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A Groundbreaking Analysis of Urban Policy
on May 14, 2010
The Condemnation of Blackness is a painstakingly researched narrative on the formation of social policy in the urban north rooted in a double-standard applied to African-Americans as opposed to immigrants of European descent, which attributed challenges faced by African Americans to their so-called innate traits to the exclusion of other factors such as employment opportunities, educational disparities and housing segregation rooted in racism. Khalil Muhammad presents a compelling discourse on the historical roots of this policy which appeared to rely more on the racial bias of its progenitors than careful analysis of the other factors contributing to then-named "Negro Problem". Dr. Muhammad's assessment beginning from the 1890 census, the inception of the Progressive Era , through the 1940s, is rooted in factual presentation of the ideas and to a certain extent the biases of the influencers of social policy with respect to African Americans. He highlights the extent to which effort was made to integrate foreign-born immigrants into society while simultaneously excluding black Americans, often rationalizing such behavior by attributing the "waste" in investing resources such as education in African Americans. These same framers of public policy decreed that the challenges of urban life for European immigrants could be addressed through social intervention, placing the blame for rampant crime, unemployment and out of wedlock births on the inherent ills of overcrowded metropolises such as New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia as a result of mass migrations to these population hubs. Interestingly, Professor Muhammad points out the fact that those same conditions existed in large cities in Europe from which the immigrants originated without those similar patterns of migration, though no policy formers took the leap of thought that these immigrants brought these problems with them. Considering the large-scale criminalization of African Americans in northern urban areas, the eventual concentration of white criminal activity in predominantly black areas, the exclusion of black Americans from access to social services and education, it is a testament to strength of character of these individuals who were able to survive (and in subsequent generations thrive) in such an openly hostile environment. The author carefully and accurately links the roots of the current issues urban areas face today, particularly in regards to crime, with the policies set in place in the 19th century. The Condemnation of Blackness is a must read for anyone who is interested in the roots of the issue of disproportionately high incarceration rates of African Americans and for those who seek understanding of this issue through the lens of critical analysis of data rather than merely using data to implement flawed decision making . In this sense, The Condemnation of Blackness serves as both a sociological study as well as a historical reference.