Traveling with Twain

In Search of America's Identity

Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson defines the four classes of black America

Eugene Robinson spoke to us in his office at the Washington Post, where he’s a Pulitzer-prize winning columnist. On one of many book-lined shelves in his office, there’s a piece of paper stuffed among coffee mugs, his nameplate and a trophy. It’s a bit of mail he received from a reader: a picture of a stern-looking old lady giving the finger. We weren’t sure what to make of it, and Robinson wasn’t either—there was no note inside the envelope.

In any case, Robinson knew exactly how to summarize his latest book, Disintegrated: The Splintering of Black America, about what he calls a “new taxonomy of black America.” Whereas a few generations ago there were “black leaders” and a “black agenda,” today the black community is split. Robinson identified four groups:

1. The Transcendents, or upper-class blacks with money and power, who are revered by everyone, regardless of race (think Oprah and Obama).

2. The Mainstream, or black Americans who have established themselves in the middle class.

3. The Emergent, which comprises immigrants from Africa and the Carribean, as well as biracial Americans.

4. The Abandoned, made up of blacks who haven’t gained access to the middle class, and have been deeply affected by the failing education system and the decline of the inner city. Robinson said he looks at the Abandoned as in need of a Marshall Plan, and we have to concentrate our resources to help them.


Video by Dan

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