Reflecting on the three major problems reviewed in the current Wilson text, are they primarily problems of race, primarily of class or do both race and class contribute?
Problems of racial discrimination have reduced significantly over the last four decades since the civil rights movement began. However, the condition of African Americans in the inner-city neighborhoods continues to be dire, as they are plagued by an almost persistent poverty. This therefore raises the question as to what really is the cause of the poverty that is seen predominantly among African Americans. The author states that the issue cannot be blamed solely on race or class, but a variety of factors. This includes systematic or institutional barriers and cultural problems. These three combined have resulted in the persistence of poverty among the poor Black community. He states that racial inequality is caused by intentional and unintentional forces that play in the society today (Wilson, 2010).
Systematic and institutional issues come into play because in the early 20th century when racism was rife in the United States, racial segregation was enforceable by law. This therefore meant that Blacks were not allowed to reside in White neighborhoods, the Blacks due to economic hardship and racial oppression could only afford to live in impoverished inner-city neighborhoods. This problem persisted even after racial segregation became illegal; the Whites used intimidation and violence in order to keep Black people out of their neighborhoods. This issue was aggravated by the federal government’s involvement in ensuring that Black people did not get mortgages by complicating the processes.
Upon the success of the civil rights movements of the 1960s, it was easier for Black people to get equal opportunities as the Whites. Therefore, the Black middle-class was now able to move out of the impoverished inner-city into housing that was more comfortable. Meanwhile, the poor Blacks were not able to move out of the inner city therefore they were demographically isolated from the rest of the society. Getting out of the inner-city is made more difficult by the fact that Blacks here do not have access to equal opportunities. Being a sidelined community, they instinctively develop their own social and cultural norms and values that are often negative or in contrast to the rest if the society’s. Due to extreme poverty, the culture of instant gratification is also rife in the inner city. This raises their reliance on government welfare and criminal activities such as drug dealing for income. It is therefore difficult for a person from the inner-city to look for legitimate employment because they have already developed a culture of earning quick-money that is oftentimes illegal. These dysfunctional cultures of instant gratification and lack of work ethic makes it even more difficult for inner-city Blacks to find employment (Wilson, 2010).
The fragmentation of Black families has also led to the increase of poverty in the ghettoes. In the inner-city neighborhoods there are many single parent families mainly due to the effects of poverty. Fathers, being unable to provide for their families abandon them, leaving the women as the sole breadwinners of the family. Women also become single mothers due to the high incarceration rate of men in the Black community due to criminal activity. This cycle continues for many generations because children adapt the negative behavior and mentalities of their parents and their community.
Wilson states that poor Black people cannot be blamed for their state. The cultural problems are a product of the fact that they are disadvantaged economically due to their separation from mainstream America and the direct and indirect racial inequality they have faced over the years. He therefore argues that for the poor Black community to get out of their predicament, it is necessary for the state to form public policies that will solve the root causes of the issue.
Wilson, W.J., More Than Just Race: Being Black and Poor in the Inner City, New York, USA: W. W. Norton & Company, 2010.