We done fronting yet?

Posted: May 26, 2009 in Uncategorized

So there’s an article today in the Wall Street Journal of all places on “The culture of bling clangs to earth.” As an avid reader of the J, I’m always somewhat amused at their coverage of the underclass. Particularly the illustrations of, oh, let’s call them, “urban” types. What’s interesting to me is that what we often privately think about some of the excesses of our culture are highlighted in ways that really let you know how ridiculous some of what we have come to accept as “black” culture is. When you see a Li’l Jon (fuck happened to him?) pendant festooned with cheap diamonds that weighs five pounds (Guinness Book of World Records holder for largest diamond pendant) across from an editorial about Obama’s economic initiatives to solve the largest economic recession in a generation, it’s hard not to look at the King of Crunk and wonder:

“What the fuck are you doing?”

or better:

“What the fuck are WE doing?”

It would be one thing if this was behavior limited to a small subclass of black folks “from the street.” There’s some nice liberal, apologist thinking that can justify a lot of this excess. I mean, if you grew up with holes in your Zapatos, you’d celebrate the minute you was havin’ dough (I made that line up myself). Who are we to rain on the parade of people who’ve made it from rags to riches by criticizing their showy displays of gemologic pride?

The problem as I see is that this whole “spend every dollar” mindset has migrated up the socioeconomic ladder to people that should damn sure know better. Which was cool and all during the heady times of the mid double O’s, but, uh, it’s a recession, everybody going broke. And since we’ve created a culture where so much of our worth as people is tied up in our ability to display the accoutrements of wealth (real wealth be damned as long as we look hood rich), what happens now that the rug has been pulled out from that particular little fantasy. What’s particularly interesting to me is the comparison to the way “others” of the same basic socioeconomic status and age group differ from us in their relationship to conspicuous consumerism. I’ve had the chance to interact with “them” for the past year in grad school. And I have yet to go to a party with them where bottle service is ever offered as a primary offering. They go to pub crawls and drink PBR. Clubbing for them is enjoyment, not a social status contest. But I remember going to homecoming last year and the STUDENTS were getting bottle service. Like seriously, you’re barely out of high school, haven’t made a dime of your own money, and are already setting up the public persona as a “baller.”

(I was looking for a picture to prove my point and all I had to do was go to any random party pic site and look  at the first page of pics for any given party. What do they show? Bottles, chains, and cars in the parking lot. That’s what supposedly makes a party worth going to. Not the people, just the accoutrements of wealth. In case you were mistaken, and thought it was the actual people. I threw in a picture of a girl with big boobs for good measure. I do heart big boobs).

So here’s the question: What now? I mean we all know that all of this was financed on easy credit which has disappeared. Are we going to run that Visa until we tap out trying to extend the fantasy for one last dance? Or is the point where we actually throw up the white flag and actually get our social status from our accomplishments and talents?

Just my thoughts,

B St. R

  1. ASmith says:

    We let the “underclass” (I’ll stick with urban) define us.

    Like we have to prove we’re black to them.

    To prove we’re black to them, we spend the money we make on things that depreciate in value, or at least OUGHT to depreciate in value and we use the clout and respect we’ve earned to force the same ideals on other unsuspecting individuals.

    I love your point on how the “others” do it. They’ll drink cheap beer QUICK and aren’t ashamed of it. It’s about being social, not about being seen. We really gotta redefine a good time. We put way too much pressure on all the wrong things.

  2. Chuck says:

    I definitely appluad you on bring up a topic such as this. Its very important for ppls of communities to address issues that do not necessarily bring positive limelights to upward mobility to minorities of culture. However, I think ppl need to stop making definig lines of them and us.

    I am a young black professional, own a condo in new york city, job on wall street, and director of non-for ptofit, and i udnerstand the difference between acting like you balling trying to be seen and just out to have a good time not worrying bout anyone else and not trying to front like you got money like that. Ive from the hood and understand know the mentality. The thing you have to do is not care what other ppl think, and it starts with you. I dont make a defining line between them and us. We are all a community and we all need a little more guidance and understanding than others.

    That flashy lifestayle is not for me, but i will say that when i go out lots of ppl know who i am. Not tryin to make any references or show boat, but i just do me. And as long as everyone does them, then its nothing.

  3. I think it’s the idea that we’ve internalized as black folks is that people assume we’re broke and we feel the onus is on us to prove them wrong. White folks don’t really suffer under that assumption. People just assume they’re white and must be doing OK, so they feel they have nothing to prove. Must be nice.

  4. ASmith says:

    Brandon St Randy — you’re right.

    But why can’t we go buy houses and property and ball like that? Why do we have to choose some of the most irresponsbile ways to “floss” (man, I’d be ok if we brought that word back)?

    Oprah didn’t become a billionnare spending every night out buying the bar and renting cars. But we know she’s rich.

    We gotta get away from neuvo-riche and be WEALTHY in body, mind, spirit and at the bank — but all in order.

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