Smiley and West: Still Fighting for the Poor

A new book by the duo tries to make poverty an issue for the 2012 election.

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"The black middle class is disappearing," Smiley said. What are the effects? "You wind up with an oligarch society. You also end up with a social structure that looks like a diamond: mass poverty at the bottom. All this talk about American exceptionalism begins to disappear.

"The black middle class played a crucial role in telling the truth about suffering -- from Frederick Douglass to Ida B. Wells to Martin Luther King Jr.," Smiley continued. "As that black middle class begins to disappear and find itself unable to sustain itself, then what was the leaven in the democratic loaf makes it stale."

Steven Gray is a contributing editor to The Root. Like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

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