A fresh, challenging analysis of the racial inequality endured by African-Americans.
Loury (Economics/Boston Univ.; One by One from the Inside Out, 1995, etc.) first presented these arguments as the W.E.B. DuBois Lectures at Harvard in April 2000. One of his principal observations is that those who consider racial issues should replace the concept of racial discrimination with that of “racial stigma.” People are stigmatized, he says, when they are viewed by others not as individuals but as members of a race. He believes that American blacks have patently suffered the most from stigmatization and identifies slavery as the chief cause. Whites for centuries perceived blacks as inferior; blacks themselves acquired thereby a “spoiled collective identity.” Loury argues persuasively, though in a dispassionate scholarly manner, for policies based on what he calls “race-egalitarianism over race-blindness.” Policymakers and leaders in the media, he says, should endeavor to consider such issues as the plight of the urban black poor and to recognize—and promulgate—the position that such a situation is intolerable in a society like ours. Addressing the sad statistic that approximately1.2 million black men are currently behind bars, he argues that a key question should be: “What manner of people are WE who accept such degradation in our midst?” Loury accepts some of the principles of affirmative action, though he is careful to observe that he neither favors quotas nor wishes to see any individual of any race denied opportunities he or she has earned. Instead, he advocates policies that would “mitigate the economic marginality of members of historically oppressed racial groups.” A certain scholarly diction sometimes results in sentences with words that clang rather than chime, and Loury occasionally relies on such clichés as “[it’s] a bit like closing the barn door after the horses have gone.”
Nonetheless, there’s no question that this is a significant, even crucial text gravid with vital ideas. (22 graphs, 7 tables)