When I wrote: An argument was made to me a few years ago about the successes in education and employment of low income black families that moved into relatively quiet and affluent suburbs: their success is attributed to reconnecting with the black middle class. A new standard was set.
Rick Esenberg wrote: ...the argument often goes like this: In the segregated inner city of the past, black lawyers and doctors lived in the same neighborhoods as poor people. Discrimination prevented their escape,...I don't disagree with that, but, ironically, this suggests that the problem is an unfortunate result of the civil rights movement...
Now it is time to turn to William Julius Wilson,The Truly Disadvantaged: The Inner City, the Underclass, and Public Policy. At page 56
However the argument that associates the increase of social problems in the inner city with the crystallization of underclass culture obscures some very important structural and institutional changes in the inner city that have accompanied the black middle- and working-class exodus, and leaves the erroneous impression that the sharp increase in social dislocation i the inner city can simply be explained by the ascendancy of a ghetto culture of poverty. The problem is more complex.
More specifically, I believe that the exodus of middle- and working-class families, from many ghetto neighborhoods removes an important"social buffer" that could deflect the full impact of the kind of prolonged and increasing joblessness that plagued inner-city neighborhoods in the 1970s and early 1980s, joblessness created by uneven economic growth and periodic recessions...the very presence of these families during such periods provides mainstream role models that help keep alive the perception that education is meaningful, that steady employment is a viable alternative to welfare, and that family stability is the norm, not the exception. (emphasis added)
More on Wilson on poverty and welfare in the coming weeks.
Yes, the civil rights movement, providing middle- and working class blacks a way out, did contribute to a vacuum of leadership in the inner city. But I doubt anyone would turn back the clock and undo the civil rights movement and the confrontation with the ugly face of Jim Crow.
That the welfare system contributed to the problem is also unchallenged in this corner.
Before we move on to solutions, which I think, in part, are found in the works of John McKnight, we ought to look carefully at what Wilson (and Esenberg) say about employment, the ned for public education that works, the need for jobs that do not require high levels of education, and utilizing existing resources- asset building.