chapter  1
18 Pages

Beyond “Race and Culture”: American Underclasses in the Late Twentieth Century

WithJacqueline Jones

This chapter suggests that the term “underclass” actually hinders our attempt to understand the global political and economic forces creating a large number of ethnically and racially diverse poverty-stricken populations all over the country, and not just in the black ghettoes of the largest northern cities. Regardless of the limitations of distressed communities as a lens into the causes and consequences of poverty in the United States, such communities do offer a dramatic revelation of the failure of the American economy and the American social-welfare system to meet the needs of a nation in the midst of global restructuring. Though often ignored in most historical and contemporary accounts of American life, the plight of Native Americans is emblematic of larger themes of distressed populations in the late twentieth century. In the late twentieth century global market, businesses either succeed or fail.