Race, Poverty, and American Cities

By John Charles Boger; Judith Welch Wegner | Go to book overview

compromised, both economically and socially. Simply put, if we do not address the problems of our inner cities, we will not be able to compete and win in the global economy. 105

Yet the Clinton administration's modest efforts (1) to provide a platform of minimum supports for the poor--national health insurance, earned income tax credits, expansion of educational support for low-income children, and support for increased job training efforts--and (2) to offer some coherent urban strategy have been met with substantial political opposition and widespread public skepticism or indifference. If there is growing income inequality in America as the twentieth century closes, as many economists report, 106 the predominant response among a majority of the electorate seems to be a scramble for a place at the table, rather than advocacy of public policies that might reduce the emerging inequities.

W. E. B. Du Bois, looking forward in 1903, predicted that "the problem" of the still-young twentieth century would be "the problem of the color- line, the relation of the darker to the lighter races of men in Asia and Africa, in America and the islands of the sea." 107 As the century closes, Du Bois's prescience has been confirmed; America domestic polity and politics have been dominated, especially since 1950, by issues of race, ethnicity, and poverty. The remarkable legal victories won by the civil rights movement against segregation have not overcome the racial divide but instead have disclosed deep and long-lasting economic wounds that accompanied slavery, decades of Jim Crow subordination, and a legacy of overt hostility toward non-European immigrant populations, especially Asians and Hispanic Americans.

To amend Du Bois, one might predict that America's principal domestic challenge in the twenty-first century may well be to transcend the residual economic and social legacies of its past white supremacy and racial subordination. If, indeed, that becomes the nation's chief domestic issue, the contributors to this volume have offered powerful evidence that no national success is likely without far greater governmental attention than has yet been afforded to America's imperiled central cities and to the minority poor within them.


Notes
1.
Nancy Mathis, "GOP Signs 'Contract with America,'" Houston Chronicle, September 28, 1994 (reporting that more than 300 Republican House candidates signed the contract on September 27, 1994, pledging if elected to work for legislation on ten major points outlined in the contract, including tax cuts, a balanced budget amendment, welfare reform, and increased defense spending); see

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