Travis Gosa, an expert on race relations, African American History and professor African American Studies at Cornell University, argues that Rep. Paul Ryan’s comments about poverty among inner-city men misses the real causes of such poverty.
“Paul Ryan's recent comments on inner-city men rehash old racist tropes about lazy, listless black men. ‘Bad black culture’ has been used to justify Jim Crow polices in the south, and to justify slashing welfare and other anti-poverty initiatives since the days of Reaganomics.
“This ‘culture of poverty’ theory of urban decline severely limits our ability to address the real sources of urban poverty: residential segregation, failing public schools, and skyrocketing inequities between main street and Wall Street. Blaming inner-city poverty on culture is as ridiculous as blaming the homeless for their lack of values concerning home ownership. Ryan’s clarifying suggestion about the need to integrate ‘the poor in our communities’ may further obscure the geographical diversity of rural and urban poverty in the U.S.
“Likewise, many of the poor are not trapped in intergenerational poverty, but represent formerly working and middle-class Americans who live one paycheck away from poverty. An articulate statement about poverty must also consider the relationship between poverty and extreme wealth. If anything, America has a real culture problem of billionaire CEOs on Wall Street and Silicon Valley who have allowed real wages to stagnate.”