Thursday, March 19, 2009

New book from William Julius Wilson worth your time

William Julius Wilson writes provocative, groundbreaking stuff.

Included in his bibliography are books like When Work Disappears, The Declining Significance of Race and The Truly Disadvantaged.

Now, Wilson is out with his latest study that promises to be his most important work to date. More Than Just Race tackles the historic debate sparked over four decades ago by the social commentary of Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan in "The Negro Family: The Case for National Action," or the so-called "Moynihan Report."

As would be expected, Wilson comes at the issue from a new perspective that rings true upon reading the first reviews of his latest book. As a matter of fact, I heard a group of young black men speaking in exactly Wilson's terms just last week as we discussed a new project that aimed to create real jobs for their community.

For a sample of Wilson's thinking, take a look at the review from Slate below:

How To Understand the Culture of Poverty

William Julius Wilson once again defies both right and left

By Sudhir Venkatesh

Pop quiz: Who made the following observation? "At the heart of the deterioration of the fabric of [black America] is the deterioration of the [black] family. It is a fundamental weakness of [black Americans] at the present time." Each year, I pose this question to my undergraduate students. Most will guess George Bush, Bill Cosby, Al Sharpton, or Bill Clinton. This is not surprising, given their age. More telling is their perception that such a view might come from the political left or right. It reveals just how commonplace the link of family-race-poverty is in the American mindset.

But there is a little trickery going on: Replace "black" with "Negro" and change the date to 1965. The correct author is Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan. He wrote these words as part of a policy brief to help President Lyndon Johnson understand the distressed social conditions in urban ghettos. "The Negro Family: The Case for National Action" leaked to the press and created a firestorm of controversy with its contention that a "tangle of pathology" engulfed black America.
The so-called "Moynihan Report" brought about a new language for understanding race and poverty: Now-familiar terms like pathology, blame the victim, and culture of poverty entered American thought as people debated whether Moynihan was courageously pointing out the causes of social ills or simply finger-pointing. Moynihan forced a nation to ask, "Is the culture of poor blacks at the core of their problems?"

[read more here]




rcorum said...

This sounds like a book that I will want to read. I have strong feelings about these issues, but my views need more education. Living in Memphis makes it easy to have ones view skewed. Thanks for the suggestion. Just out of curiosity, what is your opinion of the writings of Dr Thomas Sowell and Dr. Walter Williams, both conservative black writers?

Kendall said...

I appreciate the post and subsequent article, Larry!

This quote is dead-on: " focusing on the capacity of the poor to act rationally and thoughtfully, Wilson wants us to get off the victimhood bandwagon...neither defending the victim nor blaming the victim is very helpful in moving us forward."

William Wilson shares my perspective on the issue and the need for cultural change, although he articulates it much better than I could. :-)

I definitely want to get away from Lbrl vs Cnsvtv and face it as a human problem that needs a realistic solution. Admittedly, solutions and policy recommendations are where I need a better understanding, followed by action.

Larry James said...

I'm not a big fan of Thomas Sowell's, doesn't reflect an understanding of what I see everyday here in the city. Sorry, I haven't read Walter Williams.

Anonymous said...

These are such difficult and entrenched issues. It can be difficult to even discuss such issues, even for Black people themselves - witness the firestorm Bill Cosby touched off - much less if you're white. But such issues are clearly real, and it helps no one to ignore them.