PDF_Akom_Race and Social Capital

Published in: Beyond Resistance: Youth Activism and Community Change (81-92), Eds: S. Ginwright, P. Noguera, & J. Cammarota.

Full Title: The Racial Dimensions of Social Capital: Toward a New Understanding of Youth Empowerment and Community Organizing in America’s Urban Core

This essay seeks to illuminate the racial dimensions of social capital. More specifically, I examine how racially explicit experiences and practices are not explicitly conceptualized as racial by the leading theorist of social capital (Pierre 2006). Instead, racially explicit practices are coded as cultural or social with little or no attention to structural inequalities (Pierre 2004). By using cultural rather than structure as an explanation of the subordinate position of blacks, social capital theory tends to reduce the African American experience to a set of stereotypes reminiscent of the culture of poverty thesis (Pierre 2004). This chapter offers a framework for understanding this form of cultural racism by asking two central questions: First how do seemingly nonracial theories like social capital simultaneously mark Black and Brown youth as “highly visible” (in terms of race and class) while at the same time rendering our unique forms of social and cultural capital as pathological at best and invisible at worst; Second, how do social scientist like Anderson and Putnam divorce processes of social and cultural capital from processes of racialization and institutionalized racism.