W. J. Wilson's Being Poor, Black, and American: The Impact of Political, Economic, and Cultural Forces Analysis

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From the late 1990s to the early years of the twenty-first century, there was little media attention paid to the plight of impoverished African Americans. There was almost no national coverage of the problem of localized urban destitution—neighborhoods with high concentrations of people living below the poverty line. Politicians, policymakers, and the corporate community made no mention of inner-city issues. This is in stark contrast to the shift from legal discrimination to more transparent social structures and could be seen by violence and demonstrations such as those that preceded Dr. Martin Luther King's assassination. The paper seeks to explore the neglect of the urban poor, and how political, economic and cultural forces come into play on this issue.

Hurricane Katrina which occurred in 2005, revealed the levels of poverty experienced by poor urban residents. Naturally, the media often portray pictures of affluence; no one wants to see pictures of poverty-stricken children. United States is known for its financial muscle, so when the media concentrated on flooding after the Katrina, individuals trapped in their flats with poor living conditions, the world was astounded by the plight of the poor (Wilson, 2011). Some of the victims never had auto vehicles to move to safer places; poverty played some roles in the number of deaths experienced by the people. Katrina forced media to portray the challenges of the urban poor and how the government has neglected them.

Naturally, if the media focused on inner-city destitution before Katrina, the government or the country as a whole may not have reacted to or see how deep the issue is. It is quite interesting because a majority of the urban residents are in these extremely poor neighborhoods, so one may question, how the state agents can disregard such a huge issue (Wilson, 2011). Public viewpoints often assume that poor and unemployed individuals suffer because of their own doings. No one had really reflected on how bigger forces in the community such as isolation, an absence of economic opportunities, failure of public institutions, lack of free education systems, and racism has contributed hugely to this plight.

Katrina actually being beyond the influence of the inner city poor, Americans had to react. Although Katrina was a natural occurrence, people could see the effect of racism and economic subordination through it. There are a few social scientists, however, who had focused their attention on the inner-city struggle prior to Hurricane Katrina (Wilson, 2011). There are many problems that come with poverty; there is an increase in unemployment due to lack of education, crime, drug peddling, dysfunctional families as well as poor health and increase in death rates due to HIV and AIDS, heart diseases, among other managable diseases due to unaffordability of health care. Poor black neighborhoods are concentrated and often seen as dangerous, so they end up being segregated. This treatment has even extended to other areas where the black Americans are often discriminated against even in the affluent neighborhoods.

Political forces have contributed to this urban poor. The government through the Federal Housing Administration program withheld capital on mortgages making it hard for people to buy homes in some areas. There was also an exclusion of some urban neighborhoods mostly from the blacks and other minority groups. Nearly all black neighbors were sidelined meaning that they could not afford to purchase their homes. This is why the blacks are associated with black neighborhoods. Blacks were segregated even in infrastructure. Racial policies in the suburbs also never allowed affluent blacks in predominantly white neighborhoods (Wilson, 2011). Economic forces have contributed to the urban poor plight. The blacks are considered uneducated as such they are normally paid less. They have been cases such as in health care where a black nurse is paid less than the white nurse in spite of having same qualifications and being in the same job groups. Additionally, they are never given promotions. Others in different industries are given low-level jobs. Cultural forces, particularly norms have had a huge effect on the predicament of the urban poor black.

The audience of this article is the general public, policymakers, and the government. The author is seeking to explore the plight of the urban poor and how factors such as political, economic and cultural forces have contributed to it. Policymakers may not know how they indirectly influence things that happen in the urban cities. Look at the public housing issue, for example, it caused the blacks to never own homes. The business community also offers less remuneration to the African Americans in spite of being equally educated (Wilson, 2011). The author is trying to tell the federal government, some of the policies that are not necessarily racial have a huge effect on the inner city poor. Policy makers in the economic areas have contributed to increased destitution with choices that have lessened the attractiveness of low paying employment and sped up the relative decrease in the remunerations of the low-income employees. Lack of an effective labor market policy particularly has caused the industry to foster some of the practices that weaken worker security such as the elimination of benefits, lack of employee insurance, and increase in involuntary part-time job.

The author use Ethos to discuss the importance of treating everyone equally. He talks about the effect ancient segregation laws that have had on African Americans. Housing laws which did not permit African Americans to own houses in white neighborhoods, for example, in New York City have led to New York being a predominantly white city even today. Additionally, the segregation of housing still has led to many black living in poor neighborhoods known for all kind of criminal activities and dysfunctional families(Wilson, 2011). This implies that there would be no change in the future generations since there are no role models to emulate.

The author appeals to the ethos of the policymakers to formulate the policies that elevate the status of the African Americans. Policymakers may not know how some policies indirectly impact the lives of the urban poor. Poor pay for the blacks in spite of having the same qualification as the whites ought to be discouraged and laws to be put in place to reprimand such employers. Also, there is racial discrimination in recruitment, and low-skilled black males are perceived as dangerous, but it is not often so (Wilson, 2011).The blacks, as well as other minority groups, deserve the same privileges and rights accorded to the white persons.

Pathos appeal is employed also concerning housing again where the blacks are not given certain housing or allowed to own home in some neighborhoods. The author talks of some privileges the whites are given while the blacks are denied. Look at the houses erected in New York, New Jersey and later Puerto Rico, for instance. The housing in these neighborhoods as the author puts it were produced in large numbers and carefully planned in a suburban way (Wilson, 2011). There were public amenities like as shopping malls and spaces for social institutions, schools or hospitals. These were neighborhoods where one could escape the congested city flats and many whites owned these homes.

Interestingly, the blacks were never allowed to own these homes in spite of having the finances to purchase it. Diversification in the urban, as the author puts it, are by race rather than class. Segregation in public housing funded federally by the State led to inner-city ghettos. Pathos appeal is employed by the author to enable audience to sympathize with the situation of the blacks by showing that it is not their own doing but rather through forces imposed on by the political system, economy systems as well as culture. Being paid less than whites means they cannot better their lives or start own businesses while their white counterparts can.

Wilson used Logos appeal to persuade the audience on the importance of eliminating racial discriminating and enhancing the lives of the urban poor. In as much as the whites neglect the blacks, the consequences of this mean an increase in criminal activities as well as other issues such as drug trafficking. Crimes affect anyone. Logically, the black thieves can not steal from poor neighborhoods because there is nothing to steal, the most probable culprits would be the whites. Also, increase in drug peddling means that the white children are likely to be drawn to abuse drugs. So they are affected indirectly. Also, the criminal system shall end up using a lot of money rehabilitating these people or feeding the blacks in jail using taxes paid by the both the whites and blacks, in essence, waste of taxpayers money which could be used to enhance the economy. It is better, safer, and cheaper to treat each other equally.


Racial discrimination may have been in decline in the recent past; however, there are instances where it can be seen or felt. The effects of racial laws and segregation in the 19th century can still be felt; however, its changes can still be made to avert future effects. It is important to provide amenities and opportunities to the black so that they can enhance their lives. As the logo appeal shows, there is a loss in taxpayers’ money through feeding or health care criminals, who come about as a result of harsh economic or political forces which cause black to engage in criminal activities. Also huge expenditure on drugs of managing illness such as HIV or AIDS which can be minimized through sensitization and education on how to minimize its transmission. Additionally, there is wastage of young talents regarding unemployment of capable blacks who can contribute positively to the economy and also enhance their families and future generations.


Banfield, J. C., & Dovidio, J. F. (2013). Whites' perceptions of discrimination against Blacks:

The influence of common identity. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 49(5), 833-841.

Burt, C. H., Simons, R. L., & Gibbons, F. X. (2012). Racial discrimination, ethnic-racial socialization, and crime: A micro-sociological model of risk and resilience. American Sociological Review, 77(4), 648-677.

Carol, B. (1974). Sex roles and survival strategies in an urban black community. Woman, culture, and society, 133, 113.

Wilson, W. J. (2011). Being Poor, Black, and American: The Impact of Political, Economic, and Cultural Forces. American Educator, 35(1), 10.

November 23, 2022

Social Issues Life

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