Click for next page ( 162


The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement



Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page 161
4 I DENTITY AN D I NSTITUTIONS IN THE BLACK COMMUNITY 161

OCR for page 161
Jacob Lawrence Rooffops (No. 1, This Is Harlem) (1943) Gouache with pencil underdrawing on paper sheet Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Gift of Joseph H. Hirshhorn, 1966

OCR for page 161
The world of black Americans has al- ways been a part of American society, but the black and white worlds have also always been mostly separate. The inevitable consequences have been distinctive features of black culture and social organization. In this chapter we sketch this society within a society, in which the social participation of most black Americans has been experienced. We focus on change over time in overall social structure, in black institutions, and in concepts of identity. The communities and organizations created by blacks prior to the 1960s, as well as changing concepts of black identity during and afterward, were two crucial bases for the achievement of sweeping improvements in blacks' legal and political status during that decade. The activism facilitated by those black infrastructures led to improvements in the education, health, and economic position of many blacks and altered the social structure of black . . communities. SOCIAL STRUCTURE Major changes in black social structure have resulted from the rising incomes, better occupations, and increased educations of many blacks. But as higher status blacks have left inner-city areas, there has been increased racial stratification among blacks. The service needs of poorer blacks have placed strains on many black institutions, including schools, churches, and voluntary service organizations. These strains can be seen by the proliferation 163

OCR for page 161
A COMMON DESTINY: BLACKS AND AMERICAN SOCIETY of activities devoted to the material needs of poor blacks by black organiza- tions. Further strains on black institutions and organizations resulted from the civil rights movement: improved access of higher status blacks to majority white institutions has led to alterations in black leadership structure, prob- lems of recruitment and retention of black talent by black organizations, and reduced participation of higher status blacks in many spheres of black com- munity life. In the process, the well-knit, if poor and underserviced, black communities of decades past have lost some of their cultural cohesion and distinct identity. Although there is some evidence that higher status blacks have somewhat less attachment to a need to preserve group identity, most blacks retain a high degree of racial pride and a conscious need to retain aspects of black culture as a significant component of their American iden- tity. Because of these desires and needs, predominantly black institutions continue to play important roles in the lives of most blacks. BEFORE THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT A Se,gre,gated Soc?ety Five decades ago, black and white Americans inhabited parallel but con- nected societies. The common pattern was one of separate black and white communities that were socially and culturally distinctive. For example, partly because of ghettoization, social classes within black communities were fre- quently not spatially isolated from one another as was often the case in white communities (Drake and Cayton, 1945:659; Osofsky, 1971; Spear, 1967~. This structure resulted partly from the residential restrictions imposed on blacks by segregation and discrimination and partly from the minute size of the black middle and upper classes. Throughout the pre-1960 period, the black class structure was often de- scribed as being pyramid shaped, with a large lower class, a small middle class, and a tiny upper class. In contrast, the white class structure was described as being diamond shaped, with a small lower class, a huge middle class, and a small upper class-but the lower class being smaller than the black lower class and the other two classes being much larger (Drake, 1965:785; DuBois, 1903; Myrdal, 1944~. In 1940 the status of the vast majority of black Americans was well below middle class. More than 1 of every 2 black adults had no more than 8 years of education, and 62 percent of working black men and women were em- ployed either in agriculture or in menial personal service jobs. In 1960, 31 percent of black workers were still employed in those industries. Throughout the 1950s, well over one-half of blacks lived in households with incomes below the poverty threshold (see Chapter 6~. In 1953, for example, 1 of every 3 black families had incomes below $3,000 (in 1974 constant dollars), while just 1 of 50 had incomes above $15,000. Comparative figures for white families were slightly more than 1 of 8 and 1 of 10, respectively. As 164

OCR for page 161
IDENTITY AND INSTITUTIONS IN THE BLACK COMMUNITY FIGURE t1 Blacks in selected occupations, 1940-1980. 50 In - ~ 40 Cal oh 3 30 Cal 111 20 of 10 - Mail~ - Firefighters - o 1940 1950 1960 Law Enforcement Personnel is/ - 1970 1 980 YEAR Source: Data Tom decennial censuses. late as 1960, 13 percent of all black workers were in white-collar occupations, compared with 44 percent of whites. The small black middle and upper classes prior to 1960 were primarily composed of small business owners and professionals, such as teachers, min- isters, doctors, and lawyers. Between 1912 and 1938, 73 percent of all black college graduates became ministers or teachers (Halsey, 1938, cited in Bates, 1986:23~. These professionals almost exclusively serviced the segregated black community. Most blacks were excluded from managerial, sales, and clerical positions in the wider society. Similar barriers to black employment as public servants led to small numbers of black police officers, firefighters, and postal workers (see Figure 4-1~. Minimal employment in these occupations hin- dered the development of a potentially important non-college-educated black middle class. Networks of churches and voluntary associations provided a major means of communication and support as well as lines of social division (Drake and Cayton, 1945:659; Frazier, 1963~. Although voluntary associations and church memberships tended to be somewhat divided along class lines, there was also a general sense of community. The Chicago Commission on Race Relations's observation on community identity in 1922 held as true in the 1930s and through the 1950s as it had when published (Bracey et al., 1971:176~: Living and associating for the most part together, meeting in the same centers for face-to-face relations, trusting to their own physicians, lawyers, and ministers, a compact community with its own fairly definite interests and sentiments has grown up. 165

OCR for page 161
A COMMON DESTINY: BLACKS AND AMERICAN SOCIETY Black parallel organizations were not imitations of white society as some have suggested (see Myrdal, 1944:43~. While many black groups, such as the Prince Hall Masons and the National Medical Association, had organi- zational structures similar to those of white counterpart groups, they also imbued their activities with a distinctive world view. For example, the Afri- can Methodist Episcopal Church is a Methodist organization, but it also has its own mode of religious emphasis and a history of antislavery and civil rights activity that give it an identity of its own. Similarly, black newspapers provided, and still provide, a different perspective on the news: coverage by the black press of post-World War II Third World nations' struggles for independence, for example, frequently offered perspectives not generally available in the white American press. Black parallel society was not autonomous: lack of black control over local governments and other important institutions made that impossible. The subordinate social status of the black community was apparent in the weak position of blacks in government and the small size of the black business community. For example, in 1941, there were 33 black elected officials in the entire United States. In 1965 the number was still less than 300 (see Chapter 5~. Bank Cultural Life From the 194ds through the 1960s, urban and rural black communities were in a constant state of flux, but they were connected by their racial identity and the continuing flow of rural to urban migrants. Such commu- nities were transforming the cultural context of black and white America. Cultural expression in black communities was distinctive, imaginative, and often indicative of future trends in American popular culture. The arts as practiced by blacks were often linked with social activism and seen through the frame of reference with which blacks viewed American society. For example, key black visual artists-such as Richmond Barthe, Romare Bear- den, Hale Woodruff, and Charles Johnson-frequently used realistic and naturalistic depictions of the world that gave their work social significance (Powell, 1986~. The quest for full participation and civil rights gave black writers an energy seldom rivaled in contemporary American literature. As in the other arts, the main emphasis in literature was on naturalism-"the literary depiction of environmental forces which shape and determine human behavior" (Gates, 1986:5~. During the war years, black authors published works of fiction, drama, and poetry that spoke to social conditions of black Americans: Wil- liam Attaway's Blood on the Forge (1941), Sterling Brown's Negro Caravan (1941), Saunders Redding's No Day of Triumph (1941), Margaret Walker's book of poetry My People (1942), Binga Desmond's He Who Would Die (1943), Frank Yerby's Health Card (1944), Melvin Tolson's book of poems Rendezvous with Africa (1944), and Gwendolyn Brooks's poetry A Street in Brooklyn (1945) were important examples. 166

OCR for page 161
IDENTITY AND INSTITUTIONS IN THE BLACK COMMUNITY Richard Wright's works of the 1940s and 1950s, including Native Son (1941), Blink Boy (1945), and The Outsider (1953), were influential for other writers. Wright's emphasis had been the dulling impact of racism on blacks: "I sensed that Negro life was a sprawling land of unconscious suffering, and that there were but a few Negroes who knew the meaning of their lives, who could tell their [own] story" (cited in Gates, 1986:13~. \ , In contrast, Ralph Ellison believed this approach gave an undue emphasis on the disintegrating effects of racism. Both Ellison and James Baldwin contested Wright's bleak view by concentrating on conscious and active black people, rather than blacks' actions as mere responses to racism. Blacks' experience of the rural to urban migration were depicted in Arna Wendell Bontemps and Jack Conroy's They Seek a City (1945) and James Baldwin's (go TellIton the Mountain (1953~. The complex connection of the black movement's relationship to white radicals and liberals was one theme de- picted in Ralph Ellison's critically acclaimed In~silole Man (1952~. Other works reflected on the racism that had permeated the military during the war, for example, Chester Hime's If He Hollers Let Him Go (1945~. The dire realities of inner-city life for black youth were illustrated in Ann Petry's The Street (1946) and Claude Brown's Manchild in the promised Land (1965~. A number of important works by black playwrights dramatizing black life, rebellion, and resilience under racial injustice appeared in the 1950s and 1960s. Few appeared on Broadway, and those that did seldom ran for very long. In general, the emphasis on social commitment and naturalistic depic- tions of reality "as it is" drama by black playwrights paralleled the works of many black novelists. Lorraine Hansberry, author of A Raisin' in the Sun (1959), now a classic of the American stage, called for a politically relevant black art. During the 1920s and 1930s, important musical developments had oc- curred in many cities, particularly Chicago, Kansas City, and New York. In the blues clubs of Chicago's Maxwell Street, musicians Muddy Waters, John Lee Williamson, Joe Williams, and Robert Nighthawk (among others) were developing a new urban blues; they also recorded in the white-owned studios of Victor Records and other companies. The World War II Chicago blues was a dynamic blend of country and developing city styles. By the end of World War II, this new urban music was becoming known as jump blues or rhythm and blues, R8cB. It would soon have enormous impact on American popular music and then music worldwide. It was a musical manifesto of the urbanizing black population, most of whom, including the musicians, were from the South but who increasingly saw themselves as city people. As Robert Palmer (1981:146) notes: \ , The new R&1B or jump blues, appealed to black listeners who no longer wished to identify themselves with life down home, and the field offered attractive financial opportunity for skilled jazzmen willing to "play for the people. " . . . By 1945 a number of Chicago clubs . . . were switching over to city R&B. 167

OCR for page 161
A COMMON DESTINY: BLACKS AND AMERICAN SOCIETY Meanwhile Duke Ellington, Coleman Hawkins, Count Basie, and Louis Armstrong had reached what Ralph Ellison calls "high artistic achievement" in the bluesjazz tradition (Ellison, 1964~. In New York during the 1940s, the revolutionary music known as hop or bebop was being pioneered by Charlie Parker, John Birks Gillispie, Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell, Max Roach, and Kenny Clarke, among others. In the 1950s and 1960s, modern jazz became transformed into even more innovative forms under the tutelage of such musician-composers as Bud Powell, Miles Davis, and John Coltrane. The development of bebop and rhythm and blues were testimonies to the ways in which urbanization was contributing to artistic expression. The city undoubtedly generated alienation and anomie, but black people transformed their urban experience in ways that drew from rural roots. And for many blacks, the revolution in music was just that, a revolution. As Marable (1984:52) wrote: [It was] on the "cultural front" what the Montgomery boycott, demon- strations and the new militant mood were in politics. It shattered estab- lished conventions; it mocked traditions; in form and grace, it transcended old boundaries to life and thought. It became the appropriate cultural background for their activities to destroy km Crow. AFTER THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT The civil rights movement and the consequent changes in laws and social attitudes opened new opportunities for blacks. As many schools desegregated and as more resources were devoted to schools with black pupils, more young blacks completed high school and continued on to higher education. Many professions and businesses, anxious to overcome histories and reputa- tions of white exclusiveness, recruited qualified black graduates. Racial dis- crimination, although far from being eradicated, became illegal and contrary to the nationally accepted ethos. Educated and economically successful black families could live in better neighborhoods of cities and in suburbs (although most were still segregated neighborhoods). As many did so, inner-city black neighborhoods lost many of their most affluent and skilled residents. Re- maining are many blacks who have not "made it" and whose children will rarely do so either-hundreds of thousands of blacks in demoralized neigh- borhoods. Thus, a monumental black poverty problem coexists with the growth of a substantial black middle class. Some of the more important consequences of the enlarged opportunities for black Americans and the increasing socioeco- nomic diversity within the black population have been a significant alteration in black leadership structure; problems in the recruitment and retention of talented blacks by black organizations and institutions; and the creation of new forms of black organizations. 168

OCR for page 161
IDENTITY AND INSTITUTIONS IN THE BLACK COMMUNITY The Black Middle Class In terms of both occupations and incomes, the 1960s were a watershed decade for the growth of the black middle class. The proportion of black white-collar workers doubled from 13 to 26 percent, and unlike earlier decades, some of this growth occurred outside traditional black occupations, most notably in government employment. The proportion of black families with incomes above the white median family income also grew, from 13 to 21 percent. Due to the structural barriers facing blacks in many occupations prior to World War II, the distribution of black white-collar workers was heavily skewed toward a handful of occupations. In 1940, teachers accounted for 36 percent of all blacks in white-collar occupations, self-employed business- men for 27 percent, and the clergy for 10 percent. By 1980, teachers ac- counted for 27 percent of blacks in white-collar occupations, while self- employed managers had declined to just over 1 percent and the clergy to 1 percent. Meanwhile, the share of salaried managers in the private sector increased from 6 to 18 percent, public sector managers from less than 1 to 12 percent, and social workers from slightly more than 1 to nearly 6 percent (see Table 4-1~. The prewar black middle class was drawn heavily from the salaried and managerial private sector; the post-1960s black middle class is much more rooted in the public sector. In 1940, 2 percent of black managers were employed by government; this percentage had risen to 27 percent by 1970 and to 37 percent by 1980. A majority of black professionals are government employees compared with less than 40 percent of white professionals. Over- all, 27 percent of blacks were employed in government in 1980, compared with 17 percent of the total work force. The growth of the new black middle class, contrary to some expectations, has created a black bourgeoisie that is more predisposed to align itself politi- cally with the black lower class than was the case earlier. This pattern may be due to a "structural liberalism" stemming from a shared interest, rein- forcing considerations of ideology or race solidarity, in seeing the public sector expand (Smith, 1982:36-38~. It may be significant that a large pro- portion of lower status blacks receive public assistance and community ser- vices from programs that are disproportionately staffed by black profession- als. Thus, the lack of a pronounced class differential in black attitudes toward the public sector can be partly attributed to the fact that the class structure and vested interest in the expansion of the public sector intersect in a very different way among blacks than among whites. The Changing Black Elite The trends of the black middle class in the occupational structure have had important implications for black leadership. For example, the occupa 169

OCR for page 161
~ ~ ~ - ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ - ~ ~ ~ ~ - ~ - No c~ o ~ o c~ No - o . ~. .. . . . . . . . : ~ o No ~ ~ ~ ' ~ ~ ~ o ~- -' Oo ~ ~ u~ cN ~ ~ ~ u) Lo t tN d~ oo ~4 _ o ~ _ ~ _ ~ ~ ~ ~ oo d~ ~ oo ~ oo oo ~ - ~ - - oo ~ ~o d' ~ - O ~ - - ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ - ~ oo Lr) ~ c~ ~ Mo oo u~ oo ~ ~ o . . .. . . . . . . . . Lr) oo - - o o ~ o o m o ~- - ~ ~ ~ ~ oo ~ o ~ oo ~ - ~ ~ ~ ~ No oo ~ Lc ~ ~ o ~ ~ No o oo ~ ~ ~ oo ~ ~ - ~ o ~ o ~ ~ Mo - ~ ~ ~ ~ o o - x ~ _ _ _d' d' oo - ~o~ ~ o oo o cn c~ D - o o C~ - . _ 5 C~ o oo _ ~o _ ~o _ o U: CN _ _' C) - o .o ~s~ ~ o ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ - u~ ~ - ~ oo o . . . . . . . . . . . . Lr) ~ c~ ~ ~ ~ ~ o ~ ~ - o ~ - ~ ~ ~ ~ ~m o ~ ~ ~ ' - ~ ~ - N _ oo ~ ~ ~ ~ 00 ~ d~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ o ~ ~ ~ ~ _ ~ d~ ~ ~ d~ ~ ~ ~ Lo O : - ~- o o ~-~ Lo ~ ~ o d~ O - ~ \0 0 0 - ~ O O < ~ ~m o ~ - -' o o o o o o o o o o o o ~ No oo Lr) ~ - ~ ~ o u oo u O ~ Lr) ~ C~ _ ~ U: U~ ~ _ ON : <} ~ ~ - ~ No o x _ ~ ~ 00 _ ~ ~N -- ~ : oo ~ oo ~ ~ u: ~ u: o o L~ o ~ ~ o o ~ - ~o o - ~ ~ ~ ~ o o o o o o o o o o o o o \0 d~ ~ O ~ O O ~0 ~ ~ ~ -. ~ Lt~:) ~ 0N 0 - ~ ~- d~ ~ ~ tN \0 d~ - ~ - ~ oo - - - c~ . - , - ~ ~- ~ _ , ~ a 5 ~ ~c" ~ _ 170 o C) ~C) _ 4= o s o . . _ , = ~ r; o o ~ V) ~ C) ~ i~ . C~

OCR for page 161
IDENTITY AND INSTITUTIONS IN THE BLACK COMMUNITY tional distribution of the black elite, as measured by Who's Who Among Black Americans and its earlier equivalent, shows significant changes. Educators now constitute 32 percent of the black elite, up from 14 percent before World War II. The representation of medical doctors has dropped from 26 to 13 percent, and the clergy has dropped from 14 to 5 percent. The categories of government officials and business executives, apparently too scarce to merit tabulation before World War II, comprised 12 and 11 per- cent, respectively, of the black elite as of 1978 (Sites and Mullins, 1985 :279) . Another way to analyze the composition of the black elite is to examine the institutional affiliations of the people represented on the list of the 100 most influential black persons compiled annually by Ebony magazine since 1963 (Smith, 1982:43-47~. Black elected officials increased from 9 to 25 percent of Ebony's black leaders between 1963 and 1980, while civil rights leaders dropped from 18 to 7 percent, and "glamour" personalities such as entertainers and athletes declined from 10 to 2 percent. Including black lt:~L;~1 i111~1 appom~ea omclals aria olacK lunges, tne proportion of public officials among black leaders rose from 24 to 55 percent during this period. As suggested bv these changes in the composition of the black elite. new . ~ 1 ~ ~ my_ types of leaders in the black community are supplementing and to some extent supplanting; the older leadership of the clerav. self-emoloved men and ~7 1 . . . . . . ~ ~ ~ 1 ~J ~ 1 J women in business, professionals, and people in the traditional black volun- tary associations. The new leadership is composed of black elected officials, black managers of public and nonprofit institutions (such as foundations and colleges), black corporate executives and entrepreneurs, and black veterans of community organizing activities (see Broder, 1980:305-306, citing Ver- non Jordan). The broader range of occupations and positions available to potential black leaders has had important ramifications for black organiza- tions and for the ability of leaders to effect change. INSTITUTIONS: INSTRUMENTS OF CHANGE important changes in both black institutions and organizations with black members have occurred since the 1960s. The two most important influences on black organizational life have been changes in blacks' socioeconomic status-education, incomes, occupations, and urban residence-and increases in black participation throughout American society. Some of the resulting alterations have been quite dramatic. Desegregation of baseball led to a complete disappearance of the professional black baseball leagues. Similarly, black theaters and cinemas such as the Apollo Theatre in Harlem and the Howard in Washington, D.C., which once drew top black performers to a segregated industry, have nearly vanished. The largest black newspapers, The Chicano Defender, The Amsterdam News (New York), The National Afi~o-Amer- ican (Baltimore), and The Pittsburgh Comber, have experienced declines in . . . arculat~on. With the notable exception of the black baseball leagues, many such 171

OCR for page 161
A COMMON DESTINY: BLACKS AND AMERICAN SOCIETY also demanded from its followers a rejection of what were seen as self- defeating behaviors. The Nation was very successful in reorienting many individuals with a history of involvement with drugs and other criminal activities, and in reaching those who were out of work and who were seeking a way to make life meaningfid and rewarding (Childs, 1987~. AFRICAN-AMERICAN CULTURAL DUALITY Social historian Clayborne Carson (1986:3) wrote: "Since the 1930s, an underlying assumption of scholarly studies of American race relations has been that black aspirations were mainly confined within the ideological boundaries of American progressivism and liberalism." Carson points out that this mainstream perspective does not attend to the full range of relevant aspirations and values held by blacks. For example, he argues (1986:3~: Scholarly investigation of Afro-American political life was largely limited to those aspects of black politics that were concerned with participation in the white-dominated mainstream. To the extent that black institutions were studied at all, they were seen as declining in significance rather than as serving important political functions. The small number of social scientists of the period before 1966 who paid much attention to Afro-American traditions of racial separatism and nationalism generally saw them as apolit- ical or at least marginal to the dominant currents of black politics (see C. Eric Lincoln, 1961; John A. Morsell, 1961~. Thus, it was hardly surprising that social scientists who observed the upsurge in black protest activity in the 1960s often interpreted it as an outgrowth of the process of assimilation rather than as a sign of increasing racial conciousness (see Ruth Searles and I. Allen Williams, 1962~. Carson's commentary represents an important criticism that many black Americans direct toward mainstream white American perspectives on black America. In addition to the currents of emphasis on black cultural uniqueness and separateness, there is evidence that most blacks do not advocate separatism in their everyday lives. For example, black preferences, as reflected in surveys and other sources, clearly reveal a desire to live in neighborhoods with appreciable proportions of whites and to send their children to schools with white children, and a large majority of blacks respond that they have no objections to interracial marriage (see Chapter 3~. These various observations exemplify the famous, and still relevant, characterization of the duality or "double-consciousness" contained in black American culture (W. E. B. DuBois, 1903:215~: One ever feels his two-ness,-an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, . . . The history of the American Negro is the history of this strife,-this longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge his double self into a better and truer self.... He would not Africanize America, for America 194

OCR for page 161
IDENTITY AND INSTITUTIONS IN THE BLACK COMMUNITY has too much to teach the world and Afnca. He would not bleach his Negro soul in a flood of white Amencanism, for he knows that Negro blood has a message for the world. He simply wishes to make it possible for a man to be both a Negro and an Amencan, without being cursed and spit upon. DuBois' conception of two-ness and of the conditions required for integrat- ing blacks and whites in the United States represents an early and influential formulation of black pluralism. Recognition of Afro-American cultural dual- ity is essential to the study of black Americans and black-white relations. Failure to use this concept has often created flaws in analyses of Afro- American culture and society (see, for example, Ellison's [1964] famous criticism of Myrdal's unguarded assimilationist approach in An American Dilemma [19441~. As Carson points out, much research on black Americans has been con- cerned primarily with black-white relations and the mainstream half of Afro- American duality. It is also true that black nationalist thought has often been seen as an extremist and marginal element among black values, equating black nationalism with the extreme separatism and deprecation of whites found in some religious sects. But among blacks, varieties of "nationalism" hold many positions in the continuum of ideologies between extreme sepa- ratism and extreme cultural and biological assimilation (see, for example, Emerson and Kilson, 1965:1069; for textbook examples, see Simpson and Yinger, 1985 140-141, 319-325~. The intensity of these convictions varies among individuals and for given individuals over time. Thus, cultural nation- alism's popular strength depends on such factors as economic conditions and perceptions of changes in the degree of discrimination against blacks. Yet the preservation of black culture and group identity, and above all the realization of a society in which all groups interact in terms of social, political, and cultural equality, are important conditions that many blacks' definition of "integration" requires (see Farmer, 1966: 126; Turner and Young, 1965:1156~. The importance of double consciousness and self-identity in the practical lives of black Americans may be illustrated by identity tensions created for many blacks who successfully seek the American dream. The pursuit of better housing and schools, higher incomes, and more prestigious occupa- tions leads many blacks into unfamiliar environments and life-styles. In such situations social isolation at work, school, and home can lead to difficult adjustment problems (Iones, 1986, 1988; Schofield, 1986; see Chapter 7~. The recollections of a 22-year-old black female college student highlights the social stress (Anderson, 1986~: When I was 15, my dad was transferred from Baltimore to New Jersey. It was a big change for my family, including my mom, dad, and 8-year-ol~l sister. We moved to this all-white suburban community. It was upper middle class Jewish and Italian, mainly. We were the only blacks around. A few people were friendly, but it wasn't Baltimore. One white woman, a 195

OCR for page 161
A COMMON DESTINY: BLACKS AND AMERICAN SOCIETY wnter, was very friendly. At school, the students were very cold. It took a long time for me to make friends, but I managed it and graduated fi om the high school; it was a good school. My dad seemed not to mind so much being the only blacks there, but my mom really resented it. My parents didn't socialize or have a dinner party for two years. My mom began to meet black people on the commuter train, and so things got better. We used to get so excited when we saw another black person. It was lonely. My sister seemed to do all right. She had many white Fiends, and she goes to the bar mitzvahs and parties. Now my dad has been transferred back to Baltimore. My mom is happy. My sister misses her Fiends, and in Baltimore most of her friends are white. Empirical validation of many of these points is somewhat problematical in view of a lack of direct data. However, it is possible to develop measures of black cultural pride and identity from survey data that are closely related to those topics. We must caution, however, that the survey data available do not fully reflect the depth and complexity of the views expressed in black literature, oratory, political commentary, or in ordinary discourse in the black community. In the next section we report the findings of a survey of recent analyses of black attitudes as they pertain to these issues (Bobo, 1987~. GROU P I DENTITY AN D CONSCIOUSN ESS Black attitudes toward aspects of race relations other than issues of integra- tion and equality fall into three interrelated groups: (1) black cultural and political consciousness, (2) black alienation from white society, and (3) atti- tudes related to black militancy. Studies of each group provide important and systematic data on the meanings blacks attach to race and race relations in the United States. In addition to drawing on this body of research, we have conducted secondary analyses of two national sample surveys of blacks. We use data from the 1979-1980 National Survey of Black Americans (NSBA), collected by researchers at the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research (Jackson and Gurin, 1987), and from the 1982 General Social Survey. How any group sees itself involves the use of labels and associated mean- ings (Hymen, 1968; Rosenberg, 1979, 1981~. What do black people call themselves and what sorts of traits, qualities, and accomplishments do they believe to be attributes of group members? The labels used to designate black Americans have changed considerably over the past several decades, with popular usage of terms such as "colored" and "Negro" having all but vanished. Table 44 displays the responses of two national samples of blacks to questions on the group name they prefer. Depending on how the ques- tion is worded, these data show that between 52 and 72 percent of black Americans prefer the label "black." No other category, even one combining 196

OCR for page 161
A COMMON DESTINY: BLACKS AND AMERICAN SOCIETY TABLE 4-5 Reasons for Feeling a Sense of Black Group Pride Question and Responses What are the things about black people that make you feel the most prow? Socioeconomic or scholastic achievements Group pride, identity, togetherness, and mutual support Endurance, striving, progress made Impact on mass culture or athletics Black cultural heritage Morality and religiosity Nothing or no difference Miscellaneous Not ascertained or inapplicable (N = 2,107) Source: Data from the 1970-1980 National Survey of Black Americans. Percent 28 24 22 5 4 4 3 6 3 TABLE 4-6 Black Parents' Attitudes Toward Socialization of Their Children - Percentage As Percentag~ Question and Response Saying "Yes" of Total Sample In raising your children have you dune or told them things to help them know what it is to be black? (If "Yes") What are the most important things you've done or tokl them? ,. . . Necessity to excel and survive 23 12 Racial pride and heritage 26 12 Problem of racism and prejudice 9 4 Values of tolerance and equality 8 4 Social distance from whites 3 1 Religion and conventional values 9 4 Acceptance of self and blackness 13 6 Defer to or fear whites 1 Miscellaneous 3 1 Not ascertained or inapplicable 3 54 (N = 1,003) (N = 2,107) Source: Data from the 1979-1980 National Survey of Black Americans. 198

OCR for page 161
IDENTITY AND INSTITUTIONS IN THE BLACK COMMUNITY TABLE ~ Blacks' Preferred Group Name Surveys, Qutsnons' and Responses People use different words to rear to people of our race. What word do you use? Black (or black Amencan) Negro Colored Afro -Am e n can Other positive Other negative None, don't know, don't care, doesn't matter (Data from 1979-1980 National Survey of Black Amencans: N = 2,069) Percent Which wo?'l~you mom like to be called, "black, " "Negro, " "colored, " or "Afi~o- American, " or doesn't it make any difference? Black Negro Colored Afro-Amencan Makes no difference (Data from 1982 General Social Survey: N = 503) 72 9 12 2 52 6 5 6 31 "Negro" and "colored," approaches "black" in level of preference.2 The principal difference between the two questions involves a much higher use of the "makes no difference" response by those interviewed in the 1982 General Social Survey. The questions are sufficiently different that these results should not be treated as indicating change over time. The labels themselves tell little about what people believe to be the traits and qualities that characterize group members. The 1979-1980 NSBA ap- proached this issue in several ways. One was an open-ended question con- cerning "the things about black people that make you feel the most proud." A large and diverse set of responses were obtained; one coding of these responses is presented in Table TV. Very few black people responded by saying "nothing" or that there were no distinctive qualities about which blacks should be proud (3 percent). The bulk of responses fall into three categories: those concerned with the socioeconomic and scholastic achieve- ments of group members (28 percent); those concerned with the degree of group pride and mutual support shown by blacks (24 percent); and com- ments concerning the general qualities of endurance, striving, and ultimate group progress (22 percent). How do black parents socialize their children with regard to race' Sixty- three percent of blacks who have had children reported that they had spoken with their children about "what it is to be black." Table t6 displays responses to an open-ended question concerning the specific types of things 2. An interesting development in the late 1980s has been an announced preference for the label African-American by a number of prominent blacks. This illustrates the dynamic nature of black identity. 197

OCR for page 161
IDENTITY AND INSTITUTIONS IN THE BLACK COMMUNITY TABLE ~7 Black's Attitudes Toward Group Bonds and Dating Exclusivity (percent) Strongly Strongly Don't Question Agree Agree Disagree Disagree Care Black parents should give their children African names. 3 17 56 10 14 Black children should study an Ahican language. 14 42 29 6 9 Black people should shop in black-owned stores whenever possible. 16 47 30 4 3 Blacks should always vote for black cancli dates when they run. 13 26 51 7 3 Black women should not date white men. 13 26 51 7 3 Black men should not date white women. 13 18 48 8 13 Source: Data from the 1979-1980 diagonal Survey of Black Amencans; the number of respon- dents ranged Tom 2,058 to 2,073. parents discussed with their children. Twenty-three percent of black parents indicated that they stressed the need to excel and work hard to survive, and another 26 percent indicated that they emphasized racial pride and black heritage to their children; only 9 percent emphasized the need to cope with racism and prejudice, although this issue may underlie many of the more frequently offered responses. Several analysts of riot-related attitudes in the 1960s were struck by evidences of positive group identity among blacks. This finding appeared to some analysts as an "unexpected" and important discovery because it contradicted theories of reactions to prejudice that pre- dicted a low and deprecatory self-image for minority group members. This finding was important for at least two other reasons. First, it showed positive evidence that group identity coexisted with support for integration and intergroup harmony and with skepticism toward militant separatism. Sec- ond, this positive identity was an important factor in black support for political actions-including the ghetto uprisings of the 1960s-that had promise of drawing attention to black concerns and improving the status of blacks (Campbell and Schuman, 1968; Sears and McConahay, 1973:189~. In many ways, the 1979-1980 data tell a similar story about feelings of group bonds and separatism among blacks. Table ~7 presents data on six questions, four of which concern symbolic and behavioral acts indicative of a sense of collective pride and identity and two of which speak to a desire for social distance from whites. Among the symbolic ways of expressing positive group bonds, 56 percent of blacks agreed with the statement that "black children should study an African language," and 20 percent agreed that "black parents should give their children African names." These re- sponses probably index a general disposition to approve of emphasizing an African heritage rather than actual behavior patterns. The questions about behavior asked whether "blacks should always vote for black candidates when they run" (39 percent agreed) and whether "black people should shop at black-owned stores whenever possible" (63 percent agreedj. 199 -

OCR for page 161
A COMMON DESTINY: BLACKS AND AMERICAN SOCIETY The two questions on separatism ask, first, whether "black women should not date white men" (39 percent agreed) and, second, whether "black men should not date white women" (31 percent agreed). Thus, between 3 and 4 of 10 blacks approved of group exclusivity in dating relationships. A small percentage of blacks strongly disagreed with either statement (7 percent for the question on black women and 8 percent for the question on black men). These results, when viewed in the light of stable and nearly unanimous black support for school integration and no race-based restrictions on housing choice as well as a majority preference for integrated neighborhoods (see Chapter 3), suggest that many blacks view integration in neighborhoods and public institutions as compatible with a continued sense of group affiliation and identity. The two dating questions are highly intercorrelated (Bobo, 1987~. An index composed of the dating questions and one composed of the remaining four symbolic and behavioral questions are modestly correlated, indicating that those blacks who oppose interracial dating are also more likely to favor other ways of affirming the group boundary. Still, the relatively low correla- tions of the indices indicate that many blacks who support various symbolic ways of expressing group ties do so while not endorsing racially exclusive dating. Older blacks are more likely than younger blacks to oppose interracial dating and to support the several symbolic ways of affirming group bounda- ries. Better educated blacks and those with higher family incomes are less likely than other blacks to oppose interracial dating and the other group symbolic acts. These data have implications for debates about the extent to which blacks have been effectively assimilated into an American cultural "melting pot" and about the effects of increasing class stratification within the black com- munity. In particular, the age and education effects suggest some younger and better educated blacks do not feel as strong a sense of group boundaries as do older and less well educated blacks. Whether these differences reflect important cohort differences that might involve substantial change within the black population, or differences more properly attributed to aging per se, is not clear. Overall, these findings suggest two main implications. First, most black Americans experience and attach importance to a group cultural identity. Second, an interwoven set of qualities-such as group cohesion, striving, and endurance-and a perceived need to continue to instill such qualities in future generations appear to be key elements of this cultural identity. To the extent that these orientations treat race as an important social characteristic, involve a sense of obligation to blacks, and indicate a commitment to overcoming group disadvantages, these patterns of cultural identity indicate a high degree of race consciousness among black Americans. 200

OCR for page 161
I DENTITY AN D I NSTITUTIONS I N THE BLACK COMMU N ITY REFERENCES Anderson, Elijah 1986 Of Old Heads and Young Boys: Notes on the Urban Black Experience. Paper prepared for the Committee on the Status of Black Americans, National Research Council, Washington, D.C. Bates, Timothy 1986 Paper prepared for the Committee on the Status of Black Americans, National Research Council, Washington, D.C. Billingsley, Andrew 1982 Building strong faculties in black colleges. The Journal of Ne,gro Education 25:445- 4247. Blackwell, James E. 1984 The Black Community: Diversity and Unity. New York: Harper & Row. Bobo, Lawrence 1987 Race in the Minds of Black and White Americans. Paper prepared for the Com- mittee on the Status of Black Americans, National Research Council, Washington, D.C. Bracey, John H., August Maier, and Elliot M. Rudwick 1971 Black Workers and Organized Indoor. Belmont, Cali: Wadsworth Publishing Co. Broder, David S. 1980 Changing of the Guard: Po?ver and Leadership in Amertca. New York: Simon & Schuster. Bureau of the Census 1979 The Social and Economic Status of the Black Population in the United States, 1790-1978. Current Population Reports: Special Studies: Series P-23; No. 80. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Commerce. Campbell, Angus, and Howard Schuman 1968 Racial attitudes in fifteen American cities. Pp. 1-67 in Supplemental Studies for the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Govern- ment Printing Office. Carson, Clayborne 1S86 Paper prepared for the Committee on the Status of Black Americans, National Research Council, Washington, D.C. Childs, John Brown 1980 The Political Black Minister: A Study in Afro-American Politics and Religion. Boston: G. K. Hall. Childs, John Brown, ed. 1987 Manuscript prepared for the Panel on Social Change and Continuity, Committee on the Status of Black Americans, National Rescarch Council, Washington, D.C. Coleman, M. 1983 Black colleges jeopardized by shrinking funds and enrollments. The Washington Post, June 20, A2. Collins, Sheila D. 1986 The Rainbow Challenge: The Jackson Campaign and the F?'t?vre of U.S. Politics. New York: Monthly Review Press. Cross, R. H., and H. S. Astin 1981 Factors affecting black students persistence in college. In Gale Thomas, ea., Black Stints in Higher Education. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press. Drake, St. Clair 1965 The social and economic status of the Negro in the United States. Pp. 3-46 in 201

OCR for page 161
A COMMON DESTINY: BLACKS AND AMERICAN SOCIETY Talcott Parsons and Kenneth B. Clark, eds., The Negro American. Boston: Beacon Press. Drake, St. Clair, and Horace Cayton 1945 Black Metropolis: A Study of Ne,gro Life in a Northern City. New York: Harcourt Brace. DuBois, William E. B. 1903 The Souls of Block Folk. Reprinted (1965) in Three Negro Classics. New York: Avon Books. Egerton, J. 1971 The Public Black Colleges: Integration and Disintegration. Nashville, Tenn.: Race Relations Information Center. Ellison, Ralph 1964 Shadow and Act. New York: Random House. Emerson, Ruppert, and Mamn Kilson 1965 The American dilemma in a changing world: the rise of Africa and the Negro American. Pp. 626-658 in Talcott Parsons and Kenneth B. Clark, eds., The Negro American. Boston: Beacon Press. Farmer, James 1966 Freedom-When? New York: Random House. Frazier, E. Franklin 1963 The Negro Church in America. New York: Schocken Books. Gates, Henry Louis, Jr. 1986 From Native Sons to Native Daughters: The Afro-American Literary Tradition, 1940-1985. Paper prepared for the Committee on the Status of Black Americans, National Research Council, Washington, D.C. Griswold, C. L. 1983 Can Howard University take heat from within? The Washington Post, March 15, A19. Haines, Herbert H. 1984 Black radicalization and the funding of civil rights: 1957-1970. Social problems 3240ctober) :31~3. Hall, H. B. 1984 Executive salaries questioned. The Hilltop 67(April 6~. Hanks, Lawrence J. 1986 Black Voter Mobilization Since 1960. Paper prepared for the Committee on the Status of Black Americans, National Research Council, Washington, D.C. Harris, Abram Lincoln 1936 The Negro as capitalist. Reprinted 1968. College Park, Md.: McGrath Publishing Co. Hill, Susan T. 1984 The Traditionally Black Institutions of Higher Education, 1960 to 1982. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Education. Huggins, Nathan Irwin 1971 Harlem Renaissance. New York: Oxford University Press. Hyman, Herbert H. 1968 Reference groups. Pp. 353-366 in David Sills, ea., International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. Vol. 13. New York: Macmillan. Jackson, James S., and Gerald Gurin 1987 National Survey of Black Americans, 1979-1980. Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research, University of Michigan. Jacquet, Constant H., ed. 1987 Yearbook of American AL Carnelian Churches 1987 Nashville, Tenn.: Abingdon Press. 202

OCR for page 161
I DENTITY AN D I NSTITUTIONS I N THE BLACK COMMU N ITY Jaschik, S. 1986 Proposed college mergers, though not approved, are under fire in Texas. The Chronicle of Higher Education 33(November 19~: 19-20. Johnson, Charles S. 1941 Growing Up in the Black-Belt: Negro youth in the Renal South. Washington, D.C.: American Council on Education. Jones, Edward W., Jr. 1986 Black managers: the dream deferred. Harvard B?~sinessRe~w (May/June): 84-93. 1988 Memorandum to the Committee on the Status of Black Americans, National Research Council, Washington, D.C. Lincoln, C. Eric 1961 The Black Muslims in America. Boston: Beacon Press. 1984 Race, Religion, and the Contin?'in,g American Dilemma. New York: Hill & Wang. Locke, Alain 1925 The New Negro: An Interpretation. New York: Albert and Charles Boni. 1969 The American Negro: His History and Literature. New York: Arno Press. Marable, Manning 1984 Race, Reform and Rebellion: The Second Reconstruction in Black America: 1945-1982. London: MacMillan Press. McAdam, Doug 1982 Political process and the Development of Black Insurgency, 1930-1970. Chicago: Univer- sity of Chicago Press. Morris, Aldon 1984 The Origins of the Civil Rights Movement: Black Communities Or,ganizin,g for Change. New York: Free Press. Morris, Lorenzo 1981 Equal Educational Opportunity Scoreboard: The Status of Black Americans in Higher Education, 1970-1979. Institute for the Study of Educational Policy. Washington, D.C.: Howard University Washington, D.C.: Institute for the Study of Educa- tional Policy. Murray, Florence, ed. 1947 Negro Handbook, 1946-1947 New York: Current Books. Muscatine, A. 1985 UDC wages an uphill struggle for respect. The Washington Post, May 11, A1, A8. Myrdal, Gunnar 1944 An American Dilemma: The Negro problem and Modern Democracy. 2 vols. New York: Harper and Brothers. Nelson, William E., Jr. 1987 The Role of the Black Church in Politics. Paper prepared for the Committee on the Status of Black Americans, National Research Council, Washington, D.C. Newby, J. E. 1982 Goals in teaching undergraduates in black colleges and universities: professional- centered or client-centered? The American Sociologist 17:1 13-118. Officc of Civil Rights 1981 An Analysis of Black Attrition in Traditionally-Black Institutions and in All Other Institutions. U.S. Department of Education, Washington, D.C. Osofsky, Gilbert 1971 Harlem: The Making ofaNe~ro Ghetto, 1890-1930. New York:Harper&Row. Palmer, Robert 1981 Deep Blues. New York: Viking Press. Parris, Guichard, and Lester Brooks 1971 Blacks in the City: A History of the National Urban League. Boston: Little, Brown. 203

OCR for page 161
A COMMON DESTINY: BLACKS AND AMERICAN SOCIETY Peterson, Paul E., and David J. Greenstone 1977 Racial change and citizen participation: the mobilization of low-income commu- nities through community action. Ch. 6 in Robert H. Haveman, ea., A Decade of FederalAntipovertyPPograms: Achievements, Failures, and Lessons. New York: Aca- demic Press. Powell, Richard 1986 The Visual Arts and Afro-America: 1940-1980. Paper prepared for the Commit- tee on the Status of Black Americans, National Research Council, Washington, D.C. loud, Adolph L., Jr. 1986 The Jesse Jackson Phenomenon: The Crisis of Purpose in Afro-American Politics. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press. Rosenberg, Morris 1979 Conceiving the Self New York: Basic Books. 1981 The self-concept: social product and social force. Pp. 593-624 in Morris Rosen- berg and Ralph M. Turner, eds., Social Psychology: Sociological Perspectives. New York: Basic Books. Schofield, Janet Ward 1986 School Desegregation and Black Americans. Paper prepared for the Committee on the Status of Black Americans, National Research Council, Washington, D.C. Sears, David O., and John B. McConahay 1973 The Politics of Violence: The New Urban Blacks and the Watts Bat. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. Simpson, George E., and J. Milton Yinger 1985 Racial and Cultural Minorities. 5th ed. New York: Plenum. Sites, Paul, and Elizabeth I. Mullins 1985 The American black elite, 1930-1978. Phylon 46(September3:269-280. Smith, Robert C. 1982 Black Leadership: A Survey of Theory and Research. Institute for Urban Affairs and Research. Washington, D.C.: Howard University. Spear, Allan H. 1967 Black Chicago: The Making of a Negro Ghetto: 1890-1920. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Tollet, Kenneth S. 1981 Black Institutions of Higher Learning: Inadvertent Victims or Necessary Sacrifices? With 1981 prologue update. Institute for the Study of Educational Policy. Washington, D.C.: Howard University. Turner, John B., and Whitney M. Young, Jr. 1965 Who has the revolution or thoughts on the second reconstruction. In Talcott Parsons and Kenneth B. Clark, eds., The ~e,gro American. Boston: Beacon Press. U.S. Commission on Civil Rights 1981 The Black/VVhite Colleges: Dismantling the Dual System of Hither Education. Clearing holist Publication 66(April). Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office. Wilkinson, Doris Y. 1987 A Profile of the Nation's Resources: The Academic Missions and Cultures of Traditionally Black Colleges and Universities. Paper prepared for the Committee on the Status of Black Americans, National Research Council, Washington, D.C. Wilson, James Q. 1973 Political Or~anizatioYIs. New York: Basic Books. Work, Monroe N. 1937 Negro Rear Book: An Annual Encyclopedia of the Negro, 1937-1938. Tuskegee, Ala.: Negro Year Book Publishing Company. 204