Closing the Closing the Divide in the Black Community
By Whittney McPherson
GSULYP recently held its second Pizza & Politics event to discuss the socioeconomic divide within the black community and possible solutions to bridge this chasm. The discussion included a viewing of the PBS documentary, "Two Nations of Black America" which highlights this gap in depth with narration by Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr. This commentary is from one of the event's attendees.
On August 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his renowned “I Have a Dream” speech during the largest civil rights demonstration in history. Dr. Kings’ powerful dialect, coupled with the delivery in his dynamic voice, ignited a nation in racial turmoil to act. So why then, forty years after Dr. Kings’ powerful call-to-action for equality, is the black community being faced with internal separation?
This is a question posed by Harvard Scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr. in his 1998 documentary “Two Nations of Black America.” In this documentary, Gates chronicles his life as a Harvard scholar in comparison to lower socioeconomic blacks to demonstrate the social disparities amongst blacks. Gates also uses testimonies from prominent black figures such as: Julian Bond, Eldridge Cleaver, Kathleen Cleaver, Angela Davis, Christopher Edley, Jesse Jackson, Quincy Jones, Maulana Karenga, Cornel West, and William Julius Wilson to explore the depths of the Civil Rights Movement and current situations for African-Americans.
Despite the fact that the Civil Rights Movement united a nation towards a common goal of equal opportunities to all Americans, it may have created a divide within the black community. During the Civil Rights Movement, blacks had something to stand for – their common goal for equality. However, many blacks determined to make a violent, public stance for equality, gave little to no room for Dr. Kings’ peaceful movement creating a chasm in the community. Now, decades later, many blacks have reaped the benefits of civil rights laws that have been implemented, while others are sadly being left behind.
“Thirty years after Martin Luther King Jr.’s death, how have we reached this point where we have both the largest black middle class and the largest underclass in our history?” ~ Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
Last month, GSULYP held its second Pizza & Politics event to view “Two Nations of Black America” and to discuss this poignant question. GSULYP members and community members conversed about their reactions to the documentary as well as current and next steps being utilized to eliminate the separation between lower socioeconomic and middle class blacks in Sacramento.
Attendees brainstormed various causes for this divide, and more importantly, multiple solutions. The class divide can, in many ways, be attributed to the disparity in the educational system that we, as a nation, are currently being faced with. This disparity affects lower socioeconomic areas and creates an unfair disadvantage in terms of advancement in society for lower class blacks. Furthermore, the educational achievements of other blacks is making it easier for them to relate to their educated white peers rather than lower class blacks, creating a gap in the black community.
So, how do we lessen the cultural divide amongst blacks? It is going to take the support of blacks who have reached certain levels of accomplishment to contribute back to the black community. It is also going to depend on the willingness of lower socioeconomic families to be involved with their children’s success. Through volunteering at schools, and other civic duties, middle class blacks can give disadvantaged blacks a better opportunity towards attainment.Divide in the Black Community