POS334-L: THE RACE AND ETHNICITY BOOK REVIEW DISCUSSION LIST

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Ellis Cose, THE RAGE OF A PRIVILEGED CLASS (Harper Collins, 1993)

From Subject
"Erik Johnson"<eejohns@ilstu.edu> RAGE OF A PRIVILEGED CLASS by Ellis Cose
Kaiulani S. Lie kalie@ilstu.edu The Rage of a Privileged Class (Lie)
petrita salazar<plsalaz@ilstu.edu> The Rage of a Privileged Class (Salazar)
Date: Wed, 22 Mar 1995 16:07:11 -0600
From: "Erik Johnson" <eejohns@ilstu.edu>
Subject: Review of RAGE OF A PRIVILEGED CLASS by Ellis Cose

Hidden Rage

In Great Britain, there is a distinctive class system based on the sound of one's accent. The lowest or working class have voices that sound very much like Mick Jagger. The middle class accent sounds similar to John Major. If you are in the upper class, then your accent sounds very much like the voices in the royal family. No matter how successful one eventually becomes, they cannot escape the stigma attached to their own voice.

Consequently, it is almost impossible to move out of one's class, regardless of one's accomplishments or failures. Despite the fact he is a much bigger success, Mick Jagger is still a much lower class than Prince Charles.

In America, we also have a class system. However, our system is much simpler. Class is based on the color of skin. There are two classes: white people and everybody else. No matter how much of a success or failure you become, you cannot change the color of your skin, which designates your
class.

In RAGE OF A PRIVILEGED CLASS, Ellis Cose examines the problems of middle class (successful) blacks. Cose's thesis is that successful blacks feel more alienated from society than even more so than the larger black underclass which is not successful. They have done everything that white society has asked of them, but they still do not feel like they are being treated as equals. They are still feared by strangers, distrusted by shopkeepers, and harassed by police.

Furthermore, they can no longer relate to the rest of the African American community because many of them view the middle class as "selling out" to the white man in order to become successful. Not wanted by the white community or the black community, the middle class African American feels increasingly isolated, Cose's book consists mainly of stories and anecdotes of middle class blacks (Like Cose) who despite their many successes feel that they still do not belong. He uses these examples to illustrate the point that no matter how big you become you still cannot escape the fact that you are black.

On the matter of Affirmative Action, Cose is not a big fan. He views it as aonce useful tool that now does more harm than good. African Americans no are suffering from Affirmative Action's stigma. Once a black gets a job
at an organization, they are viewed as underqualaified by the rest of the organization. The consequence is that they are never given a chance to advance in the organization. Affirmative Action is helping to create the glass ceiling.

Furthermore, Affirmative Action is causing widespread resentment in the white community which fuels prejudice and even more discrimination. Cose sees Affirmative Action as something that must either be drastically reformed or scraped completely.

I thought Cose's best moments were when outlined his reasons for why middle class African Americans felt so isolated, which he coined the "Dozen Demons." Among those reasons were that blacks are being excluded from white social circles. They are suffering from their white superiors who are
assuming them to fail. The praise that they receive is either faint or underhanded. They are given jobs in organizations that are viewed as "blacks only" jobs . Often times they find themselves afraid to speak out against
racism in an organization, out of fear they will be labeled a trouble maker.

Finally, they suffer from guilt by association: if one African American is a criminal, then all are viewed as criminals.

America is no longer as racist as it was 40 years ago, but racism still exists. It is no longer overt, but covert and is much harder to rid ourselves from because it is an unconscious, almost acceptable racism. It is passed down from generation to generation, parent to child, friend to
friend. This is the racism that middle class blacks encounter every day.

Cose offers no solutions, but at least opens our eyes to a problem that was previously ignored.

--Erik Johnson
eejohns@ilstu.ed

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Date: Sun, 26 Mar 1995 14:58:38 -0600
From: Kaiulani S. Lie kalie@ilstu.edu
Subject: Review: The Rage of a Privileged Class (Lie)

Review of Ellis Cose, THE RAGE OF A PRIVILEGED CLASS (Harper Collins, 1993)
Reviewed By:
Kaiulani S. Lie
kalie@ilstu.edu
Illinois State University
March 25, 1995

Subjective Viewpoints

Today Blacks have made significant advances in the opportunities they
are presented with and the type of jobs they hold, but does that mean that they do not continue to face discrimination or that they are not seen as different from mainstream America? Middle-class and upper-class blacks do not seem to be happy with their status, but if they have achieved their career goals and made a good life for themselves why aren't they satisfied? If blacks are able to attain a higher status in society today is affirmative action still necessary? Does affirmative action really create quotas and a system of reverse discrimination? These are the topics addressed by Ellis Cose in his book _The Rage of a Privileged Class_.

Cose agrees that blacks have made great advances since the slavery ended and the civil rights movement began, however this does not mean that blacks that have made it in our society should be content. He points out several cases in which race was used as the determining factor in a situation, such as in the way a person was treated by police, the way co-workers treated an employee, and more.

It was quite eye opening. It proves Cose's point that Blacks are seen as different because of their race and this leads to them being treated differently by others. The stereotypes of the past still prevail, such as the idea that Blacks are not as smart as whites, they are lazy, they are less qualified than whites, and that they are different. When whites have these notions about blacks, it makes them see blacks as different and thus treat them differently. When Blacks continue to see these stereotypes acted on, it tends to give them a bad image about themselves and their race.

It is the prevailing stereotypes that Cose is angered by, that regardless of the rights and opportunities Blacks have they are still viewed by their color.

If a Black has made something out of his life, he is not seen by these achievements but by the color of his skin. When they are seen this way, the stereotypes come into play and this makes it increasingly harder for Blacks to prove themselves and get ahead in our society.

Although Cose does not directly state his position on affirmative action, it is clear that he feels a new form of affirmative action is necessary. Until Blacks are judged by their merits and not by their skin color, they will never be given a fair chance to advance in American society. The current system of affirmative action gives minorities token jobs, jobs that look good on paper but do not really give minorities a chance to advance. A system that promotes diversity in hiring (and in college admissions), allows people equal opportunity to prove their merit, and promotes people based on merit.

One major factor that I think limits the advancement of minorities in corporations is that a majority of them are run by whites. People want to be around others like them, so they would want to hire or promote others that are like them.

In a corporation that is headed by whites this (more than likely) means that the race of people at the top will be white. This all relates back to Cose's point that Whites see blacks as different. Whites do not try to find the things they might have in common with Blacks or try to get to know blacks. I know that this is a generalization, but if you look at our society today we are still very much segregated. Whites try to keep Blacks out of their neighborhood, blacks and whites tend not to intermingle with each other on college campuses, and the list goes on and on. This may be because of the long history of segregation between Blacks and Whites, as Cose speculates. This segregation has, at least, made it harder for people of either race to relate to each other. It has made them feel that it is unnecessary to relate to the other races. Our society has been called a 'melting pot', numerically we are but socially that statement is a farce.

Although I do not think there is one clear cut solution to the racial problems in our country, there are some things that can be done. I agree that our system of affirmative action needs to be changed. It does not truly promote diversity or protect minorities from racial or gender discrimination. Blacks may be able to get jobs in prestigious companies, but they get stuck in dead end jobs. It takes them longer to get promoted

They are treated as though they are less capable than whites.

Whites and blacks, also, need to learn to see the racial situation in our country from an objective viewpoint. From the surveys Cose cited in his book, it is clear that they do not. Whites are more likely than blacks to believe that race does not matter in our society, that the racial situation has improved a lot over the years, etc. As the saying goes, until you have walked in another man's shoes do not judge him. Whites do not not know what it is like to be black, and they do not know the discrimination and racism that minorities still face. Blacks do not know what Whites are thinking when they act a certain way, yet they perceive certain actions to be racist or derogatory towards them when they are not at all intended to be.

What everybody needs to realize is that if we want our country to survive, if we want our economy to prosper, it is in everybody's interest to try to understand and accept each other no matter what race or gender they are. Cose brings up how racially integrated the United States Army is

This is because they are forced to work together. They are not judged by their individual actions but by how their squadron or platoon does. Maybe if companies had employees work together as a group, they would get to know and understand each other. Using this practice could help end the segregation of races. If employees of companies learn about each other and begin to understand each other they will be able to get along better, which will help their productivity, and this will make the company better. It will, furthermore, aid society because it will get rid of some of the negative stereotypes that exist today. It will lead us to being more united than we ever have been.

If we are to accomplish this though, the struggle will be hard. We have to break out of the comfort zones that we are used to. We have to learn about each other and show respect for each other. I think this is what Cose wants. He wants us to break out of the stereotypes that were set so long ago and work towards getting along with each other. He is very pessimistic about the future of race relations, and who can blame him? Racial tensions seem to be getting worse, and people seem to be tired of dealing with the whole issue.

Everybody in our society needs to be able to talk about race openly.

Otherwise racial issues will never be adequately addressed, or not even brought up at all. How are we supposed to make our society better if we can not even talk about the problems that are in it? It is the responsibility of all, no matter what race, to try and help make our society better. The question is, who has the courage to take charge of such a sensitive issue.

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Date: Thu, 30 Mar 1995 13:07:50 -0600
From: "petrita salazar" <plsalaz@ilstu.edu>
Subject: Review: The Rage of a Privileged Class (Salazar)

Ellis Cose, THE RAGE OF A PRIVILEGED CLASS (HarperCollins, 1993)

Reviewed by: Petrita L. Salazar Illinois State University March 30. 1995

Measured by economic standards, more minorities, especially blacks are doing better than ever before. This progress can be confirmed by statistics, and by their increasing presence in every aspect of the "elitist" lifestyle. They aare also progressin in prominent political postitions, as well as athletics and entertainment. By most standards, this seems to be progress. Yet, despite this seemingly evident prosperity, a large number of American middle class Blacks are trapped in a silent rage due to the racism they encounter. Why is this? Why don't they see themselves as prosperous individuals who have achieved success? Why do they see themselves as victims of discrimination that have been completely ignored?

Ellis Cose attempt to give answers for all these questions in his book "THE RAGE OF A PRIVILEGED CLASS". He describes in infinite detail the bitterness and rage felt among friends and colleagues. All of which hold somewhat prominent positions in management or professional organizations, have nice homes, attended good colleges, and have sizeable incomes. Yet, by their own standards, they have not nearly achieved to their fullest potential. These colleagues that Cose refers to time and time again, feel that they have played by the rules of the American dream (ie. work hard, get a good education) and you should be allowed to advance and achieve success. All of this, only to find that the dream was a delusion. A delsuion tt hid the reality that being black would hold them back, and the reality that the American dream was not meant for them. These colleagues claim to have only been allowed to achieve to a certain degree, and now have found themselves in dead end jobs which ususally have been created for public relations only. It is as though society is sending them signals that the ladder is open for them to climb, but when they start to climb, society tells them they don't belong on the same ladder. Whites are afraid of letting the Blacks get too close behind them, for fear that they will achieve to a greater degree.

Cose's book brings to light the fact that racism can be just as present and as intimidating in an air-conditioned office in the suburbs, as on an inner-city street. He claims that it may even be magnified for those who paid their dues to society. Clearly racism continues to exist in our most respected institutions. Most of those who Cose interviewed were brought in to work with "special markets" or "urban affairs" or "corporate diversity" and were not intended to be tracked toward broader responsibilities. Cose claims that despite the continuing relevance of racism, middle class blacks seem to hold on to hope that at work they will be treated fairly - "this even in a society that keeps neighborhoods racially separate and often makes after hours social relations awkward will properly reward hard labor and competence" (P.55). What most discover is that the racial demons that have plagued them all of their lives do not recognize business hours

The demons in which he terms "A Dozen Demons" plague the business world of blacks at different levels of intensity.

An inevitable question that comes to mind when reading this book is "How much black prosperity can be attributed to Affirmative Action?" Cose makes no apologies or excuses for such policies, since he feels that it is the only way for Blacks to get a fair chance at success. To expect that abolishing affirmative action would make Black intellectual capabilities easier to prove is quite naive, and to suggest that affirmative action has nothing to do with the true victims of racism is absurd, because racial problems and raical stereotypes transcend through every level of society

However, he suggests that affirmative action policies will never bring blacks into "parity with whites', but it does give them a better chance at getting ahead than they would have without it.

Cose claims that most White people are not racist, if a racist is defined as one who hates blacks. It is doutbful that most White Americans feel repugnance for the entire black race; if they do, it is at a subconscious, unacknowledged level. Even so, one does not have to express racism in the form of rage. It can be shown in much subtler forms, and can cause a great deal more pain than if it were openly displayed. In other words, a person does not have to cry from the rooftops " I'm a racist, and I hate blacks" to be a racist, and this is where the problem lies. White middle class society is too afraid to admit that they have preconceptions of blacks, so they pretend that they see them equally, but when it comes time for the promotion of the Black person, the preconceptions surface, and the Black person does not get the promotion that indeed he is entitled to. The ascription of inbred incapacity is the ultimate expression of racism, the one that is hardest to eradicate, because most Whites will deny that they hold this view, thereby making it the hardest to overcome.

All of this is bothersome enough, but what hurts members of the Black middle class the most is that they are held responsible for the sins of the Black underclass. It is as though society expects the middle Class Blacks to be their brothers' keepers. Whites tend to claim that the best way to reduce racism is to reduce black crime. To that Mr. Cose responds that no logically thinking person would dare to assume or suggest that since organized crime has historically been run by Italians, that we should discriminate against all Italians until the Organized Crime Italians give up their wayward lives. This is totally preposterous. All society is to blame for the increase of crime in the underclass, and to hold Middle class Blacks responsible for all Black crime is absurd. Yet, that is precisely what is going on. To contend that we should penalize all members of a racial or ethnic group because some members are engaged in egregious behavior is the utmost form of discrimination.

If there is one sentiment throughout this book, it is that middle class blacks are tired of waiting for their fair share, and tired of being held responsible for someone else's actions. Speaking from a middle class Mexican-American frame of mind, this sentiment is completely understood.

There is no upbeat or hopeful ending in this book, but Cose seems to be attempting to reach a wide audience (Whites as well as Blacks) in supervisory positions, since it is their attitudes and actions that have caused Middle class Blacks so much grief. With this type of audience in mind, an upbeat ending might send someone the idea tht things are getting better; An idea that Cose certainly does not want to present. Instead, he wants to send the reader home with things to think about; personal attitudes and beliefs that one might be hiding, and that is exactly what he accomplishes. -- Petrita Salazar plsalaz

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