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More Than Just Race

William Julius Wilson has authored a new book titled More Than Just Race: Being Black and Poor in the Inner City.

In early March, The New York Times Book Review carried Richard Thompson Ford’s positive review:

[Wilson] argues that the legacy of racism and changes in the economy matter more than the dysfunctional culture of the ghetto. And he rejects the argument that the black poor are responsible for their predicament, insisting that an aggressive public policy response is necessary to break the cycle of poverty …

[T]he law’s arm is not long enough to reach bigotry that occurred in the past, nor can it get a grip on the economic and demographic changes that have hollowed out America’s inner cities. The urban poor need remedies that judges cannot order: public and private investment to create jobs that pay a living wage, training to help them learn new skills and understand the job market, and most of all a chance to move into racially and economically integrated neighborhoods where there are better opportunities and healthier cultural norms.

They likewise need a new generation of librarians to tackle these issues with other community partners.

Sudhir Venkatesh at Salon.com also praised the book:

Critics will complain that Wilson himself has little to offer in terms of policy recommendations. But More Than Just Race contains some clues as to where he may be headed. He emphasizes the advantages of “race neutral” programs. Wilson knows that Americans and their elected leaders are more likely to support initiatives that are not identified with poor blacks. And in this economy, there is no shortage of disadvantaged Americans—white or black—who require employment assistance and supportive services.

He is also partial to addressing joblessness first, despite his insistence that culture matters (and that behaviors don’t change as quickly as policymakers wish). Wilson repeatedly points to the benefits that jobs programs and vocational training have on the cultural front. Stated somewhat crudely, increasing employment will reduce the number of people who might promote or even condone deviant behavior. Change might not occur overnight, and it may not be wholesale, but it will take place.

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