Since at least the 1960s, the impact of black youth on American politics has been dramatically disproportionate to its small population size and lack of electoral clout. Their influence likes in their undeserved status as the stand-in image for the larger pathologies of American culture and society: teenage pregnancy, street crime, the crack epidemic, the urban crisis, and "gangsta" culture, to name a few. That image has been central to some of the bitterest battles between left and right in recent times. They have factored heavily in contests over welfare policy, affirmative action, busing, the culture wars, and the fallout from the social turmoil of the 1960s. And despite whatever racial progress there has been in recent years, the status of black youth remains for many a bellwether indicator of social decline. But it is not just whites who adhere to this view; older blacks like Bill Cosby do as well. As Cathy Cohen demonstrates, these misconceptions are not merely inaccurate; they have also undermined the struggle for racial equality.
For the past few years, Cohen has been running the Black Youth Project, a groundbreaking and sophisticated national survey of the opinions and experiences of black youth in America. She will discuss the very real social problems that do exist in the social worlds of young blacks, but her primary purpose is to paint the most complex and nuanced portrait of this population to date. Taking us through the election of Barack Obama, Cohen shows us how young blacks really live, what they really think about politics and society, and how the entrenched structural barriers they face-and which often go unmentioned by those who see America as 'postracial'-are the real problem. Featuring vivid stories and and a hard-hitting argument, Cohen's book will change how we think about black youth in America.