"Everything I Do, I'm Seen as a Black Person": An Interpretive Study of the Racial and Class Consciousness of the Black Middle Class
This study examines the racial and class consciousness of eight members of the Black middle class from Wooster, Oh and Olean, Ny. Whereas many studies attempt to measure the "objective" factors involved in determining the quality of life and consciousness of the Black middle class, my study assesses the "subjective" interpretations and perspectives of Black middle class individuals surrounding issues of race, class, and ethnic identity. My literature review analyzes the competing definitions of the Black middle class, their historical development, and the views surrounding their identity. My theoretical model is twofold: 1) drawing on the work of Royce, it stresses the importance of the subjective dimensions of ethnic and class identification, 2) rooted in the works of Landry, Willie, and Feagin and Sikes, it stresses the continued significance of racism and discrimination in the lives of members of the Black middle class. Moreover, drawing upon Jackman and Jackman's work, I assert that race, much more so than class, is prevalent within the consciousness of members of the Black middle class. To assess the nature of racial and class consciousness among the Black middle class, I used in-depth interviewing. I discovered that racism and discrimination remain significant factors in the lives of the Black middle class, and that my contributors exhibited a highly developed racial consciousness. At the same time, their class consciousness was fairly weakly developed, even though I discovered some evidence to suggest that my contributors had adopted styles of speaking and acting characteristic of the white middle class. Through variation in responses, my findings exemplified the complex inter-relationship of class and racial identies. My analysis section explores some of the reasons behind this complex interrelationship, as well as possible reasons behind my contributors' highly developed racial consciousness.
© Copyright 1999 Jesse B. Larson