As for those debutante cotillions…well, what can I say?
(As in: You will be dropped if you miss too many meetings—unless, of course, you’re a legacy.
You are likely to be shamed out of the ranks if your kids have the kinds of learning disabilities that preclude their becoming—at least! You can buy back into the ranks if you have enough money, influence, or celebrity.)A friend who declines to be identified describes his experience as a teenager in Jack and Jill: “You were taught to be an Adam Clayton Powell kind of black person. You learned how to dress up, and competed in memorizing long passages from Ellison’s Invisible Man or the Bible. If you succeeded in acting white, you succeeded at being an acceptable kind of black person.”Sigh.
She normally has trouble keeping her opinions to herself and even, spoilers to the public.
She purposely interferes with the characters to ensure that the story ends well. Cupid recently switched schools due to an assignment from her dad.
But maybe we’re poised for a new, more mixed up chapter in all this.
Last year, Michele Obama was made an honorary member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha, one of the oldest black sororities.
For those whose only exposure to upper class African American social organizations may be the black student organization on one’s college or grad school campus, well, brace yourselves: there’s a world of black debutantes out there, and they mean to do serious, social-climbing business, the wheels of their black BMWs and silver Mercedes Benzes sinking up to their plantinum hubcaps in the soft white sand of the beaches on Martha’s Vineyard, the North Fork of Long Island, and the islands off the coast of South Carolina.
Colson Whitehead’s novel, Sag Harbor, reveals a glimpse of this Cosby-inflected world of strivers, arrivistes and “black boys with summer houses.” These relatively well-off African Americans come largely from the ranks of what the novel’s narrator describes as “the magic seven”: doctors, dentists, lawyers, preachers, teachers, nurses, and undertakers.
In the first place, Obama’s mother was white, and membership in organizations such as Jack and Jill depends on mama-geniture (mother must be African-descended; it’s not as important that one’s father be black).
And since both of Michelle Obama’s parents were working class, it’s doubtful that they would have considered the hefty fees and consuming time commitments a priority, even assuming they’d have met the more social-climbing criteria that a number of such clubs emphasize.
This less-narrowly bounded vision of who can be a resource for whom is democratizing, energizing, a welcome step forward toward a collective future of mutual regard. Williams is the author of The Alchemy of Race and Rights; The Rooster's Egg; and Seeing a Color Blind Future: The Paradox of Race.