On the Edge: A History of Poor Black Children and Their American Dreams

On the Edge: A History of Poor Black Children and Their American Dreams

On the Edge: A History of Poor Black Children and Their American Dreams

On the Edge: A History of Poor Black Children and Their American Dreams

Synopsis

Filled with fascinating insights into the collective emotional life of inner-city kids, this book is also a highly original history of the erosion of urban community life since World War II.

Excerpt

This is a history book about some American children. But American is not the word most Americans commonly use to describe them. Overall, the nation's preferences run instead to phrases like "alienated youth," "ghetto kids," "them," or "you people," and in more hateful moments, "punks," "wolf packs," "welfare queens," or "niggers." Scholars and other experts on inner-city affairs have also developed a terminology filled with derogatory phrases implying that poor black kids, like the ones described in this book, exist in a realm far outside ordinary definitions of America: "Dysfunctional youth" is one of these supposedly objective concepts; "tangles of pathology" and "contagion" are others. But the favorite term nowadays is "underclass," a term one liberal scholar defined, in pạrt, as "a vile and debased subhuman population." Americans do have access to more respectful names for the kids in this book: "African- American" is one of them. But "all-American" (as in apple pie or the kid next door) is almost never a first choice.

Even the children profiled in this book tend to choose other names before they call themselves "American." "Jitterbugs" is one name they preferred in the past (it was popular in the 1940s and 1950s, when the story of this book begins). Since then other kids have tried on "cats," "hipcats," "dreamgirls," "hustlers," "gowsters," "mackmen," "flygirls," "b-boys," "round-the-way girls," and even "baaad niggers." "Underclass," not surprisingly, has little appeal.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.