When Monique stepped on stage to accept her Best Supporting Actress award at the Oscars, residents in California could hear the residents in New York. Polemics and cheers ruled the Twitterverse and before I could click that update button, a torrent of tweets flooded my timeline.

“Thanks. Exactly what we need, another award for playing a debilitating African American character.”

“Why can’t people just be happy for a person’s victory?”

“The world sees us a certain way, and as long as we play our “role”, we’ll continue to get rewarded like this.”

I was among the throng who was vocal about Monique’s “victory.” But then a bad case of deja vu struck: How many times will black people have this argument among ourselves while schools are still closing, the prison industrial complex inches upward and sexual transmitted diseases continue to ravage our community?

There’s a term for this: intellectual classism.

Many think of classism only in the corporeal sense. Money and status are the predominate prisms of how class is viewed in this country. Intellectual classism is not race dependent. Nor salary dependent. Nor gender dependent. Anybody of any sex of any race can and does exercise their right to assert mental superiority.

When it comes to the African-American community, the division between the “noble” and “commoners” are well-documented. Take for example: The Afristocracy and Ghettocracy. Money and educational level (in the degree sense) are basic determinants of admission into each.

Afristrocratic thought can’t fathom why other black people can’t see beyond the trees; ghettocratic thought doesn’t understand why other black people can’t see the trees.

“Get educated. Help yourselves out.” says the Afristocracy.

“Get off your high horse and help change some of these conditions. Not everybody has access to your resources” says the Ghettocracy.

Imagine a child dealing with tumult everyday before going to school. Every day. That child is marginalized before he/she even steps out the house.

Years of being the minority and dealing with the fecal gravity of damaging policies from politicians and country runners tend to exacerbates a superiority – or inferiority – complex of ANY kind.

Did Monique’s recent Oscar acquisition perpetuate the notion that there’s always a place in Hollywood for the stereotypical black role? Well, it certainly didn’t change it.

Does Tyler Perry’s career encourage that same thought? One would argue that it does, while another would say that his films are reflective of certain segments of black culture, like the Cosby Show.

In the midst of this ideological battle, Haiti is still in tatters. Detroit is turning into mini-Beirut. Drugs are tearing apart a family near you (or possibly yours). Inner-city war zones, diseases, abortions, sedentary lifestyles are destroying the proliferation of healthy African-Americans.

The achievement gap is widening, yet, many of us are concerned with determining who is out-cooning who. I’ve shared similar thoughts and have even wrote pieces examining this intellectual class warfare. But then I’ve seen the eyes of a child who was walking to school after a snowstorm.

This child could give a damn about how nuanced Spike Lee’s films are or how morally upstanding a Republican senator is. She just wanted to know where her next meal will come from.

There’s nothing wrong with having debates on the media and entertainers and political agenda. We must, as Malcolm X reminded us, not confuse the methods with the objectives. Who are we leaving this world behind to? How many children will have to raise themselves while we’re participating in fruitless moral debates?

While the rest of the world is dealing with realities beyond the effects of coonery, many black people in America would rather puff about standards of behavior. Until we get tired of asserting our intellectual supremacy, progress will be merely a wish.

And all we will be left with is just a lot of vaporous words.

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  • I can see both sides. I realize we cannot do all things all of the time. So maybe we’ll be on Twitter one night, bashing folks on the latest awards show, then go to work the next day helping secure human rights for some marginalized group. It’s not an all or nothing situation, this world we live in. Black folks need to be having discussions at all levels about what needs to be done and how we are perceived (both within and without the community). The whole “we have better things to focus on” argument has truth, but not absolute. That could be said all of the time about almost anything. One could say instead of writing blog posts, focus on reuniting Haitian families.

    I agree with the author in that I am tired of folks running around like the coon-police declaring who is and who is not shaming the race. Some folks are way too concerned with that and are doing much more harm by creating class divisions. Just because I have a few degrees doesn’t mean I get to go around saying who is an acceptable black image and who is not.

    • Kg1913

      Right! This is exactly the point the author is trying to make (in my opinion). It’s not an all or nothing discussion, but I must agree that there is far too much rhetoric, or as the author put it “fruitless moral debates”, going on. It seems like the peak of these debates came about when the CNN series “Black in America” debuted. We’ve got to recognize that media is a powerful tool, which in the past has distracted and divided the Black community from taking action, and continues to do so today. I hope to see more of my people WORKING towards a better Black America, rather than JUST talking about one. We know what the problems are, and more or less who caused them, let’s get to work on the solutions.

  • Jase

    I was just wondering who you were the writer // I believe in a lot of what you had to say and I applaud you for speaking up


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  • Jimmy

    “Inner-city war zones, diseases, abortions, sedentary lifestyles are destroying the proliferation of healthy African-Americans.”

    That’s very clever to slip in “abortion” on a list of bad things. The author is subtly pushing their own political agenda there. That’s very hypocritical, especially as the tone of the article is children having poor role models and having to “raise themselves.” More unwanted children results in more children being abandoned on their own into this world that has no place for them.

  • Dot

    I believe that this cultural war among blacks will stop when some sort of catastrophe pulls those of the Afristocracy back down among those within the Ghettocracy. Until then, the war isn’t done!