Although I'm certainly no expert, I think I've got a pretty good handle on how a portion of African Americans have been stuck in permanent poverty and misery. To understand their plight you have to go back to post Civil War America. Slavery may have ended in 1863 but after the war blacks were no better off. Almost all could not read or write, had few skills and of course discrimination was still widespread even in the North. Lincoln himself considered blacks to be inferior.
So most African Americans simply traded slavery for sharecropping, not much of a move up. They remained illiterate and unskilled outside of a relatively few exceptions. In the 20th century came the dawn of industrialization and mass production. African Americans naturally migrated from farm to cities like many other white people in search of better employment. Some did find factory work, established a middle class lifestyle, sent their kids to college and thereby broke the bonds of poverty and achieved the American Dream. Most did not, forced into paltry paying jobs at the bottom. Given the still systemic discrimination and the high illiteracy this was the fateful outcome. Unlike farms, they could no longer sustain themselves on the land. Hence the birth of the black ghetto.
In comes the 1960s and many White and Black Americans begin to denounce the fact that African American have been excluded from the American Dream. Born was the Civil Rights movement. To the forefront were leaders like MLK that wanted African Americans to rise up, prepare and better themselves and secure the American Dream. The music of the culture at the time, Motown, was uplifting. Some of the best music and most gifted musicians/singers ever to grace American culture.
By the 1970s something had gone terribly wrong. The handout never stepped up to the hand up. Yes there were certainly success stories. In my lifetime I've had the honor of meeting successful African Americans born into the Projects but blessed with parents determined their children would do much better. Along with other positive adult influencers such as teachers and coaches they beat the odds. (A really pathetic statement about our overt age discrimination several have found themselves back into the chains of poverty after what was successful years of work.) However, by and large most urban African Americans remained either in low paying jobs or permanent victims of the welfare apparatus.
No surprise that what followed was crime, violence, dysfunctional and incomplete families, disrespect, substance abuse, blight and all around misery. Over time the problem becomes generational with each successive generation more entrenched into a world of apathy and ignorance. Also no shocker their music has turned to that promoting violence, human abuse, drug use, human decay, anger and hatred. Young poor African Americans are told this is their fate and destiny, something the are to accept.
The reasons for the failure of the civil rights movement are many with plenty of blame to go around, including African American leaders themselves. They've been used as political footballs and taken advantage of by people with alternative agendas.
In more recent years the destruction of social mobility has squashed their hopes even more. With our manufacturing base eroded and fewer opportunities even for college grads, small town and rural America have added to the ranks of the systemic poor. The opiate epidemic in small town America is the crack epidemic in urban America during the 80s and 90s. Single mothers unprepared for motherhood have soared. Small towns begin to look like hollowed out battle grounds-just like the urban ghettos. What's left are bottom of the barrel jobs ensuring impoverished citizens for decades to come, if not forever. Resulting is that white rural America and urban black America begin to share a similar fate.
I believe we have created a permanent underclass within the African American community. Yes some will be able to break the generational bonds of poverty but their numbers will be few. Most will continue to live in an environment of never ending decay and as the poverty becomes a permanent fixture few will have the motivation or tenacity to change their awful plight. And yes, they will remain a significant talking points memo for politicians with no real ideas for hand ups. Poor white America may also very well join their perpetual misery.