A detailed examination of the meeting of race and class in the experiences of the black middle class suggests that belonging to the black middle class brings with it shaky privileges.
by Mara Viveros-Vigoya, National University of Colombia, Bogotá, Colombia Numerous studies have shown that the Colombian population of African origin has the lowest income level, the poorest quality of life, the highest rate of child labor, the lowest rate of social security affiliation, and the highest demographic vulnerability of any group in Colombia (Urrea , 2004).
The experiences of those who grew up in black middle class households shows the tensions between race and class, where class positioning is not as simple as a measure of ones access to class privilege.
The middle class position becomes precarious for blacks as they engage in “white spaces”, because in these spaces they are defined as the “other” middle class.
The trouble with this categorisation is that it’s apt to mislead and fails to capture the experience of being black and middle class.
For a start, the idea that the black middle class engages in consumption for its own sake needs to be unpacked.
The analysis I present here refers to people living in the city of Bogotá, the majority of whom come from the Pacific Region, the area that has the largest proportion of Afro-descendent people in the country.
On the basis of an analysis of their social trajectories over the course of three generations – their own, their parents’, and their grandparents’ – we identify two main groups defined by the type of social mobility: those that reproduce the social situation of their parents and grandparents, and those that improve socially upon their forebears.
By many measures, the black middle class in South Africa has been growing rapidly since 1994.
Nevertheless, members of this group continue to occupy a complex and sometimes precarious position in society – one that requires constant renegotiation.