The Black Family: 40 Years of Lies
-Kay S. Hymowitz
Read through the megazillion words on class, income mobility, and poverty in the recent New York Times series â€œClass Mattersâ€ and you still wonâ€™t grasp two of the most basic truths on the subject: 1. entrenched, multigenerational poverty is largely black; and 2. it is intricately intertwined with the collapse of the nuclear family in the inner city.
By now, these facts shouldnâ€™t be hard to grasp. Almost 70 percent of black children are born to single mothers. Those mothers are far more likely than married mothers to be poor, even after a post-welfare-reform decline in child poverty. They are also more likely to pass that poverty on to their children. Sophisticates often try to dodge the implications of this bleak reality by shrugging that single motherhood is an inescapable fact of modern life, affecting everyone from the bobo Murphy Browns to the ghetto â€œbaby mamas.â€ Not so; it is a largely low-incomeâ€”and disproportionately blackâ€”phenomenon. The vast majority of higher-income women wait to have their children until they are married. The truth is that we are now a two-family nation, separate and unequalâ€”one thriving and intact, and the other struggling, broken, and far too often African-American.
The tragedy of African-Americans is a tragedy for us all. As much as slavery was terrible for them, the interference of white social work do-gooders was, as well. In fact, they did their job so well that an insightful thinker on Black culture such as Thomas Sowell is often lambasted by his own for speaking the truth.
There is still a condescension among whites, and among the black leaders who like to have followers deeply dependent on victim mentality that buys into the man-rejecting Mother goddess idea of a matriarchal-oriented society.
But our humanity tells, doesn’t it? We can no more raise children as we should without the men, then they can have a strong society demeaning and objectifying the women. And raising children somehow produces the substance of the society. The metaphor of spinning straw into gold: the children who seem such raw material will at some point rule, direct and create. And we will pass on the mantle to them. As we are doing, even today…..
“The first was empirical and would quickly become indisputable: single-parent families were on the rise in the ghetto. But other points were more speculative and sparked a partisan dispute that has lasted to this day. Moynihan argued that the rise in single-mother families was not due to a lack of jobs but rather to a destructive vein in ghetto culture that could be traced back to slavery and Jim Crow discrimination. Though black sociologist E. Franklin Frazier had already introduced the idea in the 1930s, Moynihanâ€™s argument defied conventional social-science wisdom. As he wrote later, â€œThe work began in the most orthodox setting, the U.S. Department of Labor, to establish at some level of statistical conciseness what â€˜everyone knewâ€™: that economic conditions determine social conditions. Whereupon, it turned out that what everyone knew was evidently not so.â€
But Moynihan went much further than merely overthrowing familiar explanations about the cause of poverty. He also described, through pages of disquieting charts and graphs, the emergence of a â€œtangle of pathology,â€ including delinquency, joblessness, school failure, crime, and fatherlessness that characterized ghettoâ€”or what would come to be called underclassâ€”behavior.”
…..”More than most social scientists, Moynihan, steeped in history and anthropology, understood what families do. They â€œshape their childrenâ€™s character and ability,â€ he wrote. â€œBy and large, adult conduct in society is learned as a child.â€ What children learned in the â€œdisorganized home[s]â€ of the ghetto, as he described through his forest of graphs, was that adults do not finish school, get jobs, or, in the case of men, take care of their children or obey the law. Marriage, on the other hand, provides a â€œstable homeâ€ for children to learn common virtues.”
It has been written over and over how important the structure of family is, and how fragile it is when not protected, but we just don’t seem to learn.
In a book I had read a while back, “The Millionare Next Door”, which had many practical steps for building and protecting wealth, some of the main ones involved family structure, being in a longterm marriage, and both partners invested in building the stability of their home, including the financial profile. It was a book that I found helpful to see the areas where my own family made mistakes. But one of the important lessons had little to do with finances alone, it had to do with seeing the big picture of how important family ties are for us personally,in our society, and in living a worthwhile life.
There is much at stake in the issue of what style and form a family takes. One of the great bulwarks of the family is the church. Or it can be and should be. The church has a vision of the family with strong men, fulfilled women, and protected children, if only it is not consuming the self-gutted version with members gnawing their own feet off. And this is exactly what we see growing in our society. If the church can’t exemplify healthy social order, there will be no picture for the world. No vision.
And as we are seeing with our own eyes: a people without vision will perish. I would like to see the outcome of a different social experiment: people who call themselves Christians get serious about their committments in their marriages, to their children, and amongst each other, not looking behind, but right where they are…. you can’t start any sooner. But you can start now, …. will you? All the social services in the world will not make up for what is lacking if we don’t pull together in our relationships. I think that is what the social experiments have shown us thus far… the institutions are breaking under a load they cannot possibly carry.
But we can start to carry our own…. remember that song “He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother”? Remember the story that inspired that? Brotherhood starts at home. You can’t learn it there, you aren’t learning it.
I think Thomas Sowell most recently pointed up a truth…. our problems reach down deep into the cultural platitudes that we continue to cultivate. We keep passing on the same dispositions to failure instead of renewing the dialogue. And we are compounding that by so elevating those cultural faultlines that they then spread further.
To borrow someone elses buzz: it is time to stop the madness. Mothers and Fathers are on the first line of the initiative.
though they always caution that â€œmarriage is not a panacea,â€ social scientists almost uniformly accept the research that confirms the benefits for children growing up with their own married parents
H/T Joe Dartblog