The phrase “culture of poverty” doesn’t actually appear in Chait’s original argument. Nor should it—the history he cites was experienced by all variety of African Americans, poor or not. Moreover, the majority of poor people in America have neither the experience of segregation nor slavery in their background. Chait is conflating two different things: black culture—which was shaped by, and requires, all the forces he named; and “a culture of poverty,” which requires none of them.
That conflation undergirds his latest column. Chait paraphrases my argumentthat “there is no such thing as a culture of poverty.” His evidence of this is quoting me attacking the “the notion that black culture is part of the problem.” This evidence only works if you believe “black culture” and “a culture of poverty” are somehow interchangeable.
Making no effort to distinguish the two, Chait examines a piece I wrote in 2010 entitled “A Culture of Poverty” in which I sought to explain the difficulty of navigating culture in two different worlds—one in which “Thou shalt not be punked” was a commandment, and another where violence was best left to the authorities
Read More | “Other People’s Pathologies” | Ta-Nehisi Coates | The Atlantic