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What are Buppies?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 06, 2024
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Buppies are members of the black middle class. The term appears to have originated in South Africa after apartheid, and it has since spread to other regions of the world, perhaps most notably into the United States. Like other demographic groups, buppies can be a fruitful avenue of study for sociologists and anthropologists, and they are also of interest to advertising agencies and companies which wish to expand their market share.

The origins of the word “buppie” are similar to those behind the closely related idea of the yuppie. “Buppie” can stand either for “black urban professional” or “black upwardly-mobile professional.” Buppies may be male or female, and they are characterized by their middle class status. Many are also considered upwardly mobile, meaning that they are working their way through the social classes, or that they have worked their way into the middle class.

In the United States, blacks didn't have many opportunities until the 1960s, when the growing civil rights movement made it much easier for blacks to go to college and get well-paying jobs. While individual blacks were certainly quite successful before the 1960s, the civil rights movement birthed a growing black middle class, as American blacks struggled to achieve the same social status enjoyed by many of the white around them. Similar circumstances held true in South Africa until the 1990s, when apartheid finally collapsed.

The rise of the black middle class caused some major cultural, political, and economic shifts in the United States and South Africa. As blacks began to enjoy more economic power and autonomy, many made a conscious choice to support black-owned businesses, or black-friendly businesses, feeding the addition of even more people to the black middle class. A growing desire for black-friendly businesses also created more diversity and consciousness in the business world, as companies fought to capture the black market.

Technically, many buppies could also be considered yuppies, but the tern “buppie” is often used specifically when discussing the black middle class and the topics which surround it. The growing interest in black culture among members of the white community has sometimes been attributed to the buppies, for example, with sociologists suggesting that as the black middle class rose, it put black cultural traditions and values in the public eye. Buppies can also have tremendous economic and political clout when they band together, which can have an interesting effect on local politics.

PublicPeople is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a PublicPeople researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By tolleranza — On Oct 19, 2011

I think that we should continue to move forward into becoming a more united nation, but I am happy that I am living in a time where I can work alongside mostly whoever wants and deserves to be at work. We still have a lot of work to do, and a lot to learn, though. A lot of people still judge people on outward appearances, which is wrong and ignorant.

No one should be judged. But if you must judge, at least "judge by the content of one's character, not the color of their skin." There are many famous words that Martin Luther King Jr. spoke, but these words have resonated and stuck within my mind and heart the most.

By geekish — On Oct 18, 2011

There aren't really as many black middle class people in my area as there are white middle class, but their seems to be a pretty strong number of black middle class nonetheless. It is sad to think that some people are still not getting the opportunity they deserve because of others' prejudices and ignorance.

I, personally, am so happy to see that success is more dependent on how hard you work and how much you study now. I also am glad that it seems like more and more people, of all different races, are given decent/good opportunities.

We, as a nation that prides itself on being the land of opportunity, still have a long way to go. We have also come a long way too. There are still oppressed people, especially the minorities and the poor people. But America is not nearly as horrific and unfair as was the case in the past decades.

By live2shop — On Oct 18, 2011

It seems that this newly found status of entering the middle class and becoming "buppies" is much more common in northern cities than in the south.

There are some who have graduated from college and have eventually entered the middle class, but there are a lot who are struggling with education and jobs, just to make a living.

They need more strong role models to make the transition to valuing education leading to better paying and satisfying jobs.

By Clairdelune — On Oct 17, 2011

In the northern city where I live, there are many black middle class families and single blacks who are well established in the middle class. These buppies are standouts in many different fields - like politics, education, sports, and so on. They dominate in areas like art and music.

It's been a hard road but so many are making it. They seem just as comfortable working together with other blacks, as they do working alongside whites.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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