An Analysis of the Current Status of African Americans in the Workplaces of Philadelphia

In recent years, leading experts in the field of sociology have endeavored to provide an in-depth reinterpretation the actual racial dynamics that currently exist in major workplaces across the United States. One such expert is Elijah Anderson, an award-winning author and scholar, who actively seeks to explore institutionalized segregation that has now become the norm in a majority of these major cities. Aptly dubbed “Cosmopolitan Canopy: Race and Civility in Everyday Life”, Anderson explores the existence of urban islands of civility in the midst of complex race-relations in inner-city Philadelphia. In particular, his path-breaking ethnographic study refers to the larger Philadelphian workplaces as “institutionalized cosmopolitan canopies” in relation to the status of African American in these areas. Explored herein are universities, law firms, hospitals and real estate offices where members of the African American community have thrived by exploiting opportunities for cross-cultural interaction.

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The current situation of African Americans in the workplaces of Philadelphia is one steeped in racial synergies. A large majority of the interactions that occur at the City Center among members of this particular racial group occur in close proximity and creates an economically vibrant commune. From the infamous Reading Terminal Market to 30th Street Station, African Americans in Philadelphia are observed redefining the color line in order to maneuver everyday public life (Anderson, 2012, p. 34). In essence, this averts the possibility of racial tensions arising in a city known for its diversity and assortment in inhabitants. Moreover, civil encounters now cross the color line as a novel trend that seeks to bring members of the African American community closer to other races and avoiding parochial sentiments. The improved standing of members of the African American community since the Jim Crow and Civil Rights epoch is also evident in the public spaces. Their involvement in major and mundane activities is a clear manifestation of Philadelphia as an epitome of cosmopolitanism.

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It is also vital to acknowledge that public and work spaces in Philadelphia have been characterized by a high level of civility. Individuals residing in this hodgepodge are well aware of the diversity that exists in the area, but choose to embrace the multiplicity in ways that have never been seen before in this region. In particular, workplaces have become areas of racial convergence where persons from a wide array of racial backgrounds band together and cooperate towards the achievement of set objectives. African Americans in these areas have learnt to go beyond the racial divide that is typical across Philadelphia (Anderson, 2012, p. 67). They are well-aware of the segregation that exists in city but choose not to overemphasize the differences inherent in many of its inhabitants. Thus, Anderson refers to such workplaces as canopies where African Americans and persons from other racial groups get along better than anyone would ever have imagined, building a diverse and inclusive society. The work place diversity that African Americans are confronted with here is usually as a result of the forces of globalization, industrialization and immigration across Philadelphia. As a result, residents have learnt to maneuver this new social landscape beyond the social border that race presents and cooperate in a manner that is mutually beneficial to all those participating in the interaction.

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The current situation of the black middle class in Philadelphia is expressed in its burgeoning population across the city. This status quo is as a result of systematic changes that were brought about by the Civil Rights movement and affirmative action whose primary objective was to bring African Americans to the mainstream. Over the past five decades, leading figures among the movement worked towards disrupting the class structure that existed in the African American community in Philadelphia. As a result, the caste-like system was soon disbanded paving the way for black equality as opposed to “colortocracy” (Hunter, 2013, p. 45). It is this transformation that soon resulted in the social mobility that gave rise to Philadelphia’s black middle class. They reside in affluent neighborhoods such as Chestnut Hill, an affluent part of town where one would typically expect to find whites. In his ethnographic assessment, Anderson remains optimistic about the future of the African American middle class in Philadelphia. They form a conglomerate of objective and forward-minded individuals whose primary objective is to make certain they improve the condition in this so-called “canopy”. The black middle class now fuels the city’s economy, carrying a large portion of the tax burden and supporting low-income residents get by. Hence, their contribution goes into fundamental services such as firefighting and policing which are central to its functioning.

In conclusion, Elijah Anderson seeks to provide a window into race relations in major American cities through an exploration of everyday life in Philadelphia. His assessment revels a curious civility that permeates both public and workplace environments in this urban island. The rise of the black middle class has also been occasioned by social mobility that has made it possible for them to break the glass ceiling.

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