Friday, January 28, 2011

three black races in the USA? ghetto, muslim, middle class, and...?

Anyone who follows me knows I'm fascinated by the fact that African Americans see a widening gulf between the values of middle class and poor blacks, and nearly four-in-ten say that because of the diversity within their community, blacks can no longer be thought of as a single race. I've also been mulling Saladin Ahmed's claim that “Muslim,” in our current societal moment, connotes a racialized group. A couple of days ago, I ran across a blog where someone was complaining about the use of "ghetto", especially when describing young people, as a euphemism for "African American".

And, lo, I was enlightened.

My first realization was that the blog writer, a middle class antiracist, had missed the point. "Ghetto" does not mean "black." It means "poor black."

And then, the big one: If you're going to divide people into races, something I continue to think is the Age of Enlightenment's most foolish idea, there are at least three black races in the US:

1. Ghetto, formerly known as "urban", covers poor blacks.

2. Middle class, which in American means "not working class", covers the black middle and upper class.

3. Muslim covers Muslims of color and implies that white Muslims are culture traitors.

Have I missed any?

ETA: Yes. Philocrites pointed out in the comments that I missed:

4. Poor rural black folks. Does popular culture have a shorthand for them?

ETA 2: To clarify, I'm not accepting these racial categories. I'm seeing them being used and trying to understand how they're being used. I think the first two are favored by people who are avoiding talking about class, and the third, by people who're uncomfortable talking about ethnicity.