To the point about my father, the term bougie has evolved into a popular cultural phenomenon all within itself. Everything from nice expensive things to attitudes that suggest a hint of a superiority complex are labeled as bougie. My father and the people who generally use the phrase probably never think about it beyond its popular usage, but the common way in which the word is used sheds light on its actual meaning and what people are saying when they use it.
Of course, the term bougie derives from the classical term bourgeois or bourgeoisie which are terms most commonly credited to the writing of economist Karl Marx in the 1800s. Marx provided us with a manuscript diagram of class structure in society. The basis of his analysis was the working class people (we Pan-Africanists would of course add the peasantry to that category) who whether industrial or service, provide the foundation of any society. From Marx's correct perspective, the people who dominate, exploit, and control the working classes are the bourgeoisie who are the spokespersons for the elite classes who own and control the means of production e.g. the resources we depend upon to live, develop, and sustain ourselves. From Marx's perspective, his analysis of class structure was based strictly on material conditions. In other words, materialism is the only driving force for class structure. As African revolutionaries, we take the best that any culture has and we compliment it with the many advances our own culture has contributed. So, we accept Marx's analysis of class, but we change the conditions to reflect our African reality. We recognize the role of the peasantry, a segment Marx practically never discussed. And, we also add in the contributions of Kwame Nkrumah, Sekou Ture and others. It was Nkrumah who argued that ideology, along with materialism, are factors that must be considered in any class analysis. Nkrumah answered the question about how someone who has nothing, like a houseless person, could identify with the class interests of the bourgeoisie despite clear proof that their material conditions do not coincide. That houseless person is ideologically committed to the worldview of the bourgeoisie class and often, as Nkrumah cited, people who are ideologically committed will do more to advance the practical objectives of the bourgeoisie than the bourgeoisie themselves.
The above analysis by Nkrumah is important to understand in order to properly digest the method in which African people use "bougie" today. Culturally speaking, as Nkrumah articulated, African people use the term bougie, not just in the material sense of how your class position interacts with the power structure, but with an ideological perspective of how you behave. In fact, I would argue that Africans use the term primarily in an ideological sense. When my father called other Africans "bougie" he was always referencing people who lived in the same working class environment that we did. These people he was labeling were never actually a part of the bourgeoisie class in any material sense. They were people who were as poor as we were, but who acted as if they were better than us. By calling them bougie, my dad was making the point that those people were acting like house slaves. He was making a class distinction between between himself, who he saw as a solid representative of the working class - a rebellious field slave - and any African who he perceived to be desiring to be connected to the established leadership in this country.
So, the term bougie has never been viewed as a positive within our communities. House slaves are not commodities people are raised to strive to achieve. Despite the efforts by popular capitalist culture, like television shows and movies, to minimize and diminish the hard class statement someone makes when they call you bougie, its still not viewed as a positive.
I'm proud to say that no one has ever called me bougie although I've used that label for many Africans and other people. I consider never being called bougie a badge of honor. I would like to preserve the class basis of that statement. I wish to honor my father and other people's work who never read a book by Marx or Nkrumah in their lives, but who clearly understood that the interests of the ruling classes of this system, and theirs, could never be the same. And, that those of us who mimic our masters, will always be the enemies of humanity. So, the next time someone uses the word "bougie" think about the class components that are actually driving that analysis and how you fit into that picture.