The Role Of The Social Class In Sag Harbor, By Colson Whitehead

1375 Words 6 Pages
While many men face criticism for their decisions and lifestyles, those who advance from lower societal positions often encounter harsh judgment by those who remain in the original social class. Additionally, when people achieve a new social status, the new social class hesitates to accept the outsiders. Colson Whitehead addresses the struggle with negotiations many black men encounter as they try to navigate a balance between their past, commonly a life of poverty and crime, with their future, a comfortable life with money and success. In Whitehead’s novel Sag Harbor, Reggie’s father portrays the conflict many successful black men bear. Coming from a working class family, the father must learn how to transition into the role of an Upper …show more content…
The novel states, “Folks of this type could pick Bootstrapping Striver or Proud Pillar, but the most popular brands were Militant or Street, Militant being the opposite of bourgie capitulation to The Man, and Street being the antidote to Upper Middle Class emasculation” (58). There is a contrast emerging between ‘Street” and “emasculation.” Street describes the men who embrace the urban lifestyle and often justify their decisions as survival. Emasculation means to rip away all characteristics of virility and manhood. Emasculation implies that one is not as strong or macho as the male counterparts. The belief in the “emasculation” of black men in the Upper Middle Class comes from the notion that the successful men have to sell out and conform to The Man in order to become wealthy; therefore, the men who advance from the working class streets to a higher social status often lose respect from their old neighborhood. Finally, “antidote” refers to a cure or remedy that prevents or treats a condition. The antidote created by maintaining street credibility prevents the loss of machismo. Because there is an extreme contrast between street and emasculation, antidote serves to provide a negative outlook on advancement, particularly because being in the Upper Middle Class is treated as if it is a preventable or curable disease. One must often choose between remaining loyal to his culture and embracing …show more content…
Similar to Reggie’s father in Whitehead’s novel, by not completely belonging to any part of society, men who are originally from lower social classes are often flustered and caustic with their lifestyle choices. The questioning of their manliness also contributes to confusion as they try to balance both worlds: the one from the past with the one from the present. The negotiations that occur as a result of mobility, advancement, and success force men to acquiesce and accept new expectations and living conditions while still clinging on to the parts of their past lives that remind them of the men they used to

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