In his book, Race Poverty and the Underclass, Christopher Jencks formulates a thesis that is aimed at revealing the short-comings of popular social policy remedies. He addresses options that are based on political ideologies which do not fare well in recognizing the reality of social problems in their totality as they exist today. He censures the quick-fix mentality of liberals as well as the staunch conservatism that adheres to what Jencks feels is a judgmental moralist. In his thesis he attempts to answer the question: How have our social remedies fared so far? Are our evaluations of their failure or success based on statistical data? And how do both liberal and conservative policy approaches miss the mark when it comes to fully identifying and rectifying these problems? Jencks outlines the basic liberal and conservative inclinations and then uses quantitative data to reveal what is projected by either group, is only their skewed understanding of the situation.
[...] Jencks concludes that society now blames the poor for poverty and West makes no bones about blaming society for the poor. Jencks rightly attests that "successful social policy must strike a balance between collective compassion and individual responsibility" (Jencks 87) and that this balance is hard to find. The compassionate left say all poor deserve and the right would contend that poverty is a result of poor on choices, or "blame the victim" so to speak. While I believe that West would point the finger at a racist society claiming that the "racial divide expanded and the gaps between rich, poor, and working people increased" (West l58), blaming what he calls the "pernicious consequence of our mal-distribution of wealth and power" (West l59). [...]
[...] Jencks believes that the "persistence of black poverty is more difficult to explain" (Jencks and involves much more than just "redistribution" of wealth and opportunity. Jencks contemplates to question of whether affirmative action be responsible for " . the decline in black men's chances of finding work" (Jencks because of the political climate that it fosters. Jencks outlines that, " . when affirmative-action pressures diminish, the ratio of black to white employment begins to rise among high-school graduates" (Jencks 56). [...]
[...] It is straightforward, statistical, and factual and is appropriate in its context; it removes the scales from the eyes of those who blindly continue down their structured, political, social road that seems to be leading only to Damascus.' Jencks illustrates in his essays that even if we could, by some far-fetched social utopian stretch, equalize opportunity, corollary connections that meliorate poverty would never be eliminated, " . even if we could equalize opportunity, this would not suffice to eliminate poverty" (Jencks 6). [...]
[...] As Jencks argues, in some cases, blacks have been given positions that they were not qualified for and that this type of action perpetuates racism, the very thing West wants to see eradicated. West is so fixated on what he perceives to be social justice that he refuses to see how his form of social policy is bad social policy because it is, in effect reverse discrimination. As Jencks encourages, " . we need to conduct a case-by-case reexamination of hiring goals for minorities in specific firms, aimed at ensuring that these goals are consistent with setting uniform performance standards for blacks and whites" (Jencks which will take into account all aspects of personhood, ability, education and performance based on the individual versus the race. [...]
[...] Walker, like West is a philosopher in her won right and her writing projects knowledge and loves of self that transcends socio-economic status and color; this is where the values that Jencks speaks of come in. Gracie Mae's ability to sacrifice is based on an inner strength and the insight to recognize material superficiality and its shallow rewards. West, the theologian refuses to recognize that racism however vile can foster a richness in the oppressed that far exceeds the supposed success of the oppressor. [...]
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