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The Rage of a Privileged Class: Why Are Middle-Class Blacks Angry? Why Should America Care? Paperback – December 2, 1994

4.5 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

There is a huge black middle class, many of whom are well educated, competent, and prosperous. Yet despite their great achievements, says Cose, they are frustrated and even enraged. He cites one survey after another to portray the subtle forms of prejudice that black professionals must endure: a black woman may be hired in public relations, say, but then whites will see the position as weak and nonintellectual, a job designed for blacks. A black male lawyer hired to fill a quota may file brilliant briefs, but he'll be held back from a partnership because affirmative action may get you in the door, but it quickly becomes a millstone. Cose considers every aspect of prejudice affecting blacks--the resentments of underclass blacks toward successful ones, complexion-based discrimination of blacks against blacks, white assumptions that all blacks are criminals because of media portraits of street thugs, white perceptions that blacks aren't good managers--even, with his extraordinary fairness, the frustrations of white males, many of whom feel that black advances come because they are discriminated against. Although Cose feels affirmative action has been helpful, he is ambivalent about it as a course for the future, instead favoring workplace models based on honest assessments of diversity; in some ways, though without the same faith in the ultimate justice of market forces, he carries forward the arguments of Stephen Carter's Reflections of an Affirmative Action Baby (1991). In any event, Cose has written an exceptionally reflective book, and serialization in Newsweek should assure demand. John Mort --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"A disciplined, graceful exposition of a neglected aspect of the subject of race in America."-- "New York Times Book Review"
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Harperperennial ed. edition (December 2, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060925949
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060925949
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #271,651 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Ellis Cose is a former columnist and contributing editor for Newsweek magazine who previously served as chairman of the editorial board of the New York Daily News. He began his journalism career as a weekly columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times and has been a contributor and press critic for Time magazine, president and chief executive officer of the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, and chief writer on management and workplace issues for USA Today. Cose has appeared on the Today show, Nightline, Dateline, ABC World News, Good Morning America, the PBS "Time to Choose" election special, Charlie Rose, CNN's Talk Back Live, and a variety of other nationally televised and local programs. He has received fellowships or individual grants from the Ford Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, among others, and has won numerous journalism awards including four National Association of Black Journalists first-place awards. Cose is the author of Bone to Pick, The Envy of the World, the bestselling The Rage of a Privileged Class, and several other books.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This book is a must read for those interested in race and race-relations, especially in the corporate world. Cose is an excellent writer, and I found the book very difficult to put down. Through interviews with successful Black lawyers, journalists, and corporate executives, Cose illustrates that material success does not render racial prejudice and discrimination impotent in the lives of people of color.
Cose sums up the central problem for Blacks in the corporate world as follows: "[S]enior corporate executives and senior partners in law firms are ... expected to conform to a certain image. And though their positions may not require golden hair and blue eyes, they do require the ability to look like--and be accepted as--the ultimate authority. To many Americans that image still seems fundamentally incongruous with kinky hair and black skin."
In other words, even the most successful African Americas cannot escape the American racial paradigm, which perceives character, merit, and prestige through a distorting lens of color.
One minor weakness of the book is Cose's tendency to focus on African American men; women comprise a minority of his interviews. Also, while many white collar African Americans work in the less ruthless public sector, Cose gives them short shrift.
For the reader uncomfortable with free-market capitalism, some of the interviewees may come off as materialistic and self-interested "company" men whose assimilationist values are defined by White corporate America. Therefore, at times it may be difficult to feel compassion for some of the men.
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Format: Paperback
Ellis Cose has written brilliantly with regard to the American Dilemma. This is without a doubt his best work. Cose has interviews with successful African-American men and women, including lawyers and corporate executives. What comes forth is a searing indictment of our society, and a warning with regard to (as James Baldwin wrote more than a generation ago) "the fire next time".

A central theme of the work makes clear that regardless of the rate of one's acknowledges material success; racial prejudice remains one of if not the most pervasive and oppressing impacts on the lives of people of color in this society.
"What is there to be angry about?", one may ask. Our President enjoys the benefits which have flowed to him solely due to his Father's success at Yale. At the same time, he decries as "unfair" a Law School's use of race to assist in determining which members of this generation will get to enjoy the same benefit. One person is unabashed about his ability to enjoy the blessings of an accident of birth. Another is challenged and denigrated for the temerity of seeking a corner of the same benefit.
Sometimes, seeing someone else explain the problem makes it not necessarily easier to deal with, but easier to understand (I guess in some way that leads to being easier to deal with). Often as I read this, I thought "yeah".
If the "privileged class", those who by virtually every yardstick appear to be "making it" (and have the most invested in this society) have this much rage, the feeling which is pervasive throughout much of the throughout the rest of Black America is something which must be resolved.
Anyone who thinks that we have got this problem of race in America solved ought to read this book.
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Format: Paperback
I read this book about a year after it first came out, but returned to it today after reading a New York Times Magazine piece on how Citigroup CEO Sandy Weill made it to the top. The reason the article made me pull Cose's book out of my bookcase again was because over and over again it described traits in Weill that experience taught me, and Cose's book confirmed would have resulted in the end of his career if he had been an Afro-American male: brash self-confidence; the tendency to explode in tirades at associates then at subordinates but make up with them with no dire effect on his career progress; a love of taking risks, etc. My own experience in the world of corporate journalism had long ago taught me that if an Afro-American male expects to survive in the corporate world, the last thing he better be is a brash, self-confident, risk taker (that will automatically get him labeled as arrogant), or a person who shows any sign of a temper (he'll be accused of an inability to get along with others or work in a team).
And Cose's book is filled with interviews and observations from Afro-Americans in banking, law, etc. who describe the destruction or paralysis of their careers for the same reason I left corporate journalism. All of this coupled with the lack of access to the level of capital some of our Caucasian counterparts get access to (Weill started on his road to becoming a man worth over $1 billion today by borrowing $30,000 from his mother in 1960 as his share in helping launch a financial services firm; $30,000 in 1960 is probably the same as at least $100,000 in 2000; and how many Afro-Americans can go to mommy or daddy for that kind of money?
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