.

    However, uppity almost makes me feel empowered: so often, whites Americans used this word to describe particularly rebellious black people, black people who refused to operate as mere subordinates. In that sense, uppity has a certain connotation of rebelliousness and revolution when attached to blackness, and especially when uttered from a white person about a black person (consider the way many whites have spoken of Obama).

    This is a long and rambling answer, all to say that I think the difference between the two words depends on the particular class of the person to which you’re speaking. As for the second question, this is always a challenge for me. And I always fear becoming cut off from my past. I think that it all boils down to surrounding yourself with black people outside academia, so that you never forget what’s going on in the minds of nonacademic folks. Knowing how nonacademic people view the world prevents you from losing touch with your past. Or maybe this is a completely insufficient and circular response.

    At any rate, great post! I’ve subscribed to your blog.

  2. This goes back to Blacks being at constant battle against each other. Why is it that Black people cannot enjoy the fruits of their labor? Why do we have to apologize for our accomplishments? Why do we have to somehow dumb down our status so we do not make anyone else feel uncomfortable?

    I think that when you or your family have worked hard to have better education, opportunities, and experiences, then you should be able to put it to use. You should not have to worry about being labled “acting white”, or a sell out.

    The problem would come when successful Blacks begin to look down on others. When they forget to reach back and lift others up to their level. We cannot simply make it to the top, and leave others at the bottom to try to reach.

  3. @BH

    Its about as circular as my post is, lol.

    @socialite

    therein lies the problem with being apologist in my approach. My point of making this blog was to not be apologetic in my opinion. this is the first time ever I’ve not just put my foot down and took a stand.

    Personally, the only reason I’m so apologetic in my approach is that I really don’t want to alienate myself on the basis of being scholarly.

  4. My new co-worker (who is also a young, educated black woman) and I had conversations about this all the time. We’re constantly prefacing staments by saying, “not to sound snobby/elitist/judgemental/insert word here, but…” We then realized that we didn’t have to preface anymore, b/c we have a similar worldview. I say that to say, you find yourself questioning your tone a lot less when you’re around people who are just as “uppity” as you. Is that always a good thing? Absolutely not. Is it often the case? Yessir.

    We work at a non-profit in Englewood, with a group of youth and parents who engage in activities that (we believe) keep them mentally and physically enslaved. There are class issues, real and imagined, that we navigate all the time. Sometimes, I admit, I’m judgemental, even as someone who works in an impoverished black neighborhood in an effort to help/give back to my people. But what grounds me, and what I think can ground all uppity black folk, is remembering that we as black people can learn from each other, no matter our financial, educational, or familial status. When we begin to assume that those who don’t share our tax bracket, number or kind of degrees, or other class markers can’t be sources of real knowledge, that’s when we cross the elitist line. No matter how far up on the uppity scale I climb, I will never NOT be a black woman born to another black woman who raised my brother and I by herself. I will never NOT be a person who grew up watching her family members live from paycheck to paycheck. I will never NOT be someone who has family in the HOOD hood. I will never NOT be someone who knows what it’s like to fear the lights, gas or water being cut off b/c her mom’s money just didn’t stretch. So i think its fine for us to want markers that we’ve made it, and fine for us to want to distance ourselves from people that we think don’t value education as a tool. And I guess its also ok to still want hood status though you’re nowhere near hood, b/c I think that’s Uppity Negro’s way of saying he wants to stay connected to those that still suffer injustices that some of us have the luxury of “classing” ourselves out of. We just have to remember that we are still, as a people, interconnected, beyond the class cues that our material possessions give the outside world.

    And I’ll probably never be elitist, b/c there is nothing more humbling than trying to repair an old home as you live on a non-profit salary. You can’t be snobby when your basement steps are disintegrating! ;)

  5. I enjoy your blog. I don’t comment often, but even when I don’t agree, you make me think. The battle of ‘ class’ is an actual one in the Black community, and pretending that it doesn’t exist makes no sense to me. We’re the only group, IMO, that seems to have something wrong with achievement unless it’s attached to a ball of some sort, or shucking/jiving on stage for someone.

  6. Middle class and successful white people are busy saving for businesses and going to school and saving for retirement while too many brothers are out buying rims and Chargers and what not. So too are Asians and other successful people that can defer gratification. Actions have consequences, but somehow people keep saying that it’s white racism’s fault blacks are more poor, have worse credit, and lower rates of home ownership. I don’t think so, and this post is Exhibit A.

    • @ Mr Roach

      I think you are sadly myopic and see things a bit too narrowly, and I think your comment is exhibit A of that fact. Before you pass judgment I would encourage you to do a bit more reading past statistics and facts and try and understand realities for many different people. Also, I would encourage you to read more of my posts, I most certainly cannot nor will not be the sum total of one post.

  7. What you said speaks for itself. I am just laying it down as I see it. Maybe Obama can have us over for a beer (and some Harold’s I miss it and I know your ‘hood!!).

    Your tortured discussion of this, I think, though is emblematic of a broader cultural problem: too many blacks seek flash and short-term pleasure at the expense of wealth creation, even those making money. It’s either be broke or be flashy. What about be wealthy and restrained. For every flashy rich white person, there is a white guy like Warren Buffet living way below his means to create WEALTH.

    Now, look, if you want a Charger, go for it. It’s a free country. If you can afford it, that’s great. It is indeed a bad ass car. But everything has tradeoffs. It’s a depreciating asset. That’s money not in your 401K. That’s not a downpayment on a house. That’s not money in a CD. That’s money not paying down student loan debt and credit card debt and all the other stupid things we accrue in our 20s. I know. I did all that stupid shit too, but I learned.

    Look at the Obamas. Until his second book, they were living large, in debt, and had almost no savings. Michelle says so herself. They made over $200K combined a year. It’s a joke. It’s a really bad cultural trait–and it’s not just black but a broader American one–and it leads to long-term problems. It has nothing to do with racism, nor do its consequences. But it’s something to think about.

    This whole “authenticity is the street” bullshit is a major ass problem. Just do your thing. Remember that street cred won’t pay for your retirement. And after you weigh the pros and cons, just be yourself and fuck everybody else.

    • @ Mr. Roach

      After reading some of your blog posts, its hard to not take the Harrold’s chicken comment NOT as an insult. For future reference, making comments like that without having established a friendly cultural base with another are major turnoffs and will totally discredit anything that you would have constructive to say.

      While I agree with what you said as far as creating and sustaining wealth for future generations, its hard for me to fully accept that the playing field is level. In one of your posts either you or some commenters said that’s its been 40 years since the playing field has been level, and that’s the average conservative stance, and I have to disagree wholeheartedly.

      I could quote a plethora of statistics, but I suspect you would dismiss them as your avaerage race baiting genre along with Jesse and Al Sharpton, so I’ll simply say this: its never what it seems on the surface. The country has never operated in perfect dichotomies where everything can be categorised as this or that. Before you make grand generalizations based on what you see in the news media reports, I would invite you to actually walk in another person’s shoes for a minute, give them the benefit of the doubt and actually try and view the world from their perspective.

  8. The playing field can’t be level, and leveling it will create too much collateral damage. The Soviets tried to do this and failed . . . miserably.

    Harold’s was not mocking black people. It was mocking Obama’s faux working class summit “over a beer,” as if a cop doing his job is no different than a family squabble.

    The government can’t level the playing field and, even if it does, it takes internal discipline and a culture of savings and deferred gratification to create wealth. Don’t you notice all the Asians making it in this country? They’re not all of the manor born. They work hard, work long hours, do their homework, save, don’t buy rims on credit, and focus on things that create and sustain wealth rather than demonstrate the mere appearance of wealth. That was my main point.

    PS I get the sense you’re used to being tip-toed around. I don’t do that crap like most deracinated, wimpy, liberal whites. I’m proud of my country, my race, believe in capitalism, believe in America, and refuse to accept this anti-American crap coming from Obama, liberals, and blacks. I have no problem recognizing we have our faults and our sins as a nation and even as a race, but so do blacks, and so long as this “national dialogue” is one-sided, count me out. My people paid at the office, and that office was places like Gettysberg and Antietem and Florence and Normandy during the LA Riots.

    • @ Mr. Roach

      You sense incorrectly about me being tip-toed around. I just usually reserve pulling out the hard punches for people who appear to be sensible enough to not openly discredit my POV just because. In fact I get the impression that you’re used to being tip toed around a lot, you use rather strong language on your blog, as do I, and generally, as with me, most commenters agree with my POV. But then again, given the nature of the post, often times, I’m the sole person with my opinion.

      That being said, I think its a bad argument with bad logic to at all compare other migrants to this country who came to escape their homeland for whatever reason or to “better their own lives.” Fact of the matter is that they came here because they wanted to. No descendant of slaves in this country, which is the vast majority of African Americans has the family story passed down to them about how they came here to start over–in fact, as we all know it was a forced and systematic migration.

      I’m not at all against the whole personal responsibility schtick, but I think its irresponsible to preach personal responsibility and at the same time ignore the fact that the playing field isn’t level. I think many have gotten to a point of disillusionment pathologized that if the playing field isn’t even remotely level, what does x, y and z opportunity afford me in the first place. In turn some buy the big cars and place their monies in depreciable assets and still live their mothers, live in girlfriends and are still renters and not homeowners.

      Yes, Mr. Roach, I’m aware of all that.

      Moreover, I’m aware that much of that has nothing to do with “the white man.”

      But then it does.

      That’s my personal opinion. Books have been written linking much of black mindsets to the white power structure in this country throughout history which results in said behaviors. I would recommend some books to you, but I’m not sure if you would outright dismiss them or not.

      If you’re interested, however, just let me know.

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