Today, many nonwhites express what has been referred to as "integration exhaustion" as they question the value of integration in today’s world. And many whites exhibit what has been labeled "race fatigue," arguing that we have done enough to reconcile the races. Many policies have been implemented in efforts to open up traditionally restricted neighborhoods, while others have been designed to diversify traditionally poor, often nonwhite, neighborhoods. Still, racial segregation persists, along with the many social costs of such patterns of uneven development.
This book explores both long-standing and emerging controversies over the nation’s ongoing struggles with discrimination and segregation. More urgently, it offers guidance on how these barriers can be overcome to achieve truly balanced and integrated living patterns.
The book also demonstrates how problems facing minority communities are increasingly important to the nation’s long-term economic vitality and global competitiveness as a whole. Solutions to the challenges facing the nation in creating a more equitable society are not beyond our ability to design or implement, and it is in the interest of all Americans to support programs aimed at creating a more just society.
The book is uniquely valuable to students in the social sciences and public policy, as well as to policy makers, and city planners.
Inner cities, writes Owen Fiss, are structures of subordination. The only way to end the poverty they transmit across generations is to help people move out of them--and into neighborhoods with higher employment rates and decent schools. Based on programs tried successfully in Chicago and elsewhere, Fiss's proposal is for a provocative national policy initiative that would give inner-city residents rent vouchers so they can move to better neighborhoods. This would end at last the informal segregation, by race and income, of our metropolitan regions. Given the government's role in creating and maintaining segregation, Fiss argues, justice demands no less than such sweeping federal action.
To sample the heated controversy that Fiss's ideas will ignite, the book includes ten responses from scholars, journalists, and practicing lawyers. Some endorse Fiss's proposal in general terms but take issue with particulars. Others concur with his diagnosis of the problem but argue that his policy response is wrongheaded. Still others accuse Fiss of underestimating the internal strength of inner-city communities as well as the hostility of white suburbs.
Fiss's bold views should set off a debate that will help shape urban social policy into the foreseeable future. It is indispensable reading for anyone interested in social justice, domestic policy, or the fate of our cities.
“The Truly Disadvantaged should spur critical thinking in many quarters about the causes and possible remedies for inner city poverty. As policymakers grapple with the problems of an enlarged underclass they—as well as community leaders and all concerned Americans of all races—would be advised to examine Mr. Wilson's incisive analysis.”—Robert Greenstein, New York Times Book Review
Introduced by the gripping narrative of this murder and its circumstances, Why Don't American Cities Burn? charts the emergence of the urban forms that underlie such events. Katz traces the collision of urban transformation with the rightward-moving social politics of late twentieth- and early twenty-first-century America. He shows how the bifurcation of black social structures produced a new African American inequality and traces the shift from images of a pathological black "underclass" to praise of the entrepreneurial poor who take advantage of new technologies of poverty work to find the beginning of the path to the middle class. He explores the reasons American cities since the early 1970s have remained relatively free of collective violence while black men in bleak inner-city neighborhoods have turned their rage inward on one another rather than on the agents and symbols of a culture and political economy that exclude them.
The book ends with a meditation on how the political left and right have come to believe that urban transformation is inevitably one of failure and decline abetted by the response of government to deindustrialization, poverty, and race. How, Katz asks, can we construct a new narrative that acknowledges the dark side of urban history even as it demonstrates the capacity of government to address the problems of cities and their residents? How can we create a politics of modest hope?