BEYOND BLAME: How We Can Succeed by Breaking the Dependency Barrier by Armstrong Williams

BEYOND BLAME: How We Can Succeed by Breaking the Dependency Barrier

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A prominent black conservative alternately enrages and enlightens, but falls far short of his aim: to create a meaningful philosophy that will move African-American readers to take responsibility for their lives. In his first chapter, radio commentator and USA Today columnist Williams tells the story (based on five interviews he conducted) of a street hustler he calls Brad; the subsequent seven chapters, written in the form of letters, attempt to respond to this young man's life by constructing an ideology of self-respect and responsibility. Brad, a crack dealer in inner-city Washington, DC, came from a stable middle-class home. His involvement in crime despite his family's social standing offers a powerful antidote to the liberal stereotype of the inner-city youth who turns to the streets because he has nowhere else to go; Williams knows this and exploits it meaningfully. But he also engages in more mean-spirited exploitation, delivering a harsh diatribe against Brad that gives the impression that the dealer has been pressed into service to further the author's aims. The ""letters"" addressed to Brad are contrived and lack the humanity that presumably existed in their real-life interactions. (Williams says he helped Brad leave his criminal life and found him a steady job.) The author compellingly denounces the market-driven ethic that kept Brad dealing drugs, faulting him for treating people like things. But Williams doesn't follow his criticism to its logical conclusion; he avoids casting any bad light on the sacred cow of conservative ideology: market capitalism. Failing to at least address the question of how the country's broader profit-making ethos contributes to the drug-dealing problem, he loses the moral authority he is so eager to claim for black conservatives. Provocative, but ultimately unconvincing.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1995
Page count: 250pp
Publisher: Free Press