Blending Scholarship with
Robert C. Weaver
I have had a career as both a scholar and a public servant that began in the 1930s with the New Deal. I know what government can do when there is the political will to act. I have seen it and have been a part of it. I have also been a contributor to the scholarship on housing, labor, and ethnicity. More recently, my attention has focused on the neoconservatives who have been misleading us in race relations. Their impact is much greater today than we realize and reflects the current political agenda of withdrawing government from its constitutional mandate of providing for the common good and general welfare of the nation. 1
But regardless of whether a scholar is a neoconservative, liberal, or radical, a common trend has developed over the years and is particularly apparent in the literature on ethnicity. We have gone from one extreme early in this century—that black people have no redeeming features—to the other extreme: if the saints were in our midst, they would not be good enough because we have such high expectations of everyone in the race. None among us should fall prey to drugs, poor school achievement, or any of the other crises we are in. Much of the public debate on these issues is more indignant and shocking than useful. I think it is important not to overemphasize or romanticize who we are or to ignore our diversity. This means recognizing that increasing numbers of us are living in and responding to an extraordinarily unsupportive human condition. Any people in our circumstances and with as few choices would respond in much the same way.
The way that young inner city black males are categorically viewed reflects this disjoining of expectations and their real social context. In all this, I have taken a very strong stand against people who have a single idea about the cause and solution that overshadows everything else. There is still a tendency among social scientists to try to find out what the cause is when