The Great Migration and the Black Middle Class

Ta-Nehisi Coates has a book recommendation. It is Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth Of Other Suns, “a narrative history of the Great Migration through the eyes of actual migrants.” (It was one of the NYTBR’s best books of the year in 2011.) A key takeaway, he says, is that America does not want a black middle class. “On a policy level, there is a persistent strain wherein efforts to aid The People are engineered in such a way wherein they help black people a lot less … At this point, such efforts no longer require open bigotry. They are simply built into the system.”

“Get the book,” he writes. “Read it now. Today is too late.” Here it is at Amazon. And at Powell’s. And at Goodreads.


7 Comments / Post A Comment

olivia (#1,618)

This is a seriously amazing book-I just finished it a few weeks ago.

Yes!! Read this book! It is so good.

null (#1,101)

This is totally up my alley, going to pick it up at Powell’s today!

readyornot (#816)

I like how the linked-to-sites follow Emily Gould’s recommendations from the Hairpin. Just warning you now, if I bought it, I would probably buy it from the Amazon affiliate link!

this book is ahhhhmazing. friday I was talking up the mlk legacy (King graduated from high school in 1944, at the age of 15. In the summer between college and his enrollment at Morehouse College in Atlanta, he moved to Simsbury, Connecticut to work in the tobacco fields. At the time, there was a severe labor shortage in the industry, and the farm (Cullman Brothers) was recruiting Black Southern college students to work the fields. Connecticut appealed to students, who could enjoy the benefits of a society in which the color of their skin didn’t matter, if only briefly. At the museum, they seemed to suggest that King’s time in Connecticut made him aware of the power of the ministry, which was he eventually studied in college. King acted as a spiritual advisor to his fellow farm workers that summer, and found that despite his intention to blaze his own path (rather than becoming a minister, as his father and grandfather had) he did feel a called to the ministry.)

I learned that a co-worker was at king’s posthumous “poor people’s campaign” event in dc and I was so heartened. this book was OUTSTANDING. I read it in the summertime and could not tear myself away. Now reading Howard Zinn’s “You can’t be neutral a moving train” and it feels like a nice side-dish to mlk weekend.

selenana (#673)

Wow, that is a lot of recommendations! I just added a hold on this book at my e-library. I am number 16 on the list.

Markham (#1,862)

I may read it, but I dunno, I found his example of “Why America doesn’t want a Black Middle Class” in 2012 in the form of the Bank Bailouts, well, weak.

The banks weren’t bailed out, they had to pay the money back, did they get favorable terms, sure, but they still had to pay it back.

Putting aside home owners that were legitimately defrauded as far as being foreclosed on before they should have been, mischarged for mortgages, etc., the rest ARE getting bailouts of a sort.

Loan Modifications
Delays of Foreclosures

You have a contract to repay money you borrowed, a contract that isn’t tied to the value of the home, what else is supposed to happen beyond the above?

Yes a lot of middle class people lost a ton of “wealth” when the market crashed, but that was because we had a bubble market – the wealth never truly existed. Furthermore:

– Loan modification usually don’t work, tons of data on this, the person can’t afford the house, the end.

– If I’m responsible and didn’t buy a home I didn’t afford, why should my tax dollars be used to “bail out” the other homeowners? Especially since the idea that “the bank or the governments gets a piece if the house increases in value” makes zero sense since it was a BUBBLE MARKET it shouldn’t return to same value, it was false value to begin with.

– How are bailouts, loan principle write downs, reduced payments, etc, going to change the fact that your home’s value isn’t going to return? Coates brings this up as if these activities would return wealth to these people.

Now we can talk about the old days or institutional racism, but, well, people need to let this housing thing go, it doesn’t make mathematical sense.

If the banks weren’t saved the entire economy would have collapsed and things would’ve been worse, with individual homes, it’s tougher because if you can’t afford it, you can’t afford it. Loan mods haven’t been proven to work, what do we do next, tax payers buy the homes and give them out to people?

People need to be realistic.

Still, I’m a solid middle class Black person, my Mom and her siblings grew up in the projects and are all middle class now.

The problem in 2012 is more generational poverty with some institutional racism thrown in, poor white people rarely grow up to be middle class either. Just calling it racism or saying “America doesn’t want middle class Blacks” ignores a host of issues around the lack of class mobility in this country, which is the real problem.

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