The Cosby Cohort: Blessings and Burdens of Growing Up Black Middle Class (Perspectives on a Multiracial America)

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9781442217652: The Cosby Cohort: Blessings and Burdens of Growing Up Black Middle Class (Perspectives on a Multiracial America)

The Cosby Cohort examines the childhood experiences of second generation middle class Blacks who grew up in mostly White spaces during the 1980s and 1990s. This probing book explores their journey to upward mobility, including the discrimination they faced in White neighborhoods and schools, the extraordinary pressures placed upon them to achieve, the racial lessons imparted to them by their parents, their tenuous relationships with Black children of other classes, and the impact that all of these experiences had on their adult racial identities. At young ages, this generation of middle class Blacks, whom Harris coins as the Cosby Cohort, was faced with racial displacement, frustration, and the ever-present pressure to emerge victorious against the pull of downward mobility. Even in adulthood, they continue to negotiate the tensions between upward mobility and maintaining ties to the larger Black community and culture. While these young Blacks may have grown up watching The Cosby Show, as the book reveals, their stories indicate a much more complex reality than portrayed by the show.

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About the Author:

Cherise Harris is associate professor of sociology at Connecticut College. She has published articles in a number of journals, including Race, Gender, and Class, and Teaching Sociology. is the coeditor of the book Getting Real about Race: Hoodies, Mascots, Model Minorities, and Other Conversations.

Review:

Harris offers an interesting insight into the life experiences of 'second generation middle class blacks.' Based on interviews with adult African American men and women who had grown up during the 1980s and 1990s with parents who were the first to achieve middle-class status, the book explores the ways in which this precarious status influenced child-rearing strategies and socialization. She dubbed her informants the 'Cosby Cohort' because of both the era in which they were raised and the fact that The Cosby Show represented the same group she was interested in interviewing. Many informants compared the lessons transmitted in The Cosby Show to their own experiences growing up, where educational achievement and speaking standard English, among other things, were highly emphasized. Harris poses the question of what was gained and what was lost. Though everyone she studied had achieved professional success, many had struggled against the claim that they were 'acting white' and thus felt isolated from both the black and white communities; they were culturally and socially adrift. Harris's book offers insights into the complexities of living in this cultural and racial space. Summing Up: Recommended. All levels/libraries. (CHOICE)

While the Cosby kids on television always seemed happy and well-adjusted, the cohort of middle-class black youth across the country that was watching the Cosby family were having a harder time of it. Harris offers the voices of African Americans who look back at their childhoods and see their aspirations for greater success, their alienation from blackness, and the difficulties of navigating the two pressures. The Cosby Cohort powerfully discredits the myth of a monolithic black experience and raises the continuing uncertainties around black sociopolitical unity in the context of increasing racial residential integration and uneven socioeconomic success. It is a revealing and moving account of forging new black identities. (Mary Pattillo, author of Black on the Block: The Politics of Race and Class in the City)

Through captivating interview excerpts and a sophisticated analysis that shows great depth and sensitivity, Harris sheds new light on the often overlooked complexities of growing up in the Black middle class. The Cosby Cohort is groundbreaking and is essential reading for anyone interested in the growing heterogeneity of the African American community and the implications of the increasing class diversity for intra-racial relations, group cohesion, and Black identity development. This book will no doubt become an instant classic. (Nikki Khanna, University of Vermont, author of Biracial in America)

A significant contribution. A deeply important analysis on equally important questions. In The Cosby Cohort, Cherise A. Harris weaves a poignant and heartbreaking tale of the costs of systemic racism in the United States. (David L. Brunsma, Virginia Tech)

The Cosby Cohort examines the now-grown children who were raised in the black middle class. This probing book studies how their parents established their middle class position, how they interact with white America, the pressures placed upon them by their parents, how they connect with African Americans of other social classes, and more. Even though these young African Americans grew up watching The Cosby Show, as the book reveals, their stories reveal a much more complex reality than portrayed by the show.

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