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Myths About Blacks

Desiree Cooper

Full Episode Audio

One of the findings of Radio One's Black America Study was that the African American community is not down-and-out, but generally hopeful. Sixty percent of those surveyed said that "things are getting better for me," 73 percent said that they were "confident to do my own thing," and more than half were optimistic about the future of blacks in this country.

But, as company CEO Alfred Liggins says, hope means different things to different generations.

"The black middle class is an older demographic," said Liggins. "They have knowledge of the successes of the Civil Rights Era. They feel hopeful, but from a collective standpoint. They've seen the progress that has been made by black people sticking together for change."

But he says that younger blacks are hopeful from a different standpoint.

"On the younger end, it's a more individualistic hopefulness," said Liggins. "They didn't grow up with the sort of racism that their parents did. That breeds individual self-confidence, but it also breeds a level of stress. They're not benchmarking themselves against how far black people have come from the past. They're benchmarking themselves against where everybody in society is today."

In 1978, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the use of quotas in the college admission process in the case of Regents of the University of California v. Bakke. Liggins says the decline of affirmative action in the decades since that ruling has given younger black Americans a more tenuous hold on hope.

"Thirty years ago, before the Bakke case, a whole slew of middle-aged blacks in the middle class got into some of the best schools in the nation because those schools were looking to diversify the student body ranks. That middle class black feels great: 'I've got a Harvard degree, a great job and a lot of money. I feel hopeful about the future, and I got there on the backs of a collective black effort.'"

Today, Liggins says, that's not the case. "A young black kid coming out of high school in Southern California today may never have experienced racism," he said. "He grew up in a diverse area. So he's really confident in his individual abilities, but he has a lesser chance of getting into Harvard because he's competing against the second generation Chinese kid. That creates a new level of stress for them."

  • Music Bridge:
    Artist: Four Tet
    CD: Ringer (Domino)


  • Comment | Refresh

  • By Marcia Bryant

    From Cleveland, OH, 08/25/2008

    I can’t begin to tell you how grateful I was to hear this story.

    As a black woman nearing 40 and a raised in the upper-middle class (and yes I prefer the term “black” ), I have always been what my grandmothers called “the only chip in the cookie” or the “only fly in the buttermilk.” In other words, I have spent my life as “the only” black person in a wide variety of situations. I was raised with the expectation that I would always be too black for some and too white for others. The digital divide question touches on what I believe is one of the major issues affecting “the black community” (Don’t even get me started on how much I hate THAT expression!) and that’s economic/class differences.

    This story made me feel connected to my community in a way gospel music and “street talk” laden political messages never could because it made me feel heard. It made me realize that I’m not alone out here in “Chipville.” It addressed the conflict that many of us have to deal with. It also touched on what it means for those who come after me, those growing up in a truly multicultural society where it isn’t just about black vs. white.

    This story is exactly the reason I listen to Weekend America. And thank you for not saving this until Black History Month.

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