Thursday, February 26, 2009

Nothing New About So Called "Newbos"

For three years, Lee Hawkins a Wall Street Journal Staff Reporter has been working on a project about the rise of what he calls the "Newbos," a slang term for New Black Overclass. Tonight, in a primetime slot on CNBC, he premiered his one-hour documentary, "Newbos: The Rise of America's New Black Overclass." I am sorry to report, but there was nothing novel or inspiring about Hawkins's documentary. The idea of the documentary was to profile black individuals who are so-called overclass. The word overclass gives the impression that these people have surpassed lower class, middle class and upper class and are now what Hawkins calls overclass.

Hawkins's documentary is unoriginal and just about as boring and annoying as CNN's "Black in America." The documentary did not provide any insight into this so called black overclass, individuals who are supposedly riding the wave of the Obama Presidency. The show featured the same run of the mill wealthy African-Americans who fall into one of two categories; entertainers or athletes. He profiled Lebron James, Kirk Franklin, Bob Jones, and Lil' Wayne among others. Sure Bob Jones is neither an athlete nor entertainer but legend has it he once owned an entertainment network. There is nothing new about this so called uber wealthy or overclass blacks. We have always had the same people, they have just had different names; Michael Jackson, MC Hammer, or Michael Jordan. If Hawkins' argument was that rich people of color just began to emerge in this century then he would have a documentary. Rather, his documentary if anything was stale and just a poor attempt at notoriety. Further, the narration in the documentary was boring and monotone.

I was hoping his documentary would profile wealthy African-Americans who are entrepreneurs with no ties to either entertainment or sports. I was looking forward to seeing scientists, attorneys, writers, engineers, and maybe the occasional movie producer who truly can be described as a new breed of African-Americans. African-American who have become wealthy by means other than atheletics and entertainment do exist. They live in almost every major American city! He did not have to profile Lil' Wayne who is notorious for drunken performances and profane lyrics as the new black overclass. Hawkins falls into the class of individuals who are hell bent on becoming noted for coining a new word. Throughout the one-hour special, he used the word "overclass" over and over in a painful attempt to make sure the viewer walked away believing that overclass is the new metrosexual.

Besides being stale and poorly produced, there is an actual danger in the idea of an "overclass black." Low income or even middle income blacks who watched the show or become familiar with the new word are somewhat liable to walk away thinking they have less worth because they do not fall into a certain income bracket. Further, the term overclass, and the focus of Hawkins' documentary further feeds into the mentality that to be a successful person of color, one has to be either an entertainer or an athlete. Becoming either of the two seems even more promising as the nation is in a recession. Hence, rather than tough it out in academia and face the uncertainty of unemployment, the get rich quick fields of entertainment and athletics are once again being peddled as perhaps the only channels to success for people of color. Sadly, the documentary seemed liked a cheap attempt for Hawkins to meet and fraternize with celebrities he fancies under the pretext of showing the American people something they already know. Want a real documentary made by a person of color? Then check out Mr. Spike Lee's "When the Levees Broke." Hawkins needs to find new material and ditch this idea of a black overclass, it's a train that is sure to derail.

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