I watched my first full episode of “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” last night. (Actually, was that a rerun? All I know is Kim had a big baby shower with her new baby daddy and two husbands got in a fight over who was the baddest mah fah).
Why was it my first? Well, first, I have no time for anything besides CNN (O.K. that and my stack of "Bewitched" reruns).
But, more than that, I don’t have to turn on the television to see real housewives of Atlanta.
I grew up around real black Atlanta homemakers and I know some today. And, though I don’t fault the women on the show (a reality show is a smart career move; handle your business, ladies!) I do have a huge problem with the images I saw last night.
A kid with Louis Vuitton luggage? Tons of baby mama, baby daddy drama? Homes covering 14,000-square-feet mortgaged to the hilt by people who, most likely, have just a few thousand in the bank?
Are you kidding me?
Here’s the deal: Black Atlanta (like Black D.C., Black Chicago and other areas with large black populations) has a truly wealthy class. But, just as with wealthy whites, wealthy blacks do not flash their money. They don’t want you to know what they have.
Let me repeat: Just as with wealthy whites, wealthy blacks do not flaunt their wealth. They do not want you to know what they have. (Invoking Chris Tucker, in "Rush Hour" now, 'Do you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth?').
Now, in contrast to the wealthy white class, the wealthy black class is struggling. Yeah, that’s the deal. But, black wealth in America (translate, a sizable net worth, not a leased Mercedes) does exist.
For the record, the only Atlantan to make the top twenty of Forbes' 2009 list of “The Wealthiest Black Americans” was Collier Heights resident, H. J. Russell Construction Co. founder and mentor to many Herman Russell, who had a net worth of $200 million at the time the story was posted. (Oprah topped the list, Tiger was second).
But, along with Russell, there are many black millionnaires living quietly in relatively modest homes right here in southwest Atlanta.
Some are smart retirees from cities like New York and San Francisco who sold homes and moved south for more space and warmer weather. Some have inherited money from black business founders and entertainers and are now black trust fund babies. Others have risen the ranks of Corporate America or succeeded in entrepreneurship, sports and entertainment and, over the years, have managed their money well.
Yes, world, there are real housewives of Atlanta (see Alma Hill's Black History in Cascade story from Feb. 2, 2011, "Meet the Original Real Housewives of Atlanta: 'The Doctors' Wives'" for the a closer look).
No, world, the lavish lifestyle for The ‘Real’ Housewives of Atlanta is not real!
To have money you have to know the value of a dollar. People with money—no matter their ethnic background—would never waste away their wealth like that.