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The word ‘postbourgie’ was coined during a semi-serious conversation with my friend, Ro. I’m not sure what prompted it, really. It was likely in the aftermath of Bill Cosby’s infamous pound cake speech. Or maybe some overheated panel discussion in which proper Negroes concern-trolled about ‘coonery’ in the media. Or maybe it was some dude lamenting how black folks have fared since The Great Fall from the Unparalleled Golden Age of Upstanding Negritude.
Anyway, we were raising our eyebrows at something, ‘cuz that’s how we got down. We both grew up in the ‘hood — she in Brooklyn, me in South Philly — so the classism that animates so many conversations about the Myriad Ills of Black America always seemed to make our antennae twitch, our side-eyes activate. We were, in fact, the kids folks were always talking about and preaching at! We couldn’t help but doled out impassioned eye-rolls to the teachers who said we ‘spoke well and to the bourgie folks who got indignant about ‘ghetto names.’ We didn’t do cotillions or frats or sororities. We didn’t know which forks to use. And we weren’t embarrassed by any of it, even though we kept getting the impression that we were supposed to.
ANYWAY. We were laughing because as young adults — news junkies, hip-hop heads, smart-asses and autodidacts — we were suddenly smack dab in the middle class, wielding much of the same privilege we’d always been distant from and criticized. We were skeptical toward the politics of respectability. And yet! We were now surrounded by and socializing with self-congratulating Negroes who patted each other on the back because they were about something and self-congratulating white folks who patted themselves on the back because they had black friends. (But damn it if we ain’t love the sushi!)
So where did we fit in?
We agreed that labels were silly and reductive. So, naturally, we created one.
“I guess we’re post-bourgie,” she said. Or I said. It doesn’t really matter. Then we chuckled.
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