The growth of the black1 middle class in ‘post-apartheid’2 South Africa has become the subject of scholarly and public interest. Applying elements of discourse analysis to interview and group discussion based data, this article provides a qualitative thematic exploration of two pressures that confront a group of black middle-class professionals residing in Johannesburg, South Africa. The first pressure is the experience of being black under the hegemonic white gaze and the second is the experience of the marshalling black gaze. The complexities of occupying the positions of being black and middle class and of living with the scrutiny of two gazes concurrently, is explored. The findings suggest that the white gaze persists in seeking to negatively mark and destabilise black professionals and profiting off covert and paradoxical mobilisations of race discourses as a means of bolstering whiteness. On the other hand, the black gaze serves to police the boundaries of what acceptable blackness is. Under this gaze, the professional, black middle class is perceived as having sold out to whiteness and abandoned given conceptions of blackness. The tensions arising out of navigating these dialectical disciplining gazes suggests that this group holds the tenuous position of being corralled from the ‘outside’ and ‘inside.’ The research, however, reveals the complex ways in which racialisation continues to shape black lives alongside the less rigid identity possibilities for blackness that move beyond essentialised identity performances.
Response to "On Being Black and Middle Class"
Shelby Steele uses a select choice of diction, word choice, and language to her advantage in order to convey "being black and middle class". A perfect example is when Steele says, "Not long ago a friend of mine said to me that the term "black middle class" was actually a contradiction in terms. Race, he insisted, blurred class distinctions among blacks. But today, when I honestly look at my life and the lives of many other middle-class blacks I know, I can see that race never fully explained our situation in American society." The author uses strong diction and tone, along with words such as contradiction and blurred to explain that American society has a problem with distinguishing classes by race. His well-built belief that being black does not automatically put you into a certain class is greatly exhibited. Another great example in which Steele uses intricate language to convey his ideas was when he said, "...Still, hate or love aside, it is fundamentally true that my middle-class identity involved a dissociation from images of lower-class black life and a corresponding identification with values and patterns of responsibility that are common to the middle class everywhere..." The complex language, through phrases like "fundamentally true" and "dissociation from images" help put across this idea that by being a middle-class black, his values are more associated with the common middle class white family and their values, instead of the stereotypical lower-class black life. Lastly, there's one more quote in which I thought Steele used diction and language to his advantage, and that was when he said, "This is a profound encumbrance today, when there is more opportunity for blacks than ever before, for it reimposes limitations that can have the same oppressive effect as those the