An Uppity Negro Response to Robert M. Franklin’s “The Soul of Morehouse and the Future of the Mystique”

Robert Michael FranklinCirculating around the internet since late April has been this town hall speech that the 10th president of Morehouse College, Robert Michael Franklin, delivered addressing the “Renaissance Men of Morehouse.”  He assumed the position while I was here in Atlanta after the esteemed President Walter Massey stepped down from the position.  Franklin entered the position after having very successful stints as former president of Interdenominational Theological Center also associated with the Atlanta University Center and was the director of Black Church Studies at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology.

I even read his book Crisis In The Village.  I still think he could have kept that sermon he wrote at the end, especially when I heard him preach it in person at Ebenezer Baptist Church, but that’s my personal opinion.

That being said, back to this speech he gave.

Apparently, this speech was really kept in-house until Washington Post columnist Colbert I. King decided to do a story on this town hall speech it back in the earlier part of this month.  King highlighted some of the speech and I read the article then I found the full excerpts (isn’t that oxymoronic) online and I read them fully.  Then I realised that I had a response to the whole gist of the message put forth.

While I like the idea of “Renaissance Men” and what it really means, I think that this “renaissance” hearkens back to an era long past.  I think that there are a few ideals from the past in which we can learn from and should re-adopt, but to sell the brand of “Renaissance Men” as some novel idea that echoes of the past I think is naive to the presence of pop culture.  Namely this hip-hop culture.

In a nutshell, hip hop isn’t just the music, but rather it is also a culture.  Molefi Asante, Jr. has made the claim that we already in a post-hip hop generation; I’ve just aptly named it the “Soulja Boy Generation” of kids that were born after about 1985 give or take a few years.  When Franklin states that:

We cannot monitor what you wear when you leave campus, but while you are on the Morehouse campus, in the presence of adult learners, do not sag your pants, do not show your undergarments.  Do not wear do-rags, and do not wear baseball caps in class or in the cafeteria…

…personally, I feel as though the earlier generation has not had a true dialogue with the younger generation.  I’ve yet to hear and see concrete evidence that wearing a baseball cap inside of a building or a doo-rag has affected one’s learning abilities.  Aside from those items used as gang signs, I fail to see just how these cultural signifiers will produce a better members of society post-graduation.

black male studying 1But then again, there are aspects of his message that I fully agree with.  The idea of being intelligent and being an intellectual appeals to me, so to hear Franklin say that one should be well-read and well-spoken receives nothing but kudos from me.  But, then after raising the standard, to me, as an outsider, he seems to kick my generation in the nuts by saying:

I have seen too many students standing in lines wasting time. You should carry something to read and make good use of your down time…This reduces the necessity of relying on profanity or empty verbal placeholders like, ‘um, um, ahh . . . ‘ or nonsense like ‘you know what I’m saying?’..Profanity does not reflect your verbal grace and style, it suggests a lazy mind and is contrary to the Morehouse ideal.”

Personally, I would have been insulted.  But, I already have a bachelor’s degree, and I didn’t go to Morehouse, I went to Dillard and graduated from Fisk.  So, maybe I don’t get it and never will, and Franklin had already invited the young men that if they had not bought into the idea of the Renaissance Man to exercise their free will and “courage transfer to a more suitable environment.”

And that’s fine.

What I gathered from this speech was clearly a father talking to his sons out of love.  I don’t want to take that away from the ethos of the moment, however, even in love, often times the father doesn’t fully understand the son’s point of view.  That’s most certainly the case many times with my own father and our relationship.  He’s quite clearly old school, and I’m not.  I think in this case, more of a dialogue from the older generation is needed in order to hit home runs with more of the general population.  I’m not sure if Franklin was aware of the far reaches of this particular speech, but just as a young black male, I feel as though he was speaking directly to me.

sagginThe pants “saggin” off of one’s behind is merely a cultural signifier (and I’ve yet to see concrete evidence that “saggin” and “niggas” is nothing more than coincidence and that saggin came magically from the prison culture).   Personally, did I enjoy when I was in Ben’s Chili Bowl last year and this dude was almost eye level with me near the counter and his entire butt was hanging out, no.  But in the grand scheme of things are there not more important things to worry about?  The older generation allows themselves to get bent out of shape because they want to.  The same with the do-rag and the baseball cap–unless baseball caps in your school or doo-rags are inciting violence and disruption in the classrooms, I challenge teachers and professor to let the students wear them and see what happens?

Honestly, why can girls wear them and men can’t? Is there some genetic predisposition for women being covered up and men not?

Why not take them off?  Some of you ask.

comic book swearingWell, last I checked, the ability on a Saturday morning to roll out of bed with my do-rag on and walk to the cafeteria with sweats on or even plaid sleep pants did not affect my ability to study for my test, it doesn’t negatively affect my intellect.  Moreover, I’m more than convinced that idea of “curse” words is nothing more than a societal construct and label that we’ve taken to the next level–God is not going to send me to hell because I said or wrote shit, fuck, hell or damn.  Frankly, I’m more concerned about those who place so much emphasis on such words as to reduce my sum existence to the fact that I punctuated a sentence with an emphatic “fuck.”

And I know I’m not lazy.

And I need to have a book in line rather than have a conversation in the cafeteria line?

Now, I wasn’t in the room, and there’s no context in text, but I’m quite interested to know how that one went over.  Suffice it to say, the one who actually has a book in his hand may have some other social problems at play.  It’s college, so it’s not quite as cruel as high school, but nonetheless, the bookworm is in the minority.  Not saying this is a bad thing either.  Kudos to the brother who has Native Son in his hand while waiting on his hamburger in the cafe’s line.  I’m just hoping that that statement was rhetorical hyperbole pushing some toward that mark of being well-read.  That much is true.  We don’t read enough.  Hell, I don’t read enough.  A lot of our time is being wasted on video games and trivial television that really doesn’t advance us personally, nor collectively as a people.

I think what disturbed me the most was that I gathered a pseudo-assimilationist attitude in the speech which really didn’t sit well with me.  The skeptic in me already questions the idea that even Japanese and Chinese businessmen are forced to wear cultural signifiers of a Western and European business model at a business meeting even in their own country and how quick we are to denigrate those from the Middle East for still wearing traditional garb.  This is not to say that when interviewing for a job that young men should be taught to wear their pants at the waist and to tuck in their shirts and put on a tie if deemed necessary, but seriously walking around on campus?

That is to say that when Franklin made the bold statement 

If you cannot follow the guidelines of a moral community, then leave.  Change your behavior or separate from this college.”

it seems to me that he just really outlined what it mean to be at a black private school with European ideals.

Yeah, I said it.

Everything that he deemed immoral was something that made us uniquely black.  From the doo-rags, to the saggin of the pants, to our type of vernacular, or as James Baldwin called “black English.”  Notwithstanding his stance on the whole homosexual population, which I think is a human rights issue and was addressed about as best as one could, he was really asking the young men to be very European in their approach to school, with the hopes that they will be accepted and fit into society post-graduation.  Most of his speech addressed the ability of what a man could produce and contribute to society: ultimately the outward appearance.  Don’t get me wrong, that’s all well and good, but Franklin, given the published excerpts, was light on the internal workings of the mind and what information should be instilled into the psyche of a Morehouse Man.

It was elitist and not uppity.

An Elitist Negro sees a demarcation between “us and them” even amongst the black community.  That’s why Ricky Jones in What’s Wrong With Obamamania was able to write about the “soulessness of the Talented Tenth” because nothing in this speech speaks of helping out your fellow Morehouse Man, or establishing community amongst each other, let alone outside of the campus, all it does is give an ultimatum of “love it or leave” which echoes highly of the jingoistic nature of American capitalism gone awry.

Uppity Negroes don’t give their fellow sister or brother an ultimatum, but rather an understanding ear and they try to engage in a dialogue that finds the best way for them to move forward.  An uppity Negro would echo the sentiments of this quote from W.E.B. DuBois at Howard University’s 1930 Commencement Address:

To increase abiding satifaction for the mass of our people, and for al people, someon must sacrifice something of his own happiness.  This is a duto only to those who recognize it as a duty.  It is silly to tell intelligent human beings: Be good and you will be happy. The truth is today, be good, be decent, be honorable and self-sacrificing and you will not always be happy.  You will often be desperately unhappy.  You may even be crucified, dead, and buried and the third day you will be just as dead as the first.  But with the death of your happiness may easily come the increased happiness and satisfaction and fulfillment for other people–strangers, unborn babes, uncreated worlds.  If this is not sufficient incentive, never try it–remain hogs!

I mean, maybe if he made the argument that if our generation sacrificed our hip hop cultural signifiers for the greater good of our people and humanity at large, then maybe it would make sense, but to merely remove my baseball cap because of some ancient tradition that none of us, not even Franklin could easily point to other than “to show respect,” I just want to say ” TO WHO?”

Just like church.  I think we get more offended when a young man keeps his baseball cap on in church than God does.

But that’s another blog post, lol.

To my older generation:
We hear you loud and clear.  We can’t help but hear you.  But, just like you shifted the things of your day and your age, you have to let us as Asante, Jr. quoted Frantz Fanon in his essay “each generation, out of relative obscurity, must discover their destiny and either fulfill or betray it.”

Let us be who we be

I’m sure y’all have comments, lol.  I’d love to hear back from y’all.

Keep it uppity and keep it truthfully radical, JLL


22 thoughts on “An Uppity Negro Response to Robert M. Franklin’s “The Soul of Morehouse and the Future of the Mystique”

  1. On the whole I agree with your comments. I too am skeptical about what Dr. Franklin seems to be framing as the ideal Morehouse student image. Getting caught up on surface features such as outer apparel and social speech seem divergent to me, though not altogether irrelevant.

    And though I personally have no problem with the promotion of the Renaissance man ideal, I don’t think we have to see it as contrastingly juxtapose to hip hop culture necessarily. One could make the argument that several prominent hip hopers’s fit the criteria for what constitutes being a 21st century Renaissance man for many of them rap, write, sing, own businesses, dress well, speak well, and think deeply about themselves and the world around them. Besides, black Americans have morphed our cultural signifiers with renaissance ideals before and done it with style, grace, and dignity (i.e. the Harlem and Faubourg Treme renaissances).

    However, I must admit that it is fairly well established that certain segments of hip hop culture foster a sense of anti-intellectualism and anti-professionalism that are deleterious to the pursuit of educational excellence. Unfortunately, in many cases this is the side we often see and not the more intellectually industrious side of hip hop that is often marginalized in the mainstream and on our college campuses.

    More than the likely this is what Dr. Franklin is speaking out against.
    But I still think some more nuance in the good doctor’s comments could not hurt, especially sense we know he is more than capable enough to do so.

    1. @the critical cleric

      Yes, I’m sure Dr. Franklin was addressing this. But by in large, I’m sure that he could have done a much better job. I think he should have “preached” more in it because, at least in a sermon there is some redeeming value, most times in the message. It was. Very hard for me to see some hope in this one with out falling victim to elitist attitudes which would state “thank God I’m here.”

    2. It saddens me, as a Black educator, to read this. I’m confused by the contradictions in the words of someone who seems to be trying to show us that he has a degree (I often say that a degree and a substantive education are 2 gravely different concepts). Since when did sagging, wearing baseball caps, dressing like women, and not reading in college become Black? Are you kidding me? Since when did hearing the president of one of this world’s greatest bastions of learning “encourage” his students (all men looking to make a better life for themselves) to read, dress well, speak well, and travel become European assimilationist concepts? I think this “crying” exemplifies the European attemps to manifest a psychological genocidal in many of us who “don’t read enough,” a terrible situation that will lock the minds of our young and destroy our communities. Are you telling me that HBCU’s are places where men don’t read, don’t study, dress like women, mistakenly think that saggin is part of the prison culture, etc.? Got damn! I hope not! That a seriously threatening “mis-education” that must be dealt with! And please don’t misquote a revolutionary like Brother Fanon when discussing this crap. You can’t be serious. Remember the words of Dr. Woodson: “When you control a man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his actions. . . . You don’t have to send him to the back door. He will go without being told. In fact, if there is no back door, he will cut one for his special benefit. His education makes it necessary.” Please cut this shit out; read, study, respect, and listen. Please stop relegating yourselves to the bottom of the well; stand like men, dress like men, and act like men– not like uneducated “silver spooners” who don’t understand what being a Black man entails. That’s all Dr. Franklin is saying, to me.

      1. @ Hen

        “That’s all Dr. Franklin is saying, to me.”

        And you’re entitled to your opinion.

      2. @ Hen

        That being said….you clearly read my post with a biased lens. I never once decried aspects such as reading, respecting and listening, but I was inviting the reader to be aware that one can still do all of those things without projecting this aesthetic. As another commenter noted, some of her most intellectually gifted students didn’t “look the part” so to speak. In fact, I’m more saddened that you as a black educator appear, based on this one comment, to not be able to see past one’s clothing or how they dress themselves in order to address the deeper things in life: what’s going on in their minds.

        So yes, when we force our kids to dress a certain way it does hint at assimilation. Assimilation into a system, and a system that is based in Eurocentric thought and hegemony. I fail to see the full necessity for students on a college campus to walk around dressing a certain way. You make it sound as though wearing a baseball cap inside a building, wearing a doo-rag or saggin my pants somehow interferes with the chemical and neurological synapses in my brain and makes me dumb or something.

        As you so eloquently quoted Carter G. Woodson, the smarter educator looks past the baseball cap, the doo-rag and the saggin of the pants, addresses the mind of the student, and probably the rest will follow.

        Going at the other way will result in hitting a brick wall each and every time.

        And I’ll thank you to not use such harsh language when commenting and critiquing the bloggers posts. I welcome criticism and disagreements, but let’s keep it civil please.

  2. As I said in Twitter-space, keep doing what you do; there’s hope for our people with young brothas as you.

    Since I am Obama’s generation (same birth year), I feel Dr. Franklin’s emotion, but my approach is different. As an educator I’ve observed a strong correlation between those ‘non-academic’ factors such as dress, civility, and work-ethic and academic success; this may be the age I teach (11-16), but the correlation is there, and it’s real. All the things Dr. Franklin states are directly at the wrong people; these young people LEARNED THIS BEHAVIOR from other adults, specifically my generation. I had a student say something that I would consider my epitaph as an educator: “Mr. ______ will tell you what’s wrong, but he’ll also tell you how to fix it.” I realize my generation has screwed a generation (or two); it’s my obligation to ‘tell them how to fix it’ one person at a time if I must.
    If I were Dr. Franklin I would acknowledge the challenges our young people face, including the consequences of their behavior, yet share with them the inspiration and tools to overcome those challenges. Too many young folks today have been told that they’re ‘grown’ when they hit 18, but the ages of 18-30 you make the most important decisions of your life; you still need the advice, example, and concern of responsible adults who’ve run that gauntlet successfully.

    Enough of us have been tellin’ you what’s wrong; we must spend more time helping you fix it.

  3. I totally agree with what you say, and to be fair to Dr. Franklin, perceptions are sometimes a reality. And the perception is that we (the black x-generation i like to call it) have a style that’s so unique to even our own people that it can offend some (quite easily) and that tunes them away from us.

    The fact of the matter is is that its much bigger than what you wear, what you say, and how you act. Its a collective issue, the way we wrap our arms around each other. If anything the 10th of black america is quite selfish. We do community service, work within our organizations, and push to get our house on the hill. But we don’t own shit, and we don’t leave anything behind for future generations. Just like you spoke of “helping a Morehouse man” in the text, the same would (and should) be applied to our family and CLOSE friends.

    Its an uphill battle I’m dealing with on a daily, who’s trying to build with me?


  4. In some parts, you “got it” – what Dr. Franklin was saying. You keep trying to separate yourself and create walls and say that people have to accept you as you are. Trust that no brother would be elected president of the US if he walked up to the podium with his pants half down his backside, a do-rag under a backwards baseball cap, and cursing every sentence. I wouldn’t listen to him if he came to any event trying to speak.

    Why can’t you negroes see the importance of elevating yourselves? The US isn’t going to turn black in the next 200 years so that you can “be who you be”. They’ve already told you “who you’re going to be” – overpopulating the nations’ prisons maybe with but more than likely without even a high school diploma with no to very few opportunities to be successful; working 2-3 jobs to make ends meet for yourself and your 3 babies’ mamas who take care of the kids you will rarely see or act like you don’t know until you show up at graduation acting like you did something when you were in lockup or no where around for 18 years!!!!


    Heard the saying “fake it to you make it”, when you dress, speak, and carry yourself like a successful, articulate, educated man, people respect you, believe in you, want to BE YOU! And what you are pursuing comes to you. Heck, someone from your own generation (Fonzworth Bentley) has his own thing going with being a gentleman (books, tv show, album, dress/style).

    I’m sick and tired of you whiners and complainers whining and complaining when someone tells you to pull your pants up, sit up straight, speak when spoken to, say please, thank you and yes mame or sir. Yes we’re a different generation (I’m 40) but basic etiquette (manners) and good personal appearance and hygiene never hurt anyone. You’re a better person for it. I pray Franklin’s still there when my son is 18 (he’s 10 now. That’s the kind of environment I want him to learn in and that’s how his father and I are training and teaching him now. No son of ours will be walking around with sagging pants (in or out of our sight.) So HIP HIP HOORAY for Dr. Franklin and all he said! If you don’t like it, go to another school – but at the “House” Franklin is turning out Renaissance Men…for the greater good of the black community!

    1. @Tonya

      A few things jump out to me in your response, of which I thank you for. I think to make the comparison of doo-rags and baseball caps to Obama misses the whole point of my article. I was calling into question the assimilationist slant in which I felt Franklin delivered this speech and also this concept of why does not wearing doo-rags, baseball caps and pulling up pants translate into an “elevating” of the standards? To me it seems as though these are standards dictated by a Western and European society. I most certainly am in favor of well-spoken and well-written individuals, but to go so far as to say one who uses curse words is “lazy” I think is a bit much.

      Personally, I’m concerned when people encourage the idea of “fake it ’til you make it.”

      Fonzworth Bentley is one example out of hundreds that pervade the daily consciousness of this generation and frankly, Bentley is not at the forefront. Instead of that, we have those that identify with the said cultural signifiers of a baseball cap, doo-rag and the saggin of the jeans. Moreover, since I go to school here at the AUC, I see Morehouse men on a daily basis and Franklin was addressing a mostly middle-classed background of young men who for the most part speak well as it is, write well enough to complete an application and get accepted into Morehouse in the first place. I think his speech fell flat because of the elitist point of view he assumed–which was that “we’re better than” those who wear baseball caps, doo-rags and sag their pants. Last I checked, from one black man to another, we all faced the same struggle and there was no mention of aiding those who signify in such a way.

      When I had braids, I wore a doo-rag to the cafeteria, and I still will wear a baseball cap inside a building or in a classroom–and it doesn’t affect my intellect in the least. I’m still able to get a job (as if that’s the be all to end all) and I most certainly don’t consider myself lazy.

      As far as your son is concerned, I would hope that the atmosphere in which you raise him helps him to make the appropriate choice of higher education for himself.

      1. Dear Uppity Fool,

        This is the most ignorant discussion I have read in quite a while. How are we here defending saggin’ pants, doo rags and limited speach as something to applaud. This is the lessons of gansta rap era and thug culture who found a home in your ignorance. When this debate was taking place during the Tupac, Biggie days, the ignorance and thug mindset killed both of them. You have the audacity to be proud of the wrong thing at the wrong time. This is not about assimilation. If it were, we would recognize that we have already lost that battle to the prison culture. Somehow, you think it wrong to have the President of Morehouse College, of all places, provide a prescription for our sickness is somehow beneath you. You ignorant bastard. If you want to advertize your backside to those petifiles and others, just desire to go live in prison. They will give you just what you are fighting for. You are a lost cause. I just hope that this is not the thanks we give to our forefathers as we have gain an entire generation of selfish, egotistical, arrogant, ignorant people who have clue about who they are and how they kead our people OUT of crime and violence.
        It is better to remain quiet and let people think you are ignorant than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.

      2. @A Renaissance Man’s Opinion

        I don’t think I made the argument that saggin’ pants and doo rags was something to applaud. I still do stand on the idea that there was an air of assimilation in his speech. Given that I’ve heard Franklin speak before and read his writings, I feel that this speech is a bit beneath what I expected from him. I would refer you to the other commenters because most of them share my sentiments.

  5. In my observation, some of my most insightful students wear baseball caps, sport tattoos, wear doo-rags, and are deeply part of hip-hop culture. Some of my least insightful students dress like Baptist preachers on a Sunday morning. So, on its face, dress means nothing to me–particularly on a campus.

    HOWEVER, and here I think your critique of Franklin is DEAD ON, there is a way in which clothing is a form of signifyin’ (Gates). As such, even (perhaps ESPECIALLY) the hip-hop generations (since we are two or three generations now) do, or SHOULD know what it signifies to walk into a place of business in a particular outfit.

    There is an elitism, yes. But there is also a bilingualism (or even a multilingualism)–an ability to translate between cultural norms in ways that are appropriate to who “you be.” Thus we have a Barack Obama who is able to say “We Good” in a diner and turn around and give a point-for-point legal address at the presidential podium. This is a man who is not merely aware of the double-consciousness of being black in America but, all apologies to Audre Lorde, has in fact used the master’s tools at least to infiltrate the master’s (White) House.

    Franklin, like Cosby, is of the generation of “1sts” and of “integrationists” that needed to prove to white society that we are just as good–to the point of being clones–so that my generation and yours could come in and say we are just as good but we are not your clones.

    That he has not learned how to translate that to this generation of Morehouse men is, sadly, not surprising.

  6. ‘Assimilate’ implies dilution, which of course means ‘weakening.’ That you can speak, dress, and comport yourself for any situation is not weakening, but strength, discipline, and improvisation, i.e., freestylin’. As people of color we’ve always been driven to be ‘better than the rest’; that I can explain the solution to a quadratic equation during period 4, and at a school dance the next period do the ‘stanky leg’ (not jerkin yet!) is what makes us the envy and target of the world.

    One of the most insightful, thoughtful, and perceptive person I know right now is half-way through a 16 year bid in prison; while people may first judge him by his gait and accent, if you hear his words his intellect is the equal of any Ivy-leaguer. I suspect Dr. Franklin and others like him need to spend more time conversing with the individuals of whom they speak versus generalizing them based on media portrayals. In his defense, though, I will say again the strong correlation between those young people I teach who speak street language in class, sag/rep a set with their colors, come to school with no supplies, come late, and their academic performance (not to standard). Our focus must be upon identifying the root cause of this behavior, and inspiring these young people to embrace and employ what will keep them alive, free, civil, prosperous, and altruistic.

    1. @adinasi

      I’m definitely deferring to you and UppityProf as educators, however, I will say from my short observation working in a local public high school this last semester doing volunteer mentoring, even the teachers said that for the young men asked to wear shirts and ties, it really didn’t make a difference in their school work. Moreover, I might buy into the idea of changing dress at the elementary or high school level–the college level for me is a different story.

      1. That’s why I used the word ‘correlation’ vs. ‘causation.’ While your outward appearance has no bearing on your performance and skills, that you can exert the effort and discipline as needed and when expected is the core issue. Without probing the ethnicity or expectations of these teachers who said it really didn’t make a difference, I wonder if they treated their own children the same way?

        As sports fans we understand the concept of ‘attention to detail separates champions from pretenders.’ Few people question Mike Tomlin’s, Phil Jackson’s, Wynton Marsalis’, Tom Brady’s or Kobe Bryant’s attention to every aspect of their profession to make them champions. As young people build discipline and effort into their daily habits success in any endeavor becomes more frequent and intense.
        On the weekends my pants hang a little lower, my shirts are a bit larger and untucked; not in the classroom, not in church (well, sometimes ’cause us Catholics can do that 😉
        True kings can master all worlds, as I expect each and every one of you to do far better than I try.

  7. I think folks are spending way too much time focused on the wrong things. Not surprised,’s frustrating.

  8. I agree with you to a certain extent, furthermore, I do believe that we are focused too much on appearance and not enough on what’s important. We as a black people need to stand up and take our race fromt he pits of ignorance, and idc how we do it; however, most people will not take anyone serious if they come up dressed like a common thug asking for us to take our places in the world. I am a student under the leadership of Dr. Franklin, and I do believe that people attack him for being “white washed” but honestly, his way is a sort of necessary evil. So yes, I do believe that the 5 wells are essential, however, I do believe that a 6th well should be instated, Well concerned, because too often I see black ppl make it and dnt look back. I feel like we often forget abt the little black boy/girl who wants to be good at something but can’t quite do it cuz they’re lost or feel like the ideal of success is just an ideal and is completely unattainable.I would like to see you make a blog about the job of the successful black person.

    ps: this was well written

  9. I know I’ve read this post years after you’ve written it, so I’m just going to keep this really short haha. Basically, I don’t think “uniquely black” means sagging, baseball caps, and bling.

    I am an Indian from South Africa, so I have a very different idea of black culture than you do and I understand that African-Americans have a totally different history and culture than South Africans, but I still think that the problem here is not elitism itself, but rather the nature of elitism. If the black elite were setting a gold standard within black cultural terms, that would be more accepted than a black elite setting a gold standard within European terms. Do you know what I mean? For example, in India, the elite standard is set in terms of Indian formal culture – formal saris, formal jewelry, a better accent but the same language, etc.

    It’s difficult to find a direct parallel for black Americans because of the history, but maybe that is the question that needs to be asked: what is the elite level of OUR culture, and how should we aspire to achieve it?

    Anyway, thank you for letting me post a comment. I found this a really interesting post and came across it while I was reading about Morehouse and Spelman actually! I was curious about HBCUs and their history.

    1. Priyanka,

      Thanks for commenting!!

      W.E.B. DuBois advocated this “talented tenth” ideal going into the early 20th century that was to act as a paragon of black culture. It didn’t go over too well, however, the nature and concept of a certain section of black culture/communnity has always existed with the black middle class. The problem was that the black middle class (nationwide) was often divided on actual skin color. That is to say the brown paper bag tests that were issued by black middle class persons that excluded persons from the certain social circles literally because their skin was too dark imbrued the whole nature of ontological blackness and didn’t allow it to be wrapped up neatly with a bow placed on it.

      Lawrence Otis Graham wrote about this in Our Kind of People.

      I hear your point, but honestly, I just don’t see it working given the complexities that exist concerning race and class here in this country, and even more so, I can easily point to why it didn’t work in the past either.

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