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Blue-Chip Black

Blue-Chip Black: Race, Class, and Status in the New Black Middle Class

Copyright Date: 2007
Edition: 1
Pages: 302
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  • Book Info
    Blue-Chip Black
    Book Description:

    As Karyn R. Lacy's innovative work in the suburbs of Washington, DC, reveals, there is a continuum of middle-classness among blacks, ranging from lower-middle class to middle-middle class to upper-middle class. Focusing on the latter two, Lacy explores an increasingly important social and demographic group: middle-class blacks who live in middle-class suburbs where poor blacks are not present. These "blue-chip black" suburbanites earn well over fifty thousand dollars annually and work in predominantly white professional environments. Lacy examines the complicated sense of identity that individuals in these groups craft to manage their interactions with lower-class blacks, middle-class whites, and other middle-class blacks as they seek to reap the benefits of their middle-class status.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94069-7
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xvii-xx)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-20)

    They’re trying to be like the whites instead of being who they are,” Andrea Creighton, a forty-three-year-old information analyst with the federal government, told me when I asked whether she believed blacks had made it in the United States or still had a long way to go. Andrea is black, and she perceives irrepressible distinctions between middleclass blacks and whites, even though many aspects of her life appear to reflect membership in the suburban middle-class mainstream. She and her husband, Greg, have two teenage children: a girl, age seventeen, and a boy, age fifteen. They have lived on a quiet...

  7. 1 Defining the Post-Integration Black Middle Classes
    (pp. 21-50)

    In the United States it is common knowledge that there are stark, unrelenting divisions between the black underclass and the black middle class.¹ Indeed, class polarization between the two groups is so pervasive that we often assume the central fault line in the black world is that between the black poor and the black middle class. But the experiences of the people in this book suggest that this common marker may not constitute the primary fault line differentiating blacks from one another in years to come. Ever-deepening divisions exist within the black middle class itself; these fault lines are under-studied...

  8. 2 Social Organization in Washington’s Suburbia
    (pp. 51-71)

    The middle-class blacks in this study live in placid suburban subdivisions. They don’t open their front doors to find people of dubious character congregating on their stoops; they don’t worry about how to negotiate sidewalks blocked by clumps of suspicious-looking strangers; and they aren’t concerned that when night falls their cars will be broken into or vandalized.¹ There are no strangers wandering aimlessly through Lakeview, Riverton, or Sherwood Park. Indeed, any kind of street activity is rare here: much of the social activity in middle-class suburbia happens behind closed doors, not on street corners.² Why this is so may be...

  9. 3 Public Identities: Managing Race in Public Spaces
    (pp. 72-113)

    Instances of discrimination against blacks in stores, in the workplace, and in other public spaces occur every day, unobserved by potential sympathizers and unreported by black victims. As sociologist Joe Feagin’s gripping study of the black middle-class experience shows, middleclass status does not automatically shield blacks from discrimination by whites in public spaces.¹ His interviewees’ reports of being denied seating in restaurants, accosted while shopping, and harassed by police officers lead Feagin to conclude that a middle-class status does not protect blacks from the threat of racial discrimination.² Feagin’s study documents the formal and informal mechanisms that contribute to persistent...

  10. 4 Status-Based Identities: Protecting and Reproducing Middle-Class Status
    (pp. 114-149)

    Right now,” declares Brad, a forty-six-year-old judge and Sherwood Park resident, “the top priority for me is getting both of my sons through their educations, as far as they need to go. . . . I will do everything that I can to help [them be successful] . . . whether that’s through academics, setting up a business, or whatever.” Concerns about status reproduction—that is, Brad’s desire to ensure that when they are adults, his children will have at their disposal a clear roadmap for attaining a class position as comfortable as his—guide his financial decisions. “I don’t...

  11. 5 Race- and Class-Based Identities: Strategic Assimilation in Middle-Class Suburbia
    (pp. 150-184)

    Sociologists theorize that in the case of white ethnic immigrants in American society, the social status of the entire group improved as individual members ascended into the middle class. White ethnic groups once targeted for maltreatment, such as the Irish and Italians, face far less discrimination today than they did when they immigrated to the United States in the nineteenth century. Ethnic identity no longer determines where white ethnics may live or work, or whom they may marry. In the current period, white ethnicity becomes salient only when white ethnics make it so.¹ By contrast, blacks, even middle-class blacks, confront...

  12. 6 Suburban Identities: Building Alliances with Neighbors
    (pp. 185-218)

    Conventional studies of suburban life focus on a single community, most often one undergoing profound racial transformation, and chronicle ongoing tensions between residents. A much less tense and more cooperative pattern of race relations may occur, however, in middle-class suburban communities where blacks either constitute an appreciable racial majority or do not perceiveovertracial hostility. I spoke to a black woman, Julia, now in her sixties, who had moved with her husband and three children to a predominantly white subdivision in Prince George’s County in the 1970s (not to the subdivisions included in this study). She told me angrily...

  13. Conclusion
    (pp. 219-226)

    Scholars disagree about what it means to be black and “make it” in America. One group suggests that racial boundaries arenotporous: that blacks experience life one way and whites another way, even when the individuals are middle-class. These scholars argue that society is stratified primarily by race to such an extent that people who are black and middle-class are not necessarily rewarded with the material objects that we would expect to come along with their status position, such as attractive housing in a desirable neighborhood or competitive neighborhood schools. Thus, the middle-class component of their identity is virtually...

  14. APPENDIX: A Recipe for Studying the Black Middle Class
    (pp. 227-234)
  15. Notes
    (pp. 235-254)
  16. References
    (pp. 255-268)
  17. Index
    (pp. 269-281)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 282-282)