The End of Anger?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Longtime Newsweek columnist and  The Rage of a Privileged Class author Ellis Cose talks about the optimism of young African Americans, which he discusses in his new book, The End of Anger: A New Generation's Take on Race and Rage.


Ellis Cose

Comments [29]

Bill from Brooklyn

Dreaming from Harlem,

No, I mean they sounded educated--as, of course, did the guest, who to my ears sounded more discernibly "black" than they. But why care about that? There are multitudes of white people who might have called and sounded not half as well spoken and articulate as the callers in question and some of them might even have sounded "black." The issue is more of class, and tarring blacks with race-betrayal for adopting largely class-correlative speech registers or for making cultural choices you judge to be insufficiently "black" perpetuates racism by confirming the fallacy that there's a causal relationship between race and cultural forms and thus an obligation to conform to them. Does that sound like freedom and diversity to you? It also perpetuates the role race plays in foreclosing on any meaningful discussion of class in this country. (Our oligarchs are more than happy for us to continue talking about the one instead of the other.) There's nothing essentially white about how those people sounded, though certainly a higher rate of white people would sound that way due to exactly the issue this segment addressed: disparities in advancement and opportunity between blacks and whites. Again, the sound of someone's speech is a silly criterion by which to judge individuals with wildly diverse interests as having assimilated, i.e., as being homogeneous. Descriptively, that image of conformity is simply false and superficial; prescribing such images of conformity, however (black people should act this way, white people should act that way, etc.), begs the question and blinkers people both to plenty of diversity and to plenty of commonalities that the essentializing difference insisted on by ideas of race deny. Why do we get to talk, say, about "the black vote" or "the Hispanic vote" in this country but not "the white vote"? Why do white people get to occupy the whole spectrum of political opinion? Look at what lower-class minority voters care about and you'll find they're largely the same as what the same class of white voters care about; middle-class minorities and middle class whites as well. But class is both taboo in this country and obscured by the balkanizing people with otherwise shared social and economic interests into groups whose racial and ethnic differences are made much too much of to their detriment. There are tons of poor whites in the same boat as poor minorities. Rather than blame each other for their being there they should look up the economic ladder. What they'll find there keeping them down isn't whiteness but basic human greed and power jealousy. Until the working class bans together and sees themselves as such they'll never have any power to change anything. At least in my opinion.

Jun. 16 2011 02:59 PM
Fighting, Believing, Dreamer... from Harlem

Break it down, Gurl Friday.
I'm thru...

Jun. 16 2011 01:47 PM
Gurl Friday from Brooklyn

I have to confess that I missed the beginning of the interview and am more responding to the callers/comments, though I think I got the gist of Cose’s argument. My sense is that in certain fields, including finance, the glass ceiling has eased to the degree to which black people are willing to hide any show of anger (especially when justified) and make themselves as unthreatening as possible to the racial sensitivities of whites. This means never referring to the "r" word, even if it's an issue (do you think Obama really never mentions race because he doesn't want to? More likely, he correctly gleaned from the Henry Louis Gates incident that his political survival is dependent on being as race-neutral as possible).

In many other areas, the facts speak for themselves. Blacks are underrepresented in most fields/corporate sectors, and overrepresented in prison, are lagging in most health, economic and educational indicators, etc, etc. Studies show that just having a ‘black’ name means your resume is more likely to be passed over; a white male felon is more likely be offered employment over the black dude without a record. The problems are seemingly intractable, the data is depressing—and it’s out there for anyone who cares to know what is going on. Alas, most people prefer to engage in magical thinking about us being in a post-racial utopia where the only reason black folks fail is because they are whining, lazy, angry, see themselves as “victims” . . . etc, etc.

Overt racism is hard to find--most white people with an iota of sense get that it's not acceptable to go around slinging the 'n' word. However, institutional/structural racism is alive and well and is still a malign force in the lives of many people of color who do not enjoy the privileges of some of the callers, or indeed of the class of black people Cose interviewed. Am not judging or blaming the callers in any way for their privileges —more power to them, congratulations!—however, it's always questionable to make generalizations about groups, even your own, based on your personal experience.

As for the commenter who bandies the figure of 75% of out-of-wedlock births in the black community as meaning something... First off, the figure is 72% (OK, fine, it's still high). But second, it’s pointless to spit out a piece of data devoid of context, as these reasons for are manifold and complex and certainly should be part of the discussion if you’re going to make a point of it. Your argument, which is no argument, really—because you think something doesn’t exist, it doesn’t, and because you’re tired of hearing about something, it shouldn’t be discussed—it’s an immature, intellectually lazy, and kind of tiresome point of view--though sadly, it seems to be a prevalent one.

Jun. 16 2011 01:31 PM
Fighting, Believing, Dreamer... from Harlem

bernie, no.

Jun. 16 2011 01:19 PM
bernie from bklyn

this might sound insensitive to some but everyone who's not black is exhausted from listening and enduring the minute by minute assessment of racism and the feelings of black people in this country. enough already.
slavery was horrible. jim crow was horrible. we know. bu that's over now and those dark parts of this country's history have been over for a while and those parts have nothing to do with the 500 pound elephant in the room that no one in the black community is willing to confront and admit. 75% out of wedlock births in the black community!! 75%! unbelievable.
get your community in check and forget about being mad at others. worry about yourself first. no one wants to hear it anymore.

Jun. 16 2011 12:55 PM
Fighting, Believing, Dreamer from Harlem

Amy, true.

Jun. 16 2011 12:50 PM
Amy from Manhattan

F, B, D..., no, it's not just race--definitely class, too. That's why people who talk about "2 Americas" are accused of being divisive when of course they're describing divisions that already exist, & why those who point out that certain policies benefit the rich over the poor are accused of "class warfare" by those who support those policies (& for some reason, not the other way around).

Jun. 16 2011 12:47 PM
Fighting, Believing, Dreamer... from Harlem

Bill from Brooklyn:
By "well spoken" do you mean sounding white or being articulate? Are these the same for you?
This may be a minor point, but it speaks volumes about the ongoing requirements for socioeconomic ascension and their bases.

Jun. 16 2011 12:31 PM
Fighting, Believing, Dreamer from Harlem

Sorry, "To"...

Jun. 16 2011 12:08 PM
Jack Jackson from Central New Jersey

Hm...I will definitely need to read the book before I can get really critical but....

My grandfather (born 1880's) was one of the 'talented tenth' - became a dentist with two practices. His oldest son, my father, was born in the teens. Could only go to Lincoln University - and couldn't find a med school to accept him. My sisters were born in the Forties and raised in Harlem.
One attended an HBCU (Cheyney St) and the other went to Case Western Reserve. I was born in the Fifties and raised in Hackensack NJ. I went to the state university. I applied to one other school, Dartmouth, and though my boards were high enough (1500+), my grades showed that I was definitely a puddler. Capable of very high achievement but also likely to write off a class that didn't interest me. I tested for and passed for an interview with the NSA. After the two days of interviews, lie detector and psych tests the only job offer that they made was as a procurement officer for their kitchen! This was 1978.

I worked in IT for a major insurer for 24 years and the only instance of covert racism that I recall was one VP who told me that 'people promote who they like' thus indicating that she didn't like me. Same VP also said to me 'All I'm hearing is jibber-jabber...' Didn't need to interface with her much after that.

Am I naive enough to think that there were no racists on the rungs above me? Nope. But the likelihood for the path to progress being blocked by conscious (or unconscious) racism is decreasing. Just not quickly enough to suit me.

Jun. 16 2011 12:03 PM
Bill from Brooklyn

Dreaming from Harlem,

The callers were educated and well spoken. Apart from that you know nothing about their lives or lifestyles or cultural choices. Vocal inflection seems a superficial judgment and a strange criterion for inclusion or, in this case, rejection, since by "assimilation" you're effectively accusing them of selling out and effectively casting them out. I hope you don't define black culture as identical with the poverty, poor education, and the lack of opportunity with which they've been burdened, because if so there's nothing really to rise above, little hope for self-determination in insisting on that kind of belonging, and no allowance for diversity.

Jun. 16 2011 12:01 PM
Fighting, Believing, Dreamer from Harlem

Too acknowledge and address a problem is to perpetuate it? Since when? Or is this just with race, around which too many of us are cognitively dissonant?
There will be no progress with ongoing race problems if we don't stop such nonsense, and grow up, and learn to talk about it.

Jun. 16 2011 11:58 AM
Fighting, Believing, Dreamer... from Harlem

Mike from Inwood: Don't be ignant.
You should know that you don't know anything about my schooling or how advanced are my credentials...
And if you equate a certain lack of vocal bass (shall we say?) with educational attainment, then you're even more ignant. But you nevertheless prove my fundamental point.

Jun. 16 2011 11:54 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Gaetano Catelli, how is taking a look at the situation as it's changed over the years "promoting antagonism"?

And Mike, I didn't hear anyone say the glass ceiling was in place *only* for people of color & women. The term originated in reference to discrimination against women, but this was actually the 1st time I've heard it used in connection w/black people (for whom the ceiling was not glass but very opaque until not that long ago).

Jun. 16 2011 11:51 AM
Mike from Inwood

Hey Harlem Dreamer ~ Maybe the glass ceiling you've encountered is the one that you created when you decided that school was 'too White' for you.

Jun. 16 2011 11:45 AM
The Truth from Becky

I promise you Black people do not corner the market on "anger" Lord the ancestors are crying out right now!!

Jun. 16 2011 11:45 AM
Fighting, Believing, Dreaming... from Harlem

So far, the black callers agreeing with Cose had to identify themselves as such. It speaks volumes about the kind of excessive assimilation still required for black "success", which is the antithesis of true diversity and black self-determination.

Jun. 16 2011 11:44 AM
DarkSymbolist from NYC!


Discussing race at all "promotes race-based antagonism"...and NOT discussing it all doesn't help it flourish?

Get a grip.

Jun. 16 2011 11:44 AM
Mike from inwood

Read CW Mills "The Power Elite". The research was done before the Civil Rights era when corporations were overwhelmingly White & male.What does he talk about? The glass ceiling facing people (White men then) who were not among the Power Elite on the job. Did that ever go away? Anyone who believes there is a 'glass ceiling' only for women or people of color has swallowed the corporate Kool-Aid and accepts that a meritocracy exists for everyone else.

Jun. 16 2011 11:43 AM
susy from Manhattan

The only way you can achieve anything is to get rid of your anger and do it for YOU. regardless of your color.

You bring your story and experience to the world in the way you alone choose. Regardless of your color. If you choose to portray yourself as empowered, talented, and self-aware, that is how people will see you. If you portray yourself as a victim, then they will see you that way.

I am tired of angry people in general. I am tired of victims, and I think the world would be a better place if we just let it go, and if people began to focus more on inner self-esteem, rather than what the outer world is "doing to them."

Jun. 16 2011 11:42 AM
Joy from Harlem

I am a 33-yr old black woman with a masters degree. I have 2 thoughts:
1. My generation and those coming up are basically moving past the glass-ceiling because we have left the building. We are aware of race, however we are simply creating our own enterprises--financial, educational, cultural-- with no boundaries on whom we will do business. This creates a new reality in the workplace.
2. The fighter, believer, dreamer generations are NECESSARY to influence each other. For instance, my loving parents and I could not discuss the presidential race because they staunchly supported Hilary Clinton. Not because they didn't think BO would be a good president, but because they were afraid of what American would do to Obama-- both physically and mentally.

Jun. 16 2011 11:41 AM
Amy from Manhattan

I appreciate Ellis Cose's pointing out that whether anger still exists in black Americans can't be entirely pegged to different generations. That said, if anything, these days the "anger of a privileged class" seems apply to the Tea Party more than any other group! (Not that they're all privileged either, but still.)

Jun. 16 2011 11:40 AM
Gaetano Catelli from America

i'm glad WNYC continues to promote race-based antagonism. i can't imagine anything more constructive at this juncture in public affairs.

interestingly, however, President Obama has steadfastly resisted all efforts to bait him into doing so himself.

Jun. 16 2011 11:39 AM
Monica from Nj

My kids are currently enrolled in a racially mixed high school, and I am amazed by this new generation's color blindness and sexual orientation blindness. It gives me great hope for the future of this country!

Jun. 16 2011 11:39 AM
The Truth from Becky

The End of Anger? I doubt it, the dawning of Enlightenment, perhaps.

Jun. 16 2011 11:39 AM
Naomi Alexis from Brooklyn

I don't think the anger has subsided even as subsequent generations have had more opportunity.
I'm an educated, self employed, young black professional and the more educated I became about our legacy and the tremendous progress that's been made, the angrier I got at the permanent lower rung of the socioeconomic ladder I feel like the descendants of slaves have and will occupy in this country.

There are throngs of poor black people in this country who are still suffering the effects of their ancestors (education, income, opportunity) having their livelihood stolen from them for 200 odd years and I don't know how they can be made whole if at all.
Without economic parity there will never be equality or the end of anger.

Jun. 16 2011 11:39 AM
The Truth from Becky

What? Am I in the twilight zone right now?

Jun. 16 2011 11:36 AM
Fighting, Believing, Dreamer... from Harlem

My bad: Cose

Jun. 16 2011 11:36 AM
Fighting, Believing, Dreamer... from Harlem

Don't know where this guy lives or the social circles he runs with, but he is delusional and/or has his priorities out of order.
Sounds like the small black "elite" Robinson seems to profile in his book "Disintegration" who, so blinded by their relative good fortune, don't/ can't see and make sense of ongoing challenges facing the black masses -- a psychosis that is itself a self-perpetuating symptom of those challenges.
As usual, unaddressed historical socioeconomic stress has blacks suffering the most in today's economy and disproportionately exposed to the domino effects of poverty. Blacks --- from the masses to the "elite" -- continue to fail the "doll test", etc...
RATHER THAN attack these (arguably) existential threats, Cole and his captured comrades want to dwell on/ distract with minor points, that they misinterpret. And they will always get press from an equally oblivious and/or apathetic power structure.

Jun. 16 2011 11:35 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.