It is about time a show such as FRONTLINE gets to the heart of the matter in our
society. I have believed for a long time it is class, not race that separates us,
and even within the black community, it is obvious that two worlds exist.
I honestly do have any good or rational solutions, and I am truly not sure anything
to date has actually helped. It is, however, very difficult to see the "radical
children" of the 60's, who objected to material possessions, cling and fight and
actually find the means
to keeps others of their own race down (white and black). It's almost like we never
learn that the journey is better when all of us on on-board.
Thank you for an excellent television show.
Why did you even bother mentioning race?
You should have called your program "Why we love communism". This class separation
is the same argument that Marx made in the 19th century, we see how well it worked
out. Capitalism is the best system for the poor.
If people can't understand why, I fear for the future of the world.
This documentary surely raises issues that are contingent to this country's future,
but in my way of thinking it does a great disservice to those that fought the
struggles for racial equality in this country, a goal still unachieved.
I come from a family rich in their efforts in fighting for the rights of not only
blacks but the disadvantaged of all races. Clearly, though particularly in the
minds of inner city black youth as displayed in the program, the issue of race and
not class predominates. The lack of education surely leaves these youth unequipped
to rationalize the ills before our nation, but this does not dismiss the issue of
race as the primary point of conflict in their collective minds. The work of Dr.
John Hope Franklin from slavery to freedom to presidential appointee to chair the
committee on race will all be for naught if we fail to remedy the chasm in race
relations first and foremost.
If we can collectively deal with the issue of race in this country I truly think
that the class issue will rise to the surface to eventually be dealt with in
James W. Compton, Jr.
Virginia Beach Va.
It was refreshing to hear distinguished Blacks recognizing that social
inequality today is more of an economic problem than a racial one. The
problem of drugs was not given enough stress, however. The
disproportionate incarceration of Blacks unfortunately correlates with
disproportionate use of street drugs by Blacks, and so is the drop-out
rate of Black high school students. No one has much chance of rising
out of poverty and ignorance when addicted to drugs or when raised by an
addicted parent. For so many, the slavery of the Ante-bellum South has
been replaced by a far worse slavery -- to drugs. Let all races work
together for a new emancipation!
George B. Markle, M.D.
Folks at Frontline...After watching tonight's program, I am left thinking that is was
created to ease the conscience of Henry Louis Gates Jr. This program thoughtfully
illustrated the conflict Mr. Gates is exploring within himself around his own
abandonment of regular Black folks. However, the real nitty gritty conversations
that need to occur about issues of race and glass are occurring in the halls of
k-12 schools and publicly funded hospitals and small business where teachers and
doctors and struggling entrepreneurs are working hard to not only close the class
divide, but to pay for their student loans, small business loans and the financial
crises that go along with being part of a developing community. Please inform Mr.
gates and his chums that their difficulty in understanding this phenomenon is the
result of their inability to not only understand but to FEEL the pains that are
part of living within the confines of reality.
I think your program touched on subject that is really too vast to be explored in
one hour production. Like Skip Gates life is interesting, but it ain't my life
and before the debate shifts, more stories from a wider array of places in the
black community need to be told. One of the key elements that I feel is missing is
any analysis of the impact of the Vietnam War on the lives of working class black
folk. I too remember those halcyon days of the black community in the civil rights
era of pre-Vietnam America and contrast it to what came after. My contention is
that war, which we studied and partied through inflicted massive social damage on
the black community and that the seeds of gangsta rap were sown in the soil of
Vietnam. Our intellectuals, in order to answer their own questions should look
outside of their own experiences a little more in coming to grips with the social
and economic bifurcation they lament so deeply. Further the need here is to widen
the debate where the stories of more working class folks are told. I think a lot of interviewees
got the analysis right, but their age old problem is that they only know how to
talk to each other and not the people who are the subject of their internal debate.
I identified very much with the narrator in this program, being of about
the same age and having had similar life experiences. I find myself at
mid-life concerned about the plight of those who did not have the
opportunities or benefits, like affirmative action, that I had. Like the
professor, I find myself more comfortable with those in my class, and
troubled about the increasing distance I feel from members of my race.
I thought your program was thought provoking and hope it will encourage
more discussion about the schism that exists. It also emphasized to me
the need for each of us as individuals to do what we can where we are to
encourage our young people and help them find hope for a better future
Although I truly enjoyed the presentation, I feel as though the documentary did not
delve into the reasons why middle class Blacks are so far removed from other Blacks
that are in an entirely different arena. It is not as if we do not want to
affiliate ourselves with our disenfranchised counterparts. The truth of the matter
is that in many situations, we are shunned and made to feel as though we are
sell outs. We are constantly bombarded with statements such as, "You don't act
Black," "You don't talk like a Black person," You are not really one of us." What
these segment of society fails to grasp is the reality that the majority of White
America still views us as Black, regardless of our accomplishments. There are so
many middle class Blacks that have worked exceptionally hard to attain the status
they currently hold, only to be trapped between two worlds. One which shuns you
because you aspire to do more, and the other that despises you for having the nerve
to (in their slanted view)want to be White.
Suisun City, CA
Did I miss it or did you overlook the facts about people
regardless of race who come up seeing no value in an
education and so don't ever try to break out of their self
I applaud all people who move if they need to, learn if
they need to, get help if they need to, and break through
that pride that keeps them in bondage to an attitude of
defeatism and self destruction.
Also, what about people who just flat can't learn what is
needed to overcome the obstacles to a decent income level?
Who will provide and teach the basic technology to the poor?
Who will watch the kids so that the poor can work? Who will
provide a decent wage that will encourage more than a mere
"get by " lifestyle? And who will do it with no strings attached?
You who are strong should support the weak and you who are strong
should take care of those unable to care for themselves. As for those
who are able but unwilling? Well, they make their bed.
Anybody of any race should be able to have information
easily obtainable that would help them climb as high up the ladder
as they desire to. Where are the t.v. commercials for that?
College Station Texas
This was an excellent program. I am concerned that Dr. Gates did not address how
one's personal decisions can also separate and create a large gulf between the
Black Middle class and the Black underclass. It is not only economics and class
that fractures the community it is the lingering pychosocial trauma of race. Many
blacks hate their own skin color. We even seek out persons from the larger
population to assimilate to. This too must be addressed.
Another piece of the puzzle. That's how I view Skip Gates' piece on race in America.
Relationship between blacks folks at various class levels has been neglected
because the impact has never been so profound. Yet, one could argue that it began
before slavery, dating back to Africa, when various tribes struggled within
themselves for leadership and control of the village.
Although this subject has been under-studied, the problem is not new and unlikely to
go away any time soon.
What we failed to realize is that obtaining the opportunity for upward mobility
meant that we would take on the characteristics of the same people who were already
there and inherit the same class struggles that were systemic to their racial
Now we find ourselves at a crossroads trying to define whether our success makes us
a credible member of the so-called black community.
I contend that the black community is constantly changing and for us to limit it to
the ghetto is short-sighted. There are a number of suburban "black communities"
where good things are happening. Youngsters are gaining a sense of culture and
their blackness is being defined by their success rather than slang.
You need not look beyond Florida A&M University and the number of National Merit
scholars enrolling in FAMU annually.
The failure, I believe, has been a reluctance for us to tell the real black success
stories. Many of the young African-American students who are in college today come
from such backgrounds. However, their point of origin in life doesn't necessarily
mean they are distanced from the plight of the inner-city poor.
Regardless of what class we come from, our skin color cause a reaction from
non-blacks that reminds you, whether you're from Harvard or Harlem, that bring
about a second-class persona in how they deal with us. When that happens, most of
us just deal with it and move on and work harder.
A missing piece of the puzzle is personal responsibility. The documentary didn't
include how the decisions that one makes about life often determines where he or
she will end up. Racism is too easily invoked in a debate that really has more to
do with person decisions. Decisions such as whether to have sex as a youngster,
whether to experiment with drugs or alcohol, whether to steal cars or work to have
your own. Racism has nothing to do with a 21-year-old man getting a 12-year-old
girl pregnant! Let's not paint such a broad brush when it comes to what the black
middle class isn't doing for America. The real question is what is the underclass
doing for itself! It's a fair question because many us began there, but decided not
to stay there. . .with or without blaming our plight on racism.
West Palm Beach, FL
As an academic, currently teaching at an Ivy League school, I was left with many
questions after your segment of Frontline. On the one hand, Gates's dismay is very
real. One does ask the question at times, "What am I doing here?" And this happens
to me, not only on those days where the racism is palpable and real, but on the
days that it goes "well" and some white person makes a "You're not like the rest of
'them'" sort of comment. I think my feeling about "The Talented Tenth" these days
is that Du Bois's moment in 1903, when he put the idea on the table, is not
indicative of the sorts of resources that exist at this moment. If anything, many
of the kids I teach are from the middle-class and as such, they have no idea what
it means to struggle. On the one hand that is good, on the other, it produces what
I like to refer to as "survivor guilt," where the students start to adopt the
dysfunctional idea that mediocrity is a way to "keep it real."
I will say one thing about the program that bothered me: where was a discussion of
the Black church? It seems to me that is the one place where Black folks of
different socio-economic background still come together and work together to
accomplish all sorts of things. While Mr. Gates does well to pose the question,
"Are we better off," I'm bothered by the fact that the Church still represents a
place where activism, vision, and cooperation continue to rule the day. In the
church my wife and I attend, we worship amongst single mothers, grandparents
raising their children, former drug addicts, retired postal workers, teachers, etc.
It could be that one way to deal with the class issues facing the Black community
is to look to the alternatives offered by spirituality. And, here, I would hesitate
to say that by "spirituality" I don't just mean Christianity, I mean spirituality
of all types. There ARE places where we can do good work. But I don't think that
it's intellectuals who should be taking the lead. If anything, we should acknowledge that the
most important thing we can do is to think, write, read, and teach. And while we
may do that in a variety of settings (prisons, halfway houses, alternative schools,
shelters), ultimately, what we do is NOT activism--and need not be. But we must
have the compassion and vision to SHARE what we learn with those coming behind us.
That might take us a whole lot further than our usual choice of either guilty
hand wringing or arrogance and self-aggrandizement.
The discussion was right on point and very well presented. I especially appreciated
the ending, which recognized that a
National conversation is needed on class, but also recognized that it is unlikely
that America is ready for that conversation. Until then,
I hope that the Black Middle Class, collectively and individually will commit itself
to participating in some way to uplifting the lower class Brothers and Sisters.
One aspect that particularly bothers me is the situation when so many young
African-American males are incarcerated and society has a wonderful opportunity
to provide education, job-training, anti-drug education, and values training, all
which could move them toward becoming productive and successful citizens with good
self esteem. But instead, practically nothing is done in this regard and when they
released, they are worse off and more of a threat to society and themselves than
when they entered.
There are divisions in America, but I see the problems we face as a Nation are
not so much race oriented as culturally. It's as if we don't want to see that we
aren't all an amorphous collective, that we live, believe, and dream our own
versions of human history. Race is one of many factors that must be considered when
speaking of the inequalities faced not only by black Americans, but by all who seek
interaction with others. Everyone judges, just by what degrees is what people want
to measure, and wish others to be measured by. I know this commentary is vague,
but this issue is bigger than color or even class, it encompasses human behavior,
and a better understanding of why (frustrating sometimes) we have through
history, had racial, cultural, and gender based prejudices.
I believe the key to our current discourse on the state of American culture is to
look into the past, and draw those lessons into our present discussions. Thank you
for an enlightening program. I hope to see more forthcoming.