William Julius Wilson’s View on Racial Inequality, Essay Example


The book “More Than Just Race” by William Julius Wilson addresses some of the most important issues associated with racial inequality that exist in modern society. In the United States, racial inequality continues to prevail, in spite of the legal support against this practice. Racial inequality is a complex and multifaceted phenomenon which conveys the importance of addressing the causes of this inequality and why there is a significant divide between races in the modern era. The author’s perspective is practical and socially driven because it conveys the importance of social classes and status in the context of observing new forms of racial inequality throughout society. These efforts demonstrate that is important to address racial inequality in a social context in order to observe how this practice is socially unsettling in many ways and limits progress in fighting poverty and segregation in many communities. Wilson’s perspective and approach to this issue will be described in the following paragraphs in an effort to shed some light regarding the different dimensions of racial inequality as they impact not only relations between races, but also social classes and communities.


Wilson’s perspective addresses a number of different issues regarding racial inequality and how it exists in today’s society, including the impact of “impersonal economic forces” on communities: “Here, once again, we see the importance and power of structural forces – in this case, impersonal economic forces – on significantly changing concentrated poverty, [that] accelerated neighborhood decline in the inner city and increased disparities in race and income between cities and suburbs” (Wilson). In this context, economic drivers are a key indicator of and contributor to racial inequality in many communities and reflect the capacity to increase disparities even further when one race achieves a higher income level and social status than another race (Wilson). This is particularly challenging for all races to understand because the race with opportunity does not see anything wrong with their ability to secure higher incomes, while the minority race finds these arguments and this issue to be a focal point in their lives and how they conduct themselves (Wilson). These findings suggest that individuals in minority races are unable to achieve the desired status and income levels because of their race and its limitations on their lives (Wilson). This unfortunate series of events is not easy to overcome and is often driven by stigma and a belief in superiority in one race over another (Wilson). These findings suggest that there are considerable challenges associated with the ability to equalize races because there is always likely to be a perception in place that one race (White) is superior to all others (African American).

Culture plays a significant role in the continued growth of racial inequality in the United States. The author states that “cultural frames are necessary but not sufficient explanations for behavior…the relative importance of the combination of cultural continuity and contemporary socioeconomic factors in accounting for black family patterns remains an open question that can be best answered through careful empirical research” (Wilson). From this perspective, it may be argued that there are considerable cultural identifiers that often play a role in stereotyping individuals into one group or another and that are challenging because they convey a disconnect between races that grows with each passing year (Wilson). However, the cultural identity of a race does not necessarily translate into specific behaviors, as these behaviors may be unique and different that the culture depicts (Wilson). This disconnect is clearly evident between the behaviors of specific groups within cultures, such as the Ku Klux Klan and others with an extreme hatred for African Americans that is grounded in their belief that Whites are the superior race and that the former does not deserve any modicum of respect.

Wilson also depicts other structural weaknesses throughout society that are largely grounded in poverty and social status. In addition, economic differences are striking across many communities and demonstrate a lack of cohesion in these areas (Wilson). According to the author, “economic changes and political decisions may have a greater adverse impact on some groups than on others simply because the former are more vulnerable as a consequence of their position in the social stratification system” (Wilson). From this perspective, it is argued that some groups are unable to overcome the stigma of their social status and therefore, may face critical challenges when political decisions are made that will impact their lives in different ways (Wilson). This is an important opportunity to explore the different dimensions of racial inequality and its impact on society (Wilson).

The economic drivers that support social divides and racial inequality are considerable in many communities (Wilson). Therefore, it is important to recognize these differences and to obtain a greater understanding of how they impact society and its people in different ways (Wilson). It is more evident than ever that the richest people in society become increasingly richer while the poorer groups in society become increasingly poor. The reality of this circumstance is jarring to many people and demonstrates that there is a significant divide between the smallest percentage of rich and the impoverished poor. This example conveys the importance of how racial inequality continues to be conveyed along specific lines and social status indicators that are difficult to overcome in an era where racial inequality is perhaps more significant than ever before.

Wilson’s perspective regarding racial inequality also conveys that in addition to economic disparities, racial inequality is also driven by social standing and status symbols. Those living in lower income communities are often classified in a specific manner and are unable to escape these circumstances without support from the masses. However, this is not easily and readily achieved and therefore, many individuals and families remain ignored in the face of their own impoverished state. This is a challenging and difficult circumstance to consider and it reflects a necessity to identify areas of need and to work proactively across races to overcome these problems. Nonetheless, this is a continuing social problem that appears to have no end in sight and will continue to be impacted by racial tensions and attitudes throughout the United States.

Racial inequality is largely represented by the challenges associated with cultural differences in racial groups (Wilson). However, these issues are not always explored at the desired level and instead, are swept under the rug and ignored altogether. For some individuals, it is perfectly acceptable to live in an environment where racial inequality exists and no questions are asked. This is perhaps the easy way out and ignores the problems that drive the social divide even further. In these examples, ignorance is bliss rather than being a burden; therefore, many individuals do not take the time that is necessary to address these concerns and to make sense of the racial divide that exists in many communities. If this circumstance were to occur, it would demonstrate the importance of specific factors in shaping the lives of individuals and their families in impoverished communities who are also racial minorities. This is particularly relevant when other races identify these concerns and address them in an open and honest manner to achieve greater outcomes.


Wilson’s book addresses some of the most important contributors in the continued expansion of racial inequality in the United States. This problem is significant and impacts many communities in different ways, thereby increasing economic challenges for minorities who are unable to escape their impoverished circumstances. This is an important tool that represents a challenge to different population groups who do not take the steps that are necessary to minimize the racial divide within their communities. Therefore, many people find themselves in positions that may lead to negative outcomes and impoverished conditions because other races believe that they are superior and deserve this type of treatment. This is an unfortunate circumstance that continues to evolve and thrive in both metropolitan and rural communities.

The ability to limit racial inequality in the United States is not out of reach. However, this circumstance requires an effective understanding of the different challenges and limitations that minority races experience so that improvements might be made in this regard. Nonetheless, the selfishness and determination of many people to make themselves feel superior to others is astounding yet realistic and commonplace. Therefore, it is important to recognize these concerns and to consider methods that will lead to improvements in this area, including the ability to overcome racial inequality, one step and one community at a time. This will reflect the importance of different factors in supporting the creation of new ideas and principles to reduce racial inequality and to improve circumstances for millions of minority Americans living in poverty.

Works Cited

Wilson, William Julius. “More Than Just Race: Being Black and Poor in the Inner City (Issues of our Time).” W.W. Norton & Company, 2010.