Last Updated 28 May 2020

Black Working Poor vs. Black Middle Class

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The article examines the relationships between the black working poor and the black middle class. The black middle class is defined as being fragmented, comprised of an array of incomes, professions, and educational levels. The article also states that black middle class experiences economic shifts that move back and forth between blue-collar and white-collar income levels and occupations. (Shawn A. Ginwright 2002) The black middle class experienced dramatic growth in the post civil-rights era.

This growth raised questions about how social and cultural capital among the black middle class has helped the conditions of the black working poor. The author demonstrates through materialist and culturalist frames of the community how black middle class members of a small organization frame community failed to address the needs of the working poor. Materialist frames are rooted in day-to-day material conditions. They are informed by the lived reality of low wages, high rents, and or poor quality schools and focus on immediate change of concrete conditions. (Shawn A.

Ginwright 2002) Culturalist frames challenge ideas and values, rather than power and people. Through a shared set of ideas and values, culturalist frames focus on symbolic meaning and abstract theories of the social world and attempt to change social meaning and personal identity. They promote specialized ideas about community and social issues and encourage expert-based social change through highly skilled, educated professionals. (Shawn A. Ginwright 2002) His argument is that the middle class use their skills, and other forms of human capitol to define community issues, while overlooking the interests of the working poor.

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Then Ginwright used a case study to affirm his theory. The case study was of a middle class community’s use Afrocentric ideology to ameliorate a working class neighborhood high school; the middle class misdiagnosed an obvious problem through culturalist framing resulting in no significant improvement in the high school. Afrocentric ideology is a modern concept in response to racist and attitudes about black people. It is a black inspired ideology that affirms blacks in a white dominated society.

In the efforts to improve McClymonds High School in Oakland California a group of community advocates, The Black Front For Educational Reform (BUFFER), started coalition with working class parents and concerned citizens to transform the high school. Then BUFFER grew in size from roughly 30 local community individuals to 125 individuals from professors to attorneys. With the original BUFFERS the plan was simple, improve specific issues related to the day-to-day experiences of students, what the school lacked, but also what students at the school needed to survive.

First, although many of its members shared the same ideology about the need to improve the conditions for black students at McClymonds High School, there was conflict about which strategy would best serve the needs of the students. (Shawn A. Ginwright 2002) The original working class members of BUFFER wanted to address the material issues such as textbook, facility structure, college prep courses, etc… The new BUFFERS convinced that the problem was from lack of positive ethnic identity and racial pride. They wanted to address educational inequality by implementing an Afrocentric curriculum. This gave the idea of self-esteem issues.

The Afrocentric curriculum did get approved and was implemented in the curriculum. For many students the new subject was not understood and Afrocentrism did not have any relevance to their day to day life experiences. The emphasis they placed on Afrocentric education diverted valuable resources to what could have been an effort to redress the pervasive inequality at the High. (Shawn A. Ginwright 2002) In reading the article it disclosed a serious gap in understanding of society needs between the middle class and the working poor class. Since the article was based on one case study, the results were skewed in favor of the author’s theory.

The reading does not provide the benefits obtained by the high school from incorporating an Afrocentric curriculum or another case study that shows similar results. The author made an argument and used only one case study to verify his theory. The reading did provide some insight into the relationship between the two but it only provides inferred reasoning as to why there is a difference between the two. With two different social classes within the same organization, communication was really the necessity that was lacking to have a better outcome in the transformation of the high school. I would definitely recommend this read to a classmate

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