Skip to main content

Who You Calling Bougie?

Recently, a friend of mine called me“bougie.” In case you’ve never heard the term, Urban Dictionary defines bougie, a hacked truncation of the word Bourgeoisie, which refers to the middle-class in Europe, as “aspiring to be a higher class than one is.”

Now, this wasn’t the first time I’ve been called bougie. And generally, being called bougie doesn’t offend me because it calls me out for daring to dream, for striving to accomplish something. I have, after all been called other, worse things. And I don’t particularly care much what other people think of me. But being called bougie does rather irritate me because it inherently asserts that I have no right to dream, to achieve, that who I was at birth is who I should be at death.

The word bougie seems to stem from a screwed-up thought process that defines a place for everyone, a place they must always remain. I remember as a kid, when I talked back, I would be told I was “out of place.” And that was often a punishable offense. The idea that one can be out of place is disturbing because it seems to immediately call for the out of place object (in this case a person) to be put back in its proper place. Thus, the pepper is eternally returned to the side of salt.

Today our LGBT youth who do not know their place is in secret, dark places, who dare to push themselves into the open, and declare themselves, are railed against, thrown into the street by the very people who brought them into the world and thus are morally obligated to love and shelter them; our youth are beaten and driven to suicide, and killed, all because they did not know their place, these bougie gays who thought they had a right to be seen, to hold their heads high in equality.

Labeling someone bougie is also an act of erasure. This occurred to me after more than 100 days of watching Trump and the GOP try to roll back anything from the Obama administration, most notably Obamacare and now the Paris climate accord.

President Obama, in the eyes of Trump and the GOP, was just another bougie Black who didn’t know his place and thus pushed himself into places he didn’t belong and right on into the White House. Dismantling Obamacare and withdrawing from the Paris climate accord, simply because it was Obama-driven, is just their pathetic attempt to forget he stepped out of his place. They want nothing more than to erase him and his accomplishments as if he’d never existed, hadn’t done, hadn’t pushed himself where they didn’t want him, into places they think he didn’t belong.

Just as the Trump administration has scrubbed all LGBT references from the White House website. Just as they are working to strip our public schools of their ability to teach our children because those kids whose parents cannot afford $40,000 a year for private school, should not be encouraged to overstep and push themselves where they do not belong—what more effective way to derail a future Obama than to make sure he, or she, never learns enough to dream, to push?

There’s a lot of talk of white privilege, which I think is nothing more than a left-over, a remnant, like the Confederate flag, from the days when they had power over us. Today that power is mostly concentrated in the ability to stifle, to erase, those of us who are other, less than, who don’t know our place.

I see and recognize that white privilege exists and that those who have and exploit it think it is their birthright, but I don’t have to—No, I refuse to—bow down before it and let it, them, clip my wings and tell me how high I can fly.

My first book, What Binds Us, was turned down everywhere I submitted it. There was no market for a book like this, I was told. As a result, it sat in a drawer for seventeen years, until I gained the courage to submit it again. On August 1, my third full length novel (my fifth book) will be released. In large part because the world has changed, but also because I learned to step out of my place, to scream louder than anyone’s attempts to silence me, to erase me, and everyone like me.

A character in one of my unfinished manuscripts, when accused of being bougie, snaps, “Like Michael Jackson, I may have been born a poor black boy, but like Michael Jackson I intend to die a rich white woman!” His statement, though exaggerated, sums up a fundamental truth: Who we were, does not limit who we can become.


  1. I certainly don't want to give the impression that I'm giving you my white approval, because you certainly don't -- and never did -- need it. But...YES! This is brilliant! Dream! Fly! Be not erased!

    1. I would never think that of you Ken. But thank you.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

A Fatherless Father's Day

I remember the accident as if it was yesterday.
I had been living in Washington, D.C. for three years. That particular morning, a Saturday, I was running late for work. It was a gray, wet morning at the edge of Winter. Heavy rain, like molten white gold, fell from an aluminum sky as I blazed along at 80 mph. A gray car merged onto the roadway from the right, then proceeded to move into my lane without signaling. The car was moving so slowly it looked like it was moving backwards. I pressed the brakes hard, pumping steadily with increasing pressure, my right hand tight on the gearshift ready to down shift. Realizing collision was inevitable, I glanced at the speedometer: 60. The impact sent my little car spinning towards the concrete divider separating west-bound traffic from east. The world seemed upside down. I remember thinking, I’m going to die and I never got to be friends with my father. I glanced up at the sky, oddly unafraid, and I swear I saw the hand of God reach down and stop…

A Ghost Unseen

My life: I have been a model citizen; a good son; employee of the year, year after year after year. I have lived in the shadows, a ghost, unseen. And now, as my life ebbs away, eternity like a black moon rising, I felt his hands on my body, efficient and cool. My chest was tight, and I was uncomfortable, but I didn’t mind, not really. I had endured worse, much worse. I wished I could scratch my nose. I wished I could move. “Does he not have any family—anyone we should call?” someone else was in the room with us, then. “No,” he said, his hands working. “I suspect he was gay,” he added, speaking of me as if I was already dead. “And you know,” he continued, his hands working, working, “He was of that generation that kept in the shadows.” I recognized his voice now; he was my day nurse. He was a fey young thing, gentle and outrageous, but much loved by patients and staff alike who treated him not as a curiosity to be pointed at and whispered about, perhaps even laughed at, nor as some exotic…

The Corporatorium: I Am Prometheus (Episode One)

I am Prometheus. Prometheus. Say it slowly, roll the letters around in your mouth. Prometheus. It is not my real name but it is name most fitting for me. Prometheus, the creator of mankind and its greatest benefactor, chained to a rock, his liver eaten daily by an eagle, in eternal damnation for stealing fire and gifting it to mankind. Yes, there are definite similarities between us.
I am Prometheus, and this is my story. Except it’s not my story. I wish it was, but I am not unique or special. This is the story of untold millions of hapless chaps and chicklets caught up in the grinding gears of the corporate machine.
This is a faux memoir told episodically. You will be inclined, at times, to laugh at us, and cry for us. Do not hold back either impulse. That is the point of sharing this story—to remind us that life is nothing but a series of small comedies and tragedies. What is important is what we take away from each occurrence, what we learn from each calamity and joy.
What will be…