The Underclass and Structural Racism

580 Words3 Pages
William Julius Wilson, a sociologist, refers to the urban poor as the "underclass". The primary issue facing members of the underclass is "joblessness reinforced by an increasing social isolation in an impoverished neighborhood". (1) They not only suffer from lower socioeconomic status, minimal education, and lack of opportunities, but they are further victimized by a lack of community safeguards and resources. The underclass’s defining characteristic is the absence of job opportunities coupled with the absence of societal supports. Wilson believes that social isolationism, "the lack of contact or of sustained interaction with individuals and institutions that represent mainstream society", is a result of decreased employment opportunities. (2) When joblessness becomes a way of life for a community, its citizens then "experience a social isolation that excludes them from the job network system that permeates other neighborhoods and is so important in learning about or being recommended for other jobs…thus a vicious cycle is perpetuated through the family, through the community." (3) Wilson argues that the problem of the underclass in America is not one of culture but one of isolation from community and necessary resources: "The key theoretical concept, therefore, is not culture of poverty but social isolation. Culture of poverty implies that basic values and attitudes of the ghetto subculture have been internalized and thereby influence behavior…Social isolation…implies that contact between groups of different class and/or racial backgrounds is either lacking or has become increasingly intermittent but that the nature of this contact enhances the effects of living in a highly concentrated poverty area…To emphasize the concept ... ... middle of paper ... ...hetto Underclass: Social Science Perspectives. Sage Publications: London: 1993, 20. 2. Wilson, William Julius. The Truly Disadvantaged. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago: 1987, 60. 3. Wilson, William Julius. The Truly Disadvantaged. 57. 4. Wilson, William Julius. The Truly Disadvantaged. 61. 5. Cole, Sam and Henry Louis Taylor, Jr. "Structural Racism and Efforts to Radically Reconstruct the Inner-City Built Environment." 2 6. Cole, Sam and Henry Louis Taylor, Jr. 4. Works Cited Cole, Sam and Henry Louis Taylor, Jr. "Structural Racism and Efforts to Radically Reconstruct the Inner-City Built Environment." 2 Wilson, William Julius."The Underclass." The Ghetto Underclass: Social Science Perspectives. Sage Publications: London: 1993, 20. Wilson, William Julius. The Truly Disadvantaged. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago: 1987, 60.
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