Friday, September 4, 2009

Breaking Down Bougie

I'm pretty sure just about everyone knows what I mean by the term "bougie". Just in case there are some who aren't familiar with the term "bougie" is derived from the french word "bourgeoisie" referring to a class of people. Below are some definitions, I've pulled relating to the word bourgeoisie.

Wikipedia definition: Bourgeoisie is a classification used in analyzing human societies to describe a social class of people. Historically, the bourgeoisie comes from the middle or merchant classes of the Middle Ages, whose status or power came from employment, education, and wealth, as distinguished from those whose power came from being born into an aristocratic family of land owners.

Merriam Webster defines it as: middle class; also plural in construction : members of the middle class

I think it's interesting how such a simple word produces so many feelings and issues among Black, mainly African-American, people. Somehow the term "bougie" has been made to be synonymous with stuck up, arrogant, obnoxious, people who think they are better than others.

At first, when people would say that I was bougie, I'd say something back in retaliation but after a while it got old and I figured it was pointless. People assume if you come from a certain upbringing, live in a certain neighborhood, speak/dress/act a certain way, you're bougie.

It doesn't matter to some people that I work for a nonprofit and every week, I spend time doing some type of community service project and involved with a number of organizations whose sole purpose is to make a difference in our community and our world. All they see is a well-groomed young lady who carries herself with some dignity and class and I'm grouped into the category of being bougie.

It always amazes me when people assume that I went to certain schools. I went to your average public high school (although my parents wanted me to go to a private school) and I attended not one, but two, HBCUs for undergrad and graduate schools. I never aspired to attend an Ivy-League. Recently, I went to happy hour with one of my linesisters and met this guy she went to school with. He had already made up in his mind that he knew me. Eventually I shared with him that I was raised in Prince George's County, MD and told him what high school I went this. Can you believe he had the nerve to say, "You hide it well." I was completely taken aback by his comment. I'm never anyone else but me. I act the same exact way whether I'm around Blacks, Whites, Asians, or Hispanics, I've never had the need to act differently in order to assimilate, I am who I am.

While I did grow up in Jack & Jill (there's a certain reputation or stigma that comes along w/ being a member of that organization, I'll probably blog about that later down the line) and my parents are members of a fraternity and sorority and in organizations like The Links and The Boulé. Being in Jack & Jill exposed me to many new things. I would never say it made me better, but more well-rounded. We were being taught the importance of proper etiquette for young ladies, went to teas, dinners and various cultural events, and had the chance to wear elegant formal dresses and be introduced at a Cotillion. I never thought that gave me an edge up on anybody or used that as an excuse to think that made me better than anyone else. I never looked down on people who weren't apart of the organization and I can't stand when people question the relevance of such organizations.

I learned a long time ago the saying "Perception is reality" is true. Whether or not it's my own reality or what someone else perceive me to be, is going to be their reality and there's nothing that I can do to change their minds. Call me what you want, but I know who I am, where I came from, and what I'm here to do. So whether you think I'm Bougie or not, I'm just me!


  1. Amen...I always hated that term when my girlfriend's husband uses that about me and my girlfriend. We all grew up in the same place (GARY,IN), both parents worked, and had the same opportunities. My BF and I grew up in Miller, while he grew up on the West Side. I don't go around saying," Wow, you are so Ghetto" to people. That is held by my apartment neighbors.

  2. I have to admit my guilt in sometimes having labeled people as boughie. But in recent months I began to mature my thinking about this. Some kids called my children boughie and they wanted to know what that was. The only thing I could come up with is that it's what people call you when THEY think that you feel like you're better than them. It's generally attached to someone even before the name caller has even gotten to know them. So it brought to light that I was prejudging people based on what I thought, not what is reality. Boughie is another derogatory name that people use to make themselves feel better about who they are. It is a term that I am working to remove from my vocab. Great post.

  3. No matter where you're from, what color you are, how you speak, what you wear, where you live, who you date., on & on & on... People are going to judge, have their opinions, have their own perceptions...

    But you know what I say? Continue to be you, be yourself, and be proud... Hatred comes from ignorance & jealousy.

    We're not here to please people, but to please God... and He knows our hearts and He determines, not other people's opinions. (not trying to get all preachy...)

    I think you're fabulous!