The class divide is, in my opinion, one of the most important and overlooked factors in the rise of Black Lives Matter, led by a new generation of college graduates and students.I hear about it from my students at Harvard, about the pressure they feel to rise, yes, but also the necessity to then look back to lift others.They were youngsters when Hurricane Katrina engulfed New Orleans — for a time the ultimate symbol of inequality of income and opportunity — and teenagers when George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin. Black women and girls haven’t escaped injustices, either.
Even before the outbreak of the Civil War, about 11 percent of Black America was free, some born into families that had been free for generations. in 1968, just as new affirmative action programs were beginning to expand drastically the ranks of black students on white campuses and thus to affect the class structure of Black America.
And in 1899, when Du Bois published his seminal sociological study, “The Philadelphia Negro,” he was already noting that these two classes had morphed into four: the middle class and above, working people (“fair to comfortable”), the poor and, in terms his Victorian contemporaries would have approved of, the “vicious and criminal classes.”Du Bois would probably be astonished to see how these classes have fared, especially since the death of the Rev. The Harvard sociologist William Julius Wilson calls the remarkable gains in black income “the most significant change” since Dr. When adjusted for inflation to 2014 dollars, the percentage of African-Americans making at least $75,000 more than doubled from 1970 to 2014, to 21 percent.
Forty-five years later, Du Bois would lament, this call had been largely ignored.
In “The Talented Tenth,” Du Bois called for “intelligent leadership” directed by “college-trained men” devoted to a “thorough understanding of the mass of Negroes and their problems” for the purpose of solving these problems, still so deeply entrenched a half century after the abolition of slavery.
A number of administrators have voiced strong support for these protests as well as an institutional will to change, be it renaming buildings or re-evaluating the makeup of their student body and faculty.
Change, even at the symbolic level, is difficult, of course, and it remains to be seen what this current wave of protests will accomplish.And we still confront the question that arose the moment the first slave ships arrived: Do black lives matter?It is into this whiplash environment of economic inequality that college students have come of age.Those making 0,000 or more nearly quadrupled, to 13 percent (in contrast, white Americans saw a less impressive increase, from 11 to 26 percent).Du Bois’s “talented 10th” has become the “prosperous 13 percent.”But, Dr.More than 30.4 million South Africans—55.5% of the population—live on less than 992 rand (about ) per person per month.The data, collected in 2015, is more optimistic than numbers from 2006, when two thirds of South Africans were living in poverty.Will the fight against police brutality, symbols of the Confederacy and society’s plethora of micro-aggressions become the basis of a broader movement for the improvement of underfunded public school education, for the right to a job with decent wages, and for the end of residential segregation that relegates the poor to neighborhoods with murder rates as alarming as those on the South Side of Chicago?What is certain is that the outrage that led to Black Lives Matter and its spinoffs will be with us for years to come unless these legacies of slavery and Jim Crow become remnants of a racist past. is co-author of “And Still I Rise: Black America Since MLK,” host of “Finding Your Roots” on PBS and director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard.What effect, many of us have worried, would this unprecedented rise in prosperity have on the New Millennials?Would they heed Du Bois’s call, as students like John Lewis and Julian Bond, Charlayne Hunter and Diane Nash did under the leadership of the “Negro Gandhi” presciently predicted by Du Bois back in 1948?