THE COLOR OF WELFARE

HOW RACISM UNDERMINED THE WAR ON POVERTY

A pointed reinterpretation of the history of antipoverty policy, arguing that racism most explains why our welfare state is feeble compared with other industrialized nations. Quadagno (Sociology/Florida State Univ.; The Transformation of Old Age Security, not reviewed) proceeds with several case studies, which could have used a bit of leavening with political context and journalistic verve. The author notes that black agricultural workers and domestic servants were denied Social Security protection because of white political opposition in the Roosevelt era. Similarly, New Deal programs seeking to bolster the housing market actually reinforced housing segregation. The Office of Economic Opportunity, the main engine of Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty, didn't receive enough funding, nor did it establish a policy of redistribution, the author notes. Her discussion of government job-training programs and affirmative action, in which she attacks William Julius Wilson's well-known critique of group rights, is not fully convincing; nor does it address some latter- day issues like the ``race-norming'' of job tests. More potent is her analysis of federal housing policy, which in the 1980s retreated from its commitment to subsidizing housing for the poor. Also, she shows how Richard Nixon's Family Assistance Plan, which promised a guaranteed annual income to the poor, threatened Southern political and business powers, who led the political opposition. She does suggest that the country's lack of commitment to universal child care can be blamed less on racism than on general social conservatism. In the end, Quadagno establishes that the US, compared to other industrialized nations, does the least to fight poverty. However, she would have set the stage better for discussion of solutions had she mentioned America's changing multiracial landscape, debates about the impact of culture on poverty, and current proposals for such policies as workfare. Mainly for students and policy wonks.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-19-507919-1

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1994

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A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

SO YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT RACE

Straight talk to blacks and whites about the realities of racism.

In her feisty debut book, Oluo, essayist, blogger, and editor at large at the Establishment magazine, writes from the perspective of a black, queer, middle-class, college-educated woman living in a “white supremacist country.” The daughter of a white single mother, brought up in largely white Seattle, she sees race as “one of the most defining forces” in her life. Throughout the book, Oluo responds to questions that she has often been asked, and others that she wishes were asked, about racism “in our workplace, our government, our homes, and ourselves.” “Is it really about race?” she is asked by whites who insist that class is a greater source of oppression. “Is police brutality really about race?” “What is cultural appropriation?” and “What is the model minority myth?” Her sharp, no-nonsense answers include talking points for both blacks and whites. She explains, for example, “when somebody asks you to ‘check your privilege’ they are asking you to pause and consider how the advantages you’ve had in life are contributing to your opinions and actions, and how the lack of disadvantages in certain areas is keeping you from fully understanding the struggles others are facing.” She unpacks the complicated term “intersectionality”: the idea that social justice must consider “a myriad of identities—our gender, class, race, sexuality, and so much more—that inform our experiences in life.” She asks whites to realize that when people of color talk about systemic racism, “they are opening up all of that pain and fear and anger to you” and are asking that they be heard. After devoting most of the book to talking, Oluo finishes with a chapter on action and its urgency. Action includes pressing for reform in schools, unions, and local governments; boycotting businesses that exploit people of color; contributing money to social justice organizations; and, most of all, voting for candidates who make “diversity, inclusion and racial justice a priority.”

A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-58005-677-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Seal Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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