Journalist Ellis Cose styles himself the top reporter on the Black bourgeois beat – a landscape of delusion. Cose’s new book “concludes that the youngest generation included in the study, the ‘Gen 3s’ or those born after 1970, feel that while racism is still alive it is not a serious barrier to success.” Which is, of course, clear evidence of the deep damage done to Black Harvard Business School graduates. Neither they nor Cose ever learned that the depths of societal “racism cannot be judged on an individual basis, it has to be judged institutionally.”
The End of Black Rage? Class and Delusion in Black America
It looks as though author Ellis Cose has done the Black Left a huge favor. For so long the Black Left has been trying to wrest what remains of our collective sanity away from the powerful soma of Brand Obama. And for just as long that brand has been assaulting the best and brightest among us making the need for the most aggressive forms of political struggle nearly impossible to promote. But Ellis Cose and his new book, The End of Anger, seems to ask just the right questions of just the right segment of the community and appears to make plain the continuing delusions and class divisions which persist.
As Cose says himself, his research into the levels of anger at an anti-Black system of discrimination is based on 500 surveys and 200 interviews of Black Harvard Business School graduates and former members of A Better Chance, a program which places “talented people of color” in “the most selective secondary schools in the country.” In short, Cose concludes that the youngest generation included in the study, the “Gen 3s” or those born after 1970, feel that while racism is still alive it is not a serious barrier to success. These interviewees, says Cose, were mostly privileged, grew up in predominantly white neighborhoods and went to predominantly white schools. And here is where that favor to the Black Left comes; if Cose has simply provided data to support the claims of the Black Left that Black submersion in white America and access to the most rare and “fine” centers of education (i.e., assimilation) foster delusion than Cose has indeed aided the righteous work of exposing societal contradictions.
And of course it is not this generation’s fault. Certainly, even the older generations who are critical of these youngsters as being naive know that no successful revolution was passed to them. These “Gen 3s” have been encouraged to believe that this is a post, as in successful, civil rights period and their exclusive entrée into the world similarly encourages varying degrees of delusion. Add to that a Black president and the absence of a political movement and voila! In fact, it is the very act of asking questions which emphasize personal experience that frames these studies in ways that diminish, even ignore, the condition of the collective. Racism cannot be judged on an individual basis, it has to be judged institutionally. And herein lies yet another favor the Black Left can take from Cose.
When Cose asks questions of individuals about their personal thoughts on the prevalence of anti-Black discrimination or whether or not respondents feel as though their educational levels put them on par with whites he establishes some very safe and class-biased parameters. On the one hand the questions are going to a tremendously narrow segment of Black people, Harvard Business School graduates for example, and on the other these questions say nothing of the actual condition of the broader community. Surveys might produce very different conclusions, even with the same respondents, if the questions are more structural in nature. For instance, if the focus is higher-education, what would even these respondents say if asked why they think that only 19% of Black people over the age of 25 have college degrees, or why only about 2% have advanced degrees? Or, why is it that gaps in income between Black and white people actually increase when each attain higher levels of education? Or what about the fact that 25% of Black America has 90% of what little wealth Black people have? Or how about asking about the absence of anger among those facing a world where Black unemployment is as high as ever?
And this is where Cose ultimately does the Black Left its biggest favor. By apparently focusing on individual anecdotal responses from among the most rare and privileged within Black America and by not challenging as delusion any absence of anger Cose further exposes the powerful class divides and those levels of delusion faced by Black America. And by apparently not asking questions that speak to the institutional nature of anti-Blackness Cose actually shows how delusions are aided by those who are supposed to be exposing and weakening them.
For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Jared Ball. Online visit us at BlackAgendaReport.com.
Dr. Jared A. Ball is author of the newly released I Mix What I Like! A Mixtape Manifesto (AK Press). All proceeds from the book go to support political prisoners. More information can be found online at: IMixWhatILike.com.