Jan 4, 2022 • 1HR 9M

Robert Woodson – How to Restore Impoverished Communities

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Glenn Loury
Weekly conversations on race, inequality, and more, with Glenn Loury. Bi-weekly appearances by John McWhorter.
Episode details

This week I’m honored to have the distinguished Robert Woodson on the show. Since joining the civil rights movement as an activist and organizer in the ‘60s, Bob has dedicated himself to finding solutions to the problems of poverty and dysfunction in America. Through the Woodson Center, Bob helps fund and advise programs that are on the ground and working to solve some of the toughest problems in American communities. He’s got more awards and achievements than I can possibly list here, and there’s no telling how many lives he’s changed over the years.

In this conversation, Bob and I talk about some of the problems with large-scale anti-poverty funding. Bob argues that, while big programs and studies may have their hearts in the right place, they are plagued by inefficiency and often vulnerable to misappropriation. Moreover, welfare programs can introduce perverse incentives into vulnerable communities, creating cycles of dependency that prevent recipients from achieving self-sufficiency. Bob emphasizes the importance of working with people from within those communities, especially those who use faith as a starting point for practical reform. I ask Bob how local programs like this can scale up, especially when they’re religious in nature, and he points to a heartening example in Philadelphia. Bob then takes us through some of the programs the Woodson Center is partnered with and describes the phenomenal work they do.

Finally, I announce in public something that has been in the works for a while here at TGS. Starting this year, 10 percent of The Glenn Show’s net earnings will be donated to the Woodson Center to help fund programs of the kind Bob describes. I’ll also periodically have some of the people behind those programs on as guests to talk about their work. I’m grateful for all of the success I’m having here, and it feels right to pay it forward.

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0:00 Bob: “There is no monolithic ‘Black Community’”

8:27 How much anti-poverty spending actually goes to poor people?

19:35 Recalibrating welfare’s perverse incentives

25:15 Can community faith-based interventions scale up?

34:37 The moral inconsistencies of progressive policy

42:24 What should we focus on instead of race?

46:54 How the Woodson Center is working to restore communities

1:01:59 Why is there no religious dimension to current racial justice movements?

1:05:00 The Glenn Show gives back

Links and Readings

The Woodson Center

The Piney Woods School

Voices of Black Mothers United

VBMU’s Sylvia Bennett-Stone on The Glenn Show

Project H.O.O.D.

Hope for Prisoners