The Bridge over the Racial Divide

The Bridge over the Racial Divide: Rising Inequality and Coalition Politics

WILLIAM JULIUS WILSON
Copyright Date: 1999
Edition: 1
Pages: 173
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt1pnrz3
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  • Book Info
    The Bridge over the Racial Divide
    Book Description:

    In a work that will significantly influence the political discussion with respect to race and class politics, one of the country's most influential sociologists focuses on the rising inequality in American society and the need for a progressive, multiracial political coalition to combat it. The culmination of decades of distinguished scholarship,The Bridge over the Racial Dividebrilliantly demonstrates how political power is disproportionately concentrated among the most advantaged segments of society and how the monetary, trade, and tax policies of recent years have deepened this power imbalance. Developing his earlier views on race in contemporary society, William Julius Wilson gives a simple, straightforward, and crucially important diagnosis of the problem of rising social inequality in the United States and details a set of recommendations for dealing with it. Wilson argues that as long as middle- and working-class groups are fragmented along racial lines, they will fail to see how their combined efforts could change the political imbalance and thus promote policies that reflect their interests. He shows how a vision of American society that highlights racial differences rather than commonalities makes it difficult for Americans to see the need and appreciate the potential for mutual political support across racial lines. Multiracial political cooperation could be enhanced if we can persuade groups to focus more on the interests they hold in common, including overcoming stagnating and declining real incomes that relate to changes in the global economy, Wilson argues. He advocates a cross-race, class-based alliance of working-and middle-class Americans to pursue policies that will deal with the eroding strength of the nation's equalizing institutions, including public education, unions, and political structures that promote the interests of ordinary families. He also advocates a reconstructed "affirmative opportunity" program that benefits African Americans without antagonizing whites. Using theoretical arguments and case studies, Wilson examines how a broad-based political constituency can be created, sustained, and energized. Bold, provocative, and thoughtful,The Bridge over the Racial Divideis an essential resource in considering some of the most pressing issues facing the American public today. This book is a copublication with the Russell Sage Foundation.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-92719-3
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-10)

    In this short book I focus on the rising inequality in American society and on the need for a progressive, multiracial political coalition to combat it. A large, strong, and organized political constituency is essential for the development and implementation of policies that will reverse the trends of the rising inequality and ease the burdens of ordinary families.

    Political power is disproportionately concentrated among the elite, most advantaged segments of society. As discussed in chapter 3, the monetary, trade, and tax policies of recent years have arisen from and, in turn, deepened this power imbalance. And, although elite members of...

  5. 1 RACIAL ANTAGONISMS AND THE EXPANDING RANKS OF THE HAVE-NOTS
    (pp. 11-44)

    As the new millennium dawns, the movement for racial equality needs a new political strategy. That strategy must appeal to America’s broad multiracial population while addressing the many problems that afflict disadvantaged minorities and redressing the legacy of historic racism in America. But in the last decade, the nation seems to have become more divided on issues pertaining to race. Affirmative action programs are under heavy assault, and broad public sympathy for those minority individuals who have suffered the most from racial exclusion has waned.

    Today, it seems to me imperative that the concerns of both the larger American population...

  6. 2 GLOBAL ECONOMIC CHANGES AND THE LIMITS OF THE RACE RELATIONS VISION
    (pp. 45-66)

    Despite African Americans’ strong focus on the effects of racial discrimination in domestic U.S. employment, their economic fate is inextricably connected with the structure and functioning of a much broader, globally influenced modern economy. Racial bias continues to be an important factor that aggravates black employment problems. Nonetheless, it is important to be aware of thenonracialeconomic forces that have sharply increased joblessness and declining real wages among many African Americans in the last several decades. As the black economist Vivian Henderson argued over two decades ago, racism put blacks in their economic place, but changes in the modern...

  7. 3 BUILDING A FOUNDATION FOR MULTIRACIAL COOPERATION
    (pp. 67-94)

    As the new global economy creates growing inequality in the labor market and increasing economic and emotional stresses for ordinary families, including those where the working mother is the only parent, many of the policies and actions of the government do more to aggravate than alleviate their economic woes. I have in mind trade policies that facilitate the pursuit of cheap labor in the global marketplace, monetary policies that elevate real interest rates and thereby lower employment rates, tax policies that favor the truly wealthy, and partisan opposition to programs of public investment and national health insurance.

    The University of...

  8. 4 FROM “RACIAL PREFERENCE” TO AFFIRMATIVE OPPORTUNITY
    (pp. 95-116)

    In the face of growing attacks on programs of “racial preference,” some analysts, including those who support multiracial coalition building, have called for a shift from an affirmative action policy based on race to one based on economic class or financial need. In a thoughtful book supporting class-based affirmative action programs, Richard D. Kahlenberg argues that preferences in hiring or school admissions should benefit only the economically disadvantaged, regardless of race, ethnicity, sex, or sexual orientation.¹ For Kahlenberg, only a class-based affirmative action program would correct society’s injustices and provide genuine individual opportunity. While eliminating benefits for advantaged minorities, it...

  9. 5 BRIDGING THE RACIAL DIVIDE AND COALITION POLITICS
    (pp. 117-128)

    Adequate political solutions to the global economic problems confronting the majority of Americans will not be found until white, black, Latino, Asian, and Native Americans begin thinking more about what they have in common and less about their differences. In order to clear the path for the formation of a national, progressive, multiracial political coalition, proponents of social equality must pursue policies that unite rather than divide racial groups.

    The idea that diverse racial groups can work together to pursue mutual goals is not taken seriously by many Americans because of the perception that racial friction is an unavoidable fact...

  10. NOTES
    (pp. 129-144)
  11. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 145-156)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 157-163)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 164-164)