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More than Just Race: Being Black and Poor in the Inner City (Issues of Our Time) Hardcover – March 9, 2009

ISBN-13: 978-0393067057 ISBN-10: 039306705X Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Series: Issues of Our Time
  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (March 9, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 039306705X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393067057
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.8 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #361,036 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Harvard sociologist Wilson (The Declining Significance of Race) makes a bold effort to reframe current debates on the relationship between race and poverty in the U.S. The author observes that discussions of race have hardened into two mutually exclusive and inflexible perspectives. One view regards black poverty as a consequence of social forces—e.g., segregation and the flight of middle-class black residents from urban centers. Alternately, black poverty has been portrayed as a product of individual and cultural inadequacy. Wilson argues for perspectives that acknowledge the inherent symbiosis of social and cultural forces. For example, cultural concerns about black violence in the 1970s gave rise to a more punitive response to street crime leading to greatly increased incarceration rates for black men. Employers' unwillingness to hire black ex-felons, coupled with the rise of service jobs that favor women, led to the decline of the traditional male provider role that had sustained long-term family commitments. Wilson combines a critical look at recent research on poverty and race with his own field research to construct a synthesis that sidesteps many of the pitfalls that often entrap race and poverty theorists. (Mar.)
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“A refreshing, multilayered study of racial inequality in America. . . . Reshapes the frame through which race and poverty are viewed.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“Straightforward, accessible and sensible, free of . . . ideological cant and posturing.” (New York Times Book Review) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 31 people found the following review helpful By K. N. VINE VOICE on September 1, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Wilson's pithy volume, part of Henry Louis Gates's Issues of Our Time series with Norton, presents a critical synopsis of the great debates in urban sociology over the past fifty years. *More than Just Race* considers how sociologists from Elliot Liebow to Sudhir Alladi Venkatesh have tarried with the question of urban poverty. In reflecting on these different perspectives, Wilson presents an illuminating narrative about one of the most charged areas of American public policy.

One of the book's notable strengths is the extraordinary breadth of sociological knowledge Wilson displays in his writing. Wilson's survey of urban sociology bespeaks years of research and work in the field, though his prose remains accessible and engaging. Further, by organizing the book into three interrelated chapters -- on how poverty affects 1) urban space; 2) young black men; and 3) black families/single black mothers -- Wilson presents the sociological literature in a clear, theme-oriented manner. His chapter on black families and the Moynihan Report is especially well-composed.

The book's other great virtue is that it condenses the longstanding debate scholars and policy-makers have had in determining the role structural inequalities and cultural variables play in the persistence of urban poverty. Seeing the merits of both sides of the debate, Wilson believes the problem is best understood as an amalgam of institutional and cultural factors. Although Wilson makes this particular point in a somewhat repetitive fashion, the overall effect of his argument is edifying: it moves beyond putatively "liberal" and "conservative" positions in the urban poverty debate to outline a synthetic view of the everyday realities of inner-city life.
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34 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Werner Cohn on March 8, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This brief but powerful monograph lays out the proper middle ground: the social position of African Americans is neither the result of the "structural" factors alone (institutional arrangements that largely perpetuate disadvantages), nor of "cultural" factors alone (Black American family, work, language, religion, etc.). Professor Wilson argues persuasively the need to attend to both sets of influences. On the other hand, he sees the structural factors as the more influential.

The structural/cultural debate has been influenced by ideological commitments by the various theorists, and it is one of the great virtues of this book that Wilson explains this ideological baggage and transcends it. In that sense, this book clears much of the underbrush and should thus enable future work to avoid the pitfalls of the past.

The book does give a wealth of information about previous work by others. But with all that, it is what it is: largely programmatic. I did put it down with some disappointment that it didn't do more. I had hoped for a thicker description, for example, of some of the cultural factors. What do we know, in the 21st century, about Black language, Black churches, Black family patterns, etc. ? Wilson does bring us up to date on structural matters, largely with reference to census and poll data. But the current state of work on Black culture still awaits a summary exposition.
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20 of 25 people found the following review helpful By J. C. Jeanty on March 24, 2010
Format: Paperback
In this short 155 page informative non-fiction academic novel, I feel I have been taken to a world completely alien, despite growing up in a low income community myself. In truth, this world was alien to me because I made it alien. As a young man, I witnessed firsthand and recognized at an early age the self-destructive behavior amongst blacks within the black community. Not caring for academic progression, the tendency for imprudent behavior leading to criminal behavior, and women too often priding in their promiscuousness that always eventually lead to early pregnancy. I saw all of these things and decided I would not fall into the trap that cycled throughout my neighborhood. To do so, not only required physically removing myself from that environment (I switched to a magnet high school my junior year), but it also required that I removed myself mentally and emotionally, by claiming that these people were different from myself, in so much that they intentionally not allow themselves to progress. Along with it went my empathy for the black person, and replaced with ignorant opinion and naïve reasons to why blacks were such seemingly failures.

This book has been a significantly eye-opening experience. It has allowed me to put the cultural behavioral I have witnessed throughout my life into a categorical mental classification of awareness within the larger intellectual genome of understanding. I know now that the current situation of blacks have been very much influenced by racial policies that were both explicit, i.e. Jim Crow, and implicit, i.e. reduction of federal financial support of areas of high black populations such as the inner city.
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6 of 10 people found the following review helpful By RGB_R on February 12, 2011
Format: Paperback
I am not one to read books on the sociological side, but this book was really good.

For me this book was very eye opening. Prior to reading it, I barely knew that racism also had a structural dimension to it. William Julius Wilson showed me just how much it is so in American society and history.

Wilson's basic claim is that there is a structural and a cultural dimension in racism. Of the two social structure is bigger. This is a controversial claim for both liberals and conservatives alike. Conservatives generally contend that racism has to do with character issues whereas liberals call the conservative take "blaming the victim" and posit something more covert and systemic. Both are at work according to Wilson.

Wilson brings out a slew of research and demonstrates that structural factors are at work in racial inequality. I was shocked to read about how freeways and highways were constructed to cordon off poor and minority neighborhoods from business districts. One example was Chicago. Wilson gave other examples (e.g. Birmingham freeways), but what got to me especially was thinking that Wilson could have multiplied them even more. This was all news for me.

Wilson also discussed cultural factors in racial inequality (which btw, ultimately have their roots in the structural factors). I found this also to be eye-opening and even counter-intuitive. Yet he provided research and data to back up what he says.

Its a good book. If you are a person who generally thinks that racism is what happens in certain restaurants or when a cop pulls a black driver over, etc... and do not think of it in systemic terms then you really should read this book.
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