Proud to be black, boughie (bougie) and a germaphobe

Yea, I’m boughie.

I don’t go to round-the-way nail salons.

I’d rather starve than eat a hot dog or beef patty from a convenience store.


A T.J. Maxx store in Redwood City, Calif. (PAUL SAKUMA/ASSOCIATED PRESS)

I don’t look down on people who go on shopping sprees at Marshalls. I just have my preferences and am not afraid to admit it.

Being Boughie, a label often given to driven, college-educated African Americans, is frowned upon. The word has come to describe someone who is not “down,” too snobby to remember her roots and/or a member of the upper-middle class. In our community, boughie equals bad.

I disagree. I’ve stopped going to neighborhood salons because many are not as clean as I’d like. (Yea, I’m boughie and a germophobe.) I’m picky about where I buy beef patties because, to me, it’s a health risk to purchase cooked food from a place that doesn’t have a chef. I’ll shop at expensive department stores because higher price tags usually mean fewer clothes strewn on the floor, cleaner bathrooms and more sales people to help when I can’t find dress pants for work.

I am willing and able to pay extra for safety, cleanliness and convenience. But I haven’t forgotten where I came from. My parents, older brother and I, for years, shared a one-bedroom apartment because that’s what my family could afford. I would never want to forget that.

It’s the reason I volunteered for years to help at-risk minorities. I know that being boughie is a dream that not everyone gets to live.

What bothers me is when my boughie friends --  a group of software developers, attorneys and other professionals -- adamantly deny being boughie because it’s a dirty word in our community. They scoff at the word like they are ashamed that their upwardly mobile transgressions lead to a better life.

Just the other day a single, attorney friend of mine asked me to pray on the phone with her to ask God to bring her a man with money. Not chump change, but real cash that will enable her to live an upper-middle class life. I jokingly said “Okay, boughie” and she said she didn’t meet the qualifications for that label.

I couldn’t understand why she wouldn’t claim the word, her word, and proudly admit to wanting a posh life. I wanted to tell her “Your parents struggled to put you through school and you busted your butt to graduate (twice). It’s okay to want a man who’s also accomplished and financially sound so that both of you can enjoy the benefits of hard work.”

The Champ, a blogger at VerySmartBrothas.com, has his own theory on why boughie people openly deny the label: “bougie [expletive] never seem to want to acknowledge their bougieness — but, the more I think about it, the more I think this denial is inauthentic. I think they enjoy being thought of as bougie because it assigns a certain social status to them. But, since they know it’s not socially acceptable to relish that status, they verbally deny it while doing mental jumping jacks of joy. (“He called me bougie! This means that he thinks I’m worth some effort! Lemme pretend not to be bougie so he doesn’t think I’m too siddity“)

He’s right about one thing. I do enjoy being boughie since it’s part of who I am, just like I enjoy being a woman, black, Guyanese-American, etc. But, unlike my friend, there’s no denial or secret shame going on here.

And really, why should there be?

“The whole essence of bougie is being upwardly mobile, being educated, carrying yourself in a certain way,” says Michele Grant, author of the Black ’n Bougie blog. “Once you get there, you don’t want to necesasrily go backwards in lifestyle.”

Instead of trying to sway my friend to see things from my perspective, I decided to continue our conversation publicly. To show my pride and invite boughie people in the closet to come out.

To my boughie brethren, don’t be ashamed you’re “aspiring to be a higher class than one is,” as Urban Dictionary describes the word. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to make the leap from middle class to upper-middle class; from bachelors to masters; from worker bee to CEO.

As Lawrence Otis Graham, author of “Our Kind of People: Inside America's Black Upper Class” (Harper Perennial, 1999) once said, “People in the white community don’t apologize for having success.”

And people striving for success in everything from their career to their appearance shouldn’t look for forgiveness either.

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