Dream and Reality: The Modern Black Struggle for Freedom and Equality

By Jeannine Swift | Go to book overview

6 Improving the Plight of Black, Inner-City Youths: Whose Responsibility?

Ronald L. Taylor

Despite genuine improvements in the general socioeconomic status of Black Americans over the past two decades, conditions among the nation's black youths have deteriorated. Indeed, compared to the mid-1960s, more black youths today are unemployed, living in poverty, undereducated, involved in crime and drug abuse, and are having babies out of wedlock. These problems are particularly severe among inner-city youths, where an estimated eighty-one percent are living in poverty, four out of ten are unemployed, nearly a third drop out of high school, more than a quarter are involved in crime and delinquent activities, and where the percentage of unwed births to black teens has approached unity.( 1) As a result, an increasing number of inner-city youths are joining the ranks of the so-called black "underclass," i.e., that entrapped population of poor persons in urban areas who are largely isolated from the mainstream of American life.

These data are now all too familiar and present a grim and disturbing portrait of the plight of black youths in contemporary American society. The important questions are why, during a period of unprecedented black progress, have the problems of black youths grown worse and become so widespread, and what, if anything, is to be done, and by whom. The literature in this area has far more to say on the first of these questions than on the others.


TWO EXPLANATIONS

Some observers identify the locus of black youth problems in perverse demographic trends, deteriorating local economies, and the functional transformation in urban structures during the past two decades which have converged to exacerbate the problems of inner cities and predicament of black youths. In fact, the number and percentage of black youths in central cities across the country increased dramatically during the past two decades. Black youths, ages 16-19, increased by 72 percent in central cities between 1960 and 1970, while young black adults, ages 20-24, increased by 66 percent during the same period. By 1980, 56 percent of blacks under 25 years of age resided in central cities, more than twice the percentage for whites in these age groups.( 2) As William Wilson observes: "On the basis of these demographic changes alone, one would expect blacks . . . to account disproportionately for the increasing social problems of the central city."( 3)

Concomitant with the sudden increase in the youth component of central city black populations has been the precipitous decline in the number of jobs available in primary and secondary labor markets resulting from industrial relocations from the urban core to other areas of the

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Dream and Reality: The Modern Black Struggle for Freedom and Equality
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Recent Titles in Contributions in Afro-American and African Studies ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • 1: A Tale of Two and One-Half Decades 3
  • Notes 11
  • 2: A Tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr. 13
  • 3: Rediscovering Women Leaders of the Civil Rights Movement 19
  • Conclusion 26
  • Notes 26
  • 4: The Civil Rights Movement: Upheaval and Organization 29
  • Conclusion 39
  • Notes 40
  • 5: Blacks and the New South: Civil Rights in the Eighties 43
  • Introduction 43
  • Conclusion 49
  • Notes 50
  • 6: Improving the Plight of Black, Inner-City Youths: Whose Responsibility? 53
  • Notes 65
  • 7: Racial Attitudes of Black and White Adolescents Before and After Desegregation 69
  • Conclusion 73
  • Notes 74
  • 8: The Ills of Integration: A Black Perspective 77
  • Introduction 77
  • Notes 84
  • 9: A Dream Deferred for Quality Education: Civil Rights Legislation and De Facto Segregation in the Cincinnati Schools, 1954-1986 87
  • Notes 91
  • 10: The Housing Conditions of Black Americans: 1960s-1980s 93
  • Conclusion 98
  • Notes 105
  • 11: The Collapse of the Employment Policy Agenda: 1964-1981 107
  • Introduction 107
  • Conclusion 120
  • Notes 121
  • 12: Black Workers at Risk: Jobs for Life or Death 125
  • Conclusion 131
  • Notes 133
  • 13: "Where Do We Go from Here" 137
  • Notes 144
  • Index 147
  • About the Editor and the Contributors 153
  • Hofstra University's Cultural and Intercultural Studies Coordinating Editor, Alexej Ugrinsky 157
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