Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Ezra Wonders... Does "Street Cred" Matter To Middle-Class Black Folks?!?

[Editor's Note: AverageNation™ Week continues, with Ezra, who ponders a very simple question with an extremely complex answer. Last week, he shot me an email, asking from an outsider's PoV, why some (emphasis on the word "SOME") black folks are so hellbent on being "hood" and how middle-class black folks navigate this world as outsiders themselves. It's a thought-provoking question, and I hope all ya'll take a moment to weigh in. As usual, show our guest some love, you-know-where.]

I wrote the below email to AB, and because I'm such a good email writer here I am doing an AverageNation post... (Actually, the honor's mine.)
Dear AB,

In the middle-class black community how much weight is there put on being 'hood' or 'gangsta' or having 'street-cred'? My inner-city students generally love the thugs and gangsters but what is the breakdown with AverageBros/Sistahs? If one makes it out of the hood but is just a dentist, for example, do you have to 'keep it real' still? If you're black and not from the hood what kind of street-cred are you entitled to or required to have?

Just curious.

This is probably a set of questions that has a different answer for every different shade of skin-tone but it seems to me that there's the potential for a lot of fronting disparity in the black community as people either leave the hood or discover that their boarding school education and Doctor parents makes them out of touch. So what happens when said boarding school brother discovers Gangster Rap? What happens when a South Side sister discovers she'd rather finish Canterbury Tales than go clubbing? How can rich rappers live for decades in the highest 1% tax bracket and still claim street cred? If rap and playing ball gets you out of the hood then shouldn't your mind get out as well? You know their kids are now the dorky ones at prep schools.

And furthermore, how can Kid Cudi get away with wearing skinny jeans?

Question: Give me the unwritten rules in your family, neighborhood, or in your own head that define how real one should keep it and what exactly do you keep if only your skin-tone entitles you to keep it? If you've left the projects, do you miss it? If you've never set foot in the hood do you worry you'll be outed? AverageWhiteNation wants to know.

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