Elevate Difference

More Than Just Race: Being Black and Poor in the Inner City

Author Williams Julius Wilson, a Harvard University professor, delves into the issue of race in his latest book, More Than Just Race: Being Black and Poor in the Inner City. This book provides a detailed account of how African Americans are more likely to be economically disadvantaged due to their race.  Before opening this book, the readers should be aware that this is a serious read and requires one be quite interested in the subject. Wilson attempts to explain why being poor and black is a double-edge sword, which oftentimes results in extreme poverty. The book draws upon numerous studies that analyze race; this is not surprising, as Williams is an academic.

More Than Just Race is an eye-opener for those not familiar with the hardships of people who are poor and dealing with anti-Black prejudice. Wilson points out that while more responsibility is needed in the Black community, public policies can be put into place to eradicate “laissez faire racism”--a belief that blacks are responsible for their own economic predicaments, and therefore, do not deserve "special" support from the government.

Wilson points out that people who consider themselves conservative may automatically point a finger at the “victim.” Wilson also notes that overall, Black people living in the inner city are more likely to be poor due to a lack of job skills. But he argues that numerous structural and cultural forces are in place that create race and class privilege. Wilson cites the presidency of Ronald Reagan--a president who focused heavily on the economy while in office. According to Wilson, poor people became even more disadvantaged under the Reagan administration due to his “trickle down economics.” Wilson isn’t making excuses for poor inner city Black people, though. He explains that a give-and-take process is needed for them to overcome institutionalized racism. The priority point he hopes to get across to readers is that being Black and poor isn’t a cut-and-dry situation. There are many factors that contribute to people living in these circumstances. And fortunately, we live in a nation where these circumstances can be overcome with the necessary help from the government.

Written by: Tiffany Winbush, March 6th 2009