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Our Kinds of People

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Essay title: Our Kinds of People

Cultural capital is specialized knowledge. They are symbols that you are given access to because of your upper class status. The children’s club Jack and Jill is full of these symbols. It is believed that the original Jack and Jill nursery rhyme was French and written about the beheadings of King Louis XVI and his bride Queen Marie Antoinette. The lyrics were changed to make the song more appealing to children. It later became a tale of sacrifice. In Our Kinds of People the children had to make sacrifices when in the club, and because of their association other children teased them (Graham, 1999, p.35) On all the Jack and Jill chapter websites that we came across the first thing it states underneath the chapter name is, “Providing nurturing and guidance for our future leaders” (www.jjfarwest.org/phoenix/). The phoenix chapter goes on to list their mission statement as follows; “Our mission is to provide an avenue for our children to develop bonds that will foster spirituality, strong leadership skills, achievement and lifelong friendships. These bonds will lead to strong, positive images, promote sharing and caring, and support our children as they participate in age appropriate community and educational activities” (www.jjfarwest.org/phoenix/). Each year, the organization publishes an annual yearbook called Up the Hill, which features photos and reports from local chapters as they detail service, cultural, and social activities of the prior year. (Graham, 1999, p. 34)

The many different chapters, as well as the prestigious clubs for the men and women, portray cultural capital. They all must hold keys to get accepted into the groups. In Preparing for Power they needed to hold certain keys to be able to further their lives in the elite group. We think that the processes were very similar in both books. In Preparing for Power as well as the movie, Born Rich, it talked about living up to your family name and following in your parent’s footsteps. In Our Kinds of People it is just as important, although the context differs slightly, in that with the blacks it was not only a class issue but a color issue as well. In the book Lawrence Otis Graham even mentions that he had his nose altered and was instructed from his grandmother at a young age to stay out of the sun so his black skin didn’t get any darker.

We think that Graham’s concerns about there being black elite are justified. Blacks have taken skin color to an extreme in labeling others and making fun of their own people on the same heritage. They even made up a rhyme to describe what color is appropriate.

“If you’re light, you’re all right,

If you’re brown, stick around

But if you’re black, get back” (Graham, 1999, p.378).

Not all black elite feel the same but many do pass, which means that they have been able to pass as a white person by changing their names, hair color and eventually all aspects of their lives. Segregation of lighter skinned blacks began back in the days of slavery when lighter skinned slaves were allowed to work inside the home of their owners receiving better food, working environment and treatment. “Not surprisingly, both whites and ‘house niggers’ came to consider the dark skinned ‘field niggers’ to be less civilized and intellectually inferior (Graham, 1999, p.7).

With the passing of the segregation and Jim Crow laws lighter blacks saw passing as a way of making a new life for themselves. “The Jim Crow state not only forced men and women into semiautonomous and defiant communities, it also fixed boundaries around privilege and citizenship. The abilities and rights to vote, to provide one’s children with a suitable education, to live in a paved and electrified neighborhood, to drink clean water from a clean facility, to check out a book from a lending library, to obtain a fair trial, and to ally one’s self, psychically, with the ruling body, these were unquestionable tied to one’s whiteness” (www.jimcrowhistory.org). Passing did not always come easily and it was not without risks. The person that passed must always be on guard that someone in the black community might give away their secret. Passing also meant the person must sever all ties with family and friends.

Racism is described not only in color but also in intelligence. “Ideology racism is a broad viewpoint that (1) sees certain physical characteristics, such as skin color, to be unchangeable and to be linked in a casual way to cultural or intellectual characteristics and that (2) on the basis distinguishes between superior and inferior racial groups” (Social Problems, 1997, p.113). Not all blacks are equal in the elite group. It talks about a time when Graham went to a girlfriend’s house and her father was very appalled that he

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