Start Them Early: The Role of Independent Schools in the Making of a New Black Elite Class

Chinyere Odim, Brown University

Over just a few generations, a substantial cohort of Black people in the United States have formed what can be understood as a class of “Black Elites,” those both racialized as and culturally Black, and yet, existing in the world as part of the social and cultural elites of society. Oftentimes, studies of cultural elites take a race-neutral approach, failing to recognize that the social processes of white people are not one-size-fits-all. Gaps in sociological literature indicate a lack of nuanced understanding of implications of race in elite class formation. This project considers the formation of a new Black elite class through analyses of coloniality, racialized modernity, and Black feminist thought. With existing literature on the history and formation of a Black elite class largely focused on how they distinguish themselves from other Blacks through admission to elite colleges, occupation selection, and formation of social groups, this work aims to stretch such notions by arguing for the influence of well-resourced, privatized secondary educational institutions in building and sustaining such a class. This work has several components; the first, explorations of previous literature on elite formation theory and the history of progressive and meritocratic elite education to trace linkages between individual analyses of racialized modernity, coloniality, and Black subjectivity to the context of education and modern day Black elites. Secondly, I incorporate empirical data from Black alumni of elite independent schools to understand how they make meaning from their academic trajectories and social positioning. Lastly, I present arguments toward the formation of a new Black elite through neocolonial educational processes and gendered subjectivity.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 139. Exclusion and Symbolic Politics