Estamos distanciados: The black middle class and politics in Cali, Colombia

Mary Pattillo*, Rosa Emilia Bermúdez Rico, Ana María Mosquera Guevara

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


A Black middle class has emerged in many Latin American countries. Yet given the fluidity of Black identity, it is unclear if socioeconomic gains will result in the consolidation of a Black middle-class group identity with a sense of political responsibility or purpose. In this article, we use qualitative interviews with twenty-two Black professionals in Cali, Colombia, plus a small convenience survey, to explore the following research questions: Does the intersection of being Black and middle class cohere into a group identity? If so, does it translate into a Black political consciousness? And if not, what are the obstacles? We find that while respondents individually identify with a Black middle-class label, they do not experience it as a group that feels symbolic bonds of attachment or acts in a coordinated or mutually cognizant manner. It is a category without shape or coherence. It is amorphous. There are four primary explanations for Black middle class amorphism: the absence of shared or positive markers of collective Black identity; a lack of organizational infrastructure; taboos against organizing along racial lines in the workplace; and a strong individualist ethos towards protecting opportunities and enhancing personal status. We situate our findings within the field of Black politics to discuss what might be lost or gained by this amorphism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)49-72
Number of pages24
JournalDu Bois Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2021


  • Black middle class
  • Black politics
  • Colombia
  • Group identity
  • Latin America
  • Political consciousness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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