Why do American ghettos persist? Scholars and commentators often identify some factor--such as single motherhood, joblessness, or violent street crime--as the key to solving the problem and recommend policies accordingly.
But, Tommie Shelby argues, these attempts to "fix" ghettos or "help" their poor inhabitants ignore fundamental questions of justice and fail to see the urban poor as moral agents responding to injustice. "Provocative...[Shelby] doesn't lay out a jobs program or a housing initiative.
Indeed, as he freely admits, he offers 'no new political strategies or policy proposals.' What he aims to do instead is both more abstract and more radical: to challenge the assumption, common to liberals and conservatives alike, that ghettos are 'problems' best addressed with narrowly targeted government programs or civic interventions.
For Shelby, ghettos are something more troubling and less tractable: symptoms of the 'systemic injustice' of the United States.
They represent not aberrant dysfunction but the natural workings of a deeply unfair scheme.
The only real solution, in this way of thinking, is the 'fundamental reform of the basic structure of our society.'"--James Ryerson, New York Times Book Review