Reaganomics and the People

Reaganomics was during the time period from 1980-1988 in which Ronald Reagan was president. Ronald Reagan is considered, by some, to be one of the greatest presidents America has ever had. However, this was far from the truth when it came to minority groups. Reaganomics included the “Trickle Down Theory” in which Ronald Reagan gave tax breaks to the upper class, believing that the extra money the upper class saved would trickle down to the lower/working class. However, Reagan also conveyed the idea of  the “Welfare Queen”. She was portrayed as a lower class black woman living off of the government and as a result, many upper class people refuse to give money to minorities. However, the harsh reality was that the Black unemployment rate was at a devastating 22% and by 1983 the Black poverty rate reached 25% . It was during the time of Reaganomics that Blacks went through a time of change on both the East and West Coast.

On the East Coast, there was a sense of equality at night clubs. “ More than anything the Roxy embodied a certain vision of what New York could be”(Chang,177). Night clubs, such as the Roxy, became ground where everyone came with nothing to hold back. People from all different backgrounds came to nightclubs on the east coast without any sense of danger. People were just allowed to let loose and not have to worry about their troubles. “ But the Roxy night always opened into a Reagan morning that was much more than a comedown” (Chang, 178). After the dancing was over for the night, classes returned and lower class citizens, which included a majority of Blacks and Latinos, had to return to their struggling reality. With Reagan’s Trickle down theory not being proven and Black unemployment and poverty rates soaring, minorities had to be able to work longer hours. This then made Hip hop need commercialism because more people had found a way to gain more income. In contrast to nightclubs gaining more popularity, graffiti was being more attacked transit police and “ On May 12,1989, the MTA declared that it achieved the ultimate bluff” (Chang 203). The MTA had stripped almost all trains from graffiti. In symbolism it was stating a stripping of Hip-hop branching out of where it started. Graffiti, being one of the pillars of Hip-hop, allowed people to make a name and let others see it. It was an art, but the rest of the world believe it was was just vandalism. If upper class people were riding trains with graffiti, there wasn’t a sense of safety, so the MTA made it a crime. Later on in Reagan’s America, there was an increase in police brutality. People like Michael Stewart became influences for the East Coast to say enough and fight back. This entire time, minorities fought back even harder with every step taken against them. They voiced themselves through graffiti and protest.

On the West Coast, students at U.C Berkeley were raising awareness of apartheid. “ The anti-apartheid movement represented the climax of a century” (Chang,215). All over the West Coast, students were creating protest to Reagan’s support of apartheid. The movement resembled what was happening here at home. Many students started to see the connection between themselves and the Blacks in South Africa. In addition, the West Coast was seeing a rise in drug use. As soon as cocaine or freebase was introduced to a community, there was little time available before entire families were destroyed and it became dangerous to walk around the corner. Drugs, being basically authorized by the government in secret ways, became widely available. However, the genre of Rap was on its own rise with  rappers like Ice T and Kid Frost. “ This was a new breed of renegades. The hip-hop generation had reached childhood’s end” (Chang, 211).

Reagan’s America was a time where Blacks, no matter East or West Coast face a lot of opposition. Whether it was poverty or discrimination, Blacks became more aware of how far of gap their skin color created. President Reagan’s America, was not an America for Blacks. However, it was in this time where people who were struggling found their identity in nightlife, voicing their opinions, or just exploring their art. On a bigger scale, the world seems to see that in a time of struggle that their identity is impossible to find, but in the example of Reaganomics, minorities proved they were still able to show who they were throughout the country.


Chang, Jeff. Can't Stop, Won't Stop: A History of the Hip-hop Generation. New York: St. Martin's, 2005. Print.