Shit Bougie Black People Love: 23. Thinkpieces

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Whether they're injecting facts to conversations ("Speaking of Obama's speech on ISIS, did you know 'Malia' is a Hawaii name meaning 'calm and peaceful'?"), providing obscure tidbits ("I know everyone loved Forgetting Sarah Marshall, but Jason Segel's best role was in Bye Bye Benjamin"), using smart sounding words ("That trope harkens back to a deconstructionist narrative") or making analogies ("Ray J is the Derrick Rose of reality TV"), Bougie Black People relish opportunities to show everyone exactly how educated they are.

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This is done for two reasons:

1. Education is a Bougie Black status marker, no different than an Uber account or an awkward selfie on a mountain bike trail, and proving that they're educated allows them to self-identify. If they're ever in a new environment and immediately need to know who the other Bougie Black People are, all they'll have to do is notice the person who segues a conversation about pizza into an "unpacking of the racialized history behind the gluten-free movement."

2. They spent — and still owe — $750,000 for the education that enabled them to become the Assistant Deputy to the Deputy of Deputy Operations, so they still feel a need to apply everything learned in each of the seven African-American studies electives they took.

Still, Bougie Black People are aware that outward attempts to prove their knowledge can be obnoxious. Rude, even. So, they've embraced the thinkpiece and have allowed it to be both a vessel and a proxy for their smartness.

The thinkpiece — when a writer spends several hundred words articulating a smart-sounding angle on either a topic everyone is talking about or a topic no one has ever talked about — only ranks behind "the bottomless mimosa" and "Melissa Harris-Perry" when listing inventions most crucial to Bougie Black life, as it gives them four different ways to show everyone how smart they are. They can write one, comment on one, reference one in a regular conversation ("Did you read Coates' piece on croissants this morning?"), and even just post one on their Facebook page under the status "Exactly!"

Also, because most Bougie Black People have "jobs" but don't actually "do much of anything at work," the thinkpiece and the thinkpiece farms they sprout from keep them occupied during the day. Which is great for everyone, because you can't have a bunch of unoccupied Bougie Black People running around all day. Someone might get hurt.

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB, a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, and the author of What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker (Ecco/HarperCollins)

DISCUSSION

taehoffman-disqus
T.A.E. Hoffman

So is bougie code for white? Just wondering. I'd probably be considered one of those bougie black folks you're talking about. I'm currently working towards the completion of my MA, will probably go on to get my PhD, I studied journalism in undergrad, blogged for several years (nothing as prestigious as VSB), and I write think pieces. Nah, I just write cause that's what writers do. We think about stuff then write about it. Now I get the humor and I understand that there is a lot of poorly crafted and uninspiring writing floating around the web but this pretense about the educated being bougie is gnawing at me. I've been noticing that a lot lately especially on Black centered blogs and sites, this kind of collective side eye at Black folks who reach for the information they're going into debt to acquire when trying to articulate a point or engage in debate/discussion. That dig about pulling from your AA studies reader? I'll admit I've taken it there with a few people myself but on the real AA studies departments/courses save lives and the more Black people we have reading Black scholars and theorists and attempting to apply what it is they've learned the better. So I'm wondering if this shaming of Black intellectuals is an extension of the whole "you make good grades, you're a whitey" schtick that used to fly in middle and high school. Like if you aspire to be well-read and knowledgable and aren't too shy/afraid/ashamed to show it you are somehow disconnected from a more "authentic" blackness. Is that what it is or am I way off?