Informed and driven by his experience as an upper ' middle ' class African American who lives and works in a predominately white environment, provocative author Lawrence Otis Graham offers a unique perspective on the subject of race. An uncompromising work that will challenge the mindset of every reader, Member of the Club is a searching book of essays ranging from examining life as a black Princetonian and corporate lawyer to exploring life as a black busboy at an all white country ' club. From New York magazine cover stories Invisible Man and Harlem on My Mind to such new essays as ' I Never Dated a White Girl ' and ' My Dinner with Mister Charlie: A Black Man ' s Undercover Guide to Dining with Dignity at Ten Top New York Restaurants, ' Graham challenges racial prejudice among White Americans while demanding greater accountability and self ' determination from his peers in black America.
There are no customer reviews available at this time. Would you like to write a review?
August 30, 1996
Number of Print Pages*
Adobe DRM EPUB
* Number of eBook pages may differ. Click here for more information.
Excerpt from A Member of the Club by Lawrence Otis Graham
Why This Harvard-Trained Lawyer Went Undercover as a Busboy at an All-White Connecticut Country Club
I drive up the winding lane past a long stone wall and beneath an archway of sixty-foot maples. At one bend of the drive, a freshly clipped lawn and a trail of yellow daffodils slope gently up to the four-pillared portico of a white Georgian colonial. The building's six huge chimneys, the two wings with slate gray shutters, and the white-brick facade loom over a luxuriant golf course. Before me stands the one-hundred-year-old Greenwich Country Club-the country club-in the affluent, patrician, and very white town of Greenwich, Connecticut, where there are eight clubs for fifty-nine thousand people.
I'm a thirty-year-old corporate lawyer at a Midtown Manhattan firm, and I make $105,000 a year. I'm a graduate of Princeton University (1983) and Harvard Law School (1988), and I've written ten nonfiction books. Although these might seem like impressive credentials, they're not the ones that brought me here. Quite frankly, I got into this country club the only way that a black man like me could-as a $7-an-hour busboy.
After seeing dozens of news stories about Dan Quayle, Billy Graham, Ross Perot, and others who either belonged to or frequented white country clubs, I decided to find out what things were really like at a club where I heard there were no black members.
I remember stepping up to the pool at a country club when I was ten and setting off a chain reaction: Several irate parents dragged their children out of the water and fled. When the other kids ran out of the pool, so did I-foolishly thinking that there was something in the water that was going to harm all of us. Back then, in 1972, I saw these clubs only as places where families socialized. I grew up in an affluent white neighborhood in Westchester, and all my playmates and neighbors belonged to one or more of these private institutions. Across the street, my best friend introduced me to the Westchester Country Club before he left for Groton and Yale. My teenage tennis partner from Scarsdale introduced me to the Beach Point Club on weekends before he left for Harvard. The family next door belonged to the Scarsdale Golf Club. In my crowd, the question wasn't "Do you belong?" It was "Where?"
My grandparents owned a Memphis trucking firm, and as far back as I can remember, our family was well off and we had little trouble fitting in-even though I was the only black kid on the high school tennis team, the only one in the orchestra, the only one in my Roman Catholic confirmation class.
Today, I'm back where I started-on a street of five- and six-bedroom colonials with expensive cars and neighbors who all belong somewhere. Through my experiences as a young lawyer, I have come to realize that these clubs are where businesspeople network, where lawyers and investment bankers meet potential clients and arrange deals. How many clients and deals am I going to line up on the asphalt parking lot of my local public tennis courts?
I am not ashamed to admit that I one day want to be a partner and a part of this network. When I talk to my black lawyer or investment-banker friends or my wife, a brilliant black woman who has degrees from Harvard College, Harvard Law School, and Harvard Business School, I learn that our white counterparts are being accepted by dozens of these elite institutions. So why shouldn't we especially when we have the same credentials, salaries, social graces, and ambitions?