Who Represents the People? African Americans, Public Policy, and Political Alienation during the Reagan-Bush Years
Thousands of pages of statistics about African Americans have been collected, tabulated, and published ( Myrdal 1944; National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders 1968; Jaynes and Williams 1989). We have been measured, surveyed, and sorted into several different categories such as the "black underclass" ( Wilson 1987), the "black bourgeoisie" ( Frazier 1957), and the "new black middle class" ( Landry 1987). Policy experts have conducted research on the impact of different kinds of policy initiatives, and they have put forth several proposals supposedly to reduce our problems ( Auletta 1982; Wilson 1987). However, there has been a noticeable gap. Despite these and many other studies of the conditions of African Americans, not enough is known about how this information about our problems, priorities, and concerns gets translated into policy. For the most part, policies important to our community continue to reflect the political moods of whites. With conservative policy initiatives being in vogue, such policies often have had little to do with the needs or preferences of black citizens.
Policymakers have also tried to redefine our problems for us. For example, national surveys continue to show that African Americans rank such