Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Visible Man Hardcover – June 29, 1978
Customers who bought this item also bought
From Library Journal
Gilder's 1979 volume tells the story of Sam Brewer, a young African American man unjustly accused of rape. Though Brewer is the focus of the book, the circumstances paint a larger picture of the obstacles faced by countless black youths in America. In the 16 years that have passed since this book's debut, few of those impediments have been removed, making it as timely as ever.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
There is also this lesser known work, `Visible Man', published in 1978, and re-released with a new Introduction in 1995. The title, Gilder tells us, is both "a tribute to Ralph Ellison's classic ['Invisible Man'] and an assertion that whatever the problems of young black men, invisibility was no longer among them."
The book reads like a good novel, as Gilder tells the story - based on hundreds of interviews over two years -- of a young black man from Albany, NY, raised by a welfare mother and her female relatives, who fought in Vietnam, spends his time chasing women who frequent the bars of his neighborhood, fathers several children, works briefly for a government agency, and gets into various scrapes with the law - including a charge of rape, for which he is eventually acquitted. It was during these years spent with `Sam', his family, and his friends, that the author's unconventional views on the causes of poverty in America were forged and confirmed: specifically, his convictions regarding the civilizing and maturing power of marriage, family, and work, and the cruelty and degradation that is concealed within the welfare system.
When someone speaks out against welfare, it is easy to become indignant and to charge such a person with an appalling lack of decency, a lack of caring, a lack of charity and humanity. But shallow sentimentality has to give way to a deeper and more intelligent form of `loving one's neighbor', and I find Gilder's earnest assertions to be exceedingly compassionate and wise. In 1978, he warned us against treating blacks as if they were children -- unable to be told the truth, unable to understand the basic facts of a market economy, unable to rise above a system of fantastic expectations, indulgences, and entitlements. "This is the worst kind of racism in America," he said, "the respectable kind." The kind that unmans black men, that belittles them with pity and charity.
Problems inevitably arise "whenever and wherever the worth of welfare payments and related benefits - crucially including leisure time and related medical care - rises above the value of earnings. Under these conditions, regardless of reforms and regulations, welfare will be a government machine that fosters illegitimacy and turns dads into deadbeats." Unwed mothers are particularly eligible for these generous benefits, which means that the need for husbands is more than simply eliminated: having a working husband, who could not possibly earn as much as the government provides, becomes an outright liability. Thus the family structure is dismantled, more and more fatherless children are encouraged, men are emasculated, boys grow up without strong male role models to teach them how to become worthy adults, little girls are motivated to have babies as soon as possible (the relentless vulgarity of television, movies, and music videos, increases this motivation a thousand-fold), and the spiral of urban problems become more and more unsolvable.
Today, we have reaped the harvest of all this ignorance and condescension. Black teenage boys, wishing to be acknowledged as men, but completely unneeded in the traditional male roles of husband, father, and provider, find other ways to be acknowledged - they act out violently, join together in predatory gangs, rape and degrade their women. The prisons fill to overflowing and the inner city moves toward a police state. Babies are neglected by mothers who are still children themselves. Only a few manage to escape.
All of this is blamed superficially on racism and poverty, and the government pours money into educational programs to promote tolerance as well as more benefits for the poor. But as Gilder points out in his Introduction, "The only welfare reform that makes a difference is a private economy that grows faster than the public dole."
Obviously, in our current economic crisis, a "growing private economy" presents quite a challenge. But it will not be accomplished through superficial, condescending, poorly-thought-out government policies, such as the ones Gilder recognized long ago in this prescient and very worthwhile book.
Now that the nation's welfare system is in its final years, its interesting to see the effects of New York State's extreamly generous welfare benefits had on a low-income neighborhood and its residents in the first few years, which is the background of the story, which concerns a black man falsly accused of raping a white woman.
The books is very well-written and engrossing. I read it in only two sittings.