Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Not One, but Four, Black Americas

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Not One, but Four, Black Americas

Article excerpt

Not One, but Four, Black Americas Disintegration: The Splintering of Black America, by Eugene Robinson, $24.95, Doubleday, (October 2010), ISBN-10: 0385526547, ISBN-13: 978-0385526548, pp. 272.

Once upon a time, it was possible to talk of a Black America that was united in spirit, if not always unanimous in its opinions. The reality probably was less perfect than Eugene Robinson describes it, but still it was more or less true for a long time.

Now, as the Pulitzer Prize- winning Washington Post columnist, bluntly puts it, "Black America, as we knew it, is history."

What killed it? That is a long and complicated story that is outlined aptly in this book. The author's real point, however, is that African-American people now divide roughly into four groups that Robinson calls the Abandoned, the Mainstream, the Transcendent and the Emergent.

* The Abandoned are, of course, the poor, unemployed or underemployed, underserved, undereducated. To recognize them, we need only remember the images of post-Katrina New Orleans and the miserable masses left behind to fend for themselves as Robinson recalls their plight to illustrate his categorization.

* The Mainstream are the middle-class, even elite, Blacks who have for the most part "made it" and struggle to keep it. They remain invisible too much of White America and often labor to keep it that way. To see them, Robinson suggests that a good place to hang out might be at the homecoming "tail-gate" party at a typical historically Black college or university like the one in his hometown of Orangeburg, S.C.

* The Transcendent are the few, but mighty, whose unprecedented money, power and influence put them in a class all by themselves. To see them, one can only hope to finagle an invitation to the kind of exclusive party at the home of presidential confidant Vernon Jordan that Robinson describes at the beginning of the book. There, Richard Parsons, the former Time Warner CEO; Eric Holder, the attorney general; Valerie Jarrett, the Obama adviser, and nationally known journalists like Robinson and Soledad O'Brien of CNN can rub shoulders.

* The Emergents, as Robinson defines them, include two subgroups, Black immigrants and the offspring of mixed- race unions. The immigrants often arrive with hope, determination and means to capitalize on the American dream in ways that many American-born Blacks cannot or will not.

Robinson argues that the racial hybrids are changing the notion of what it means to be Black in America. …

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