Widely criticized (and undoubtedly correct) Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who created a vastly controversial report that suggested that blacks would have a hard time getting ahead in America because of a key problem–BROKEN FAMILIES–reads like Nostradamus. Even back in the 1960’s when the black out-of-wedlock problem was minuscule in comparison today, Moynihan said that even with equal opportunity, black folks as a collective won’t get equal results because of broken family units.
New notes Moynihan made have recently been unearthed and published in the Atlantic, and you can view the complete text here. But here are some of the highlights:
On every hand there are unmistakable signs that the civil rights movement is entering a second stage, and a new crisis.
In the first stage Negro Americans fought for and won rights which are traditionally associated with Liberty:
the right to vote
the right to assemble and to petition
the right to move about freely in public places
the right to compete for jobs and other rewards of the market place.
In the second stage of the civil rights movement, the Negroes are clearly going to begin demanding rights that are associated with the democratic ideal of Equality:
equally good education
equally good housing
equally good jobs.
These are, in effect, demands for equal results from equal competition.
America has never been comfortable with this type of demand. Movements for equality of results are often fiercely resisted: witness the initial hostility to the Populist movement, or to the Trade Union movement.
In the second stage of the civil rights movement, therefore, Negro organizations will lose much of their middle-class support. They in turn will become more bitter at what they already term “phoney liberals.”
More seriously, the entire nation, Negroes included will run smack into the fact that equal opportunity for Negroes does not produce equal results—because the Negroes today are a grievously injured people who in fair and equal competition will by and large lost out.
Many persons mistakenly compare discrimination against Negroes with past discrimination against other groups.
As if, for example, breaking down barriers to Negro apprentices in the buildings trades was like breaking down the quotas on Jewish students in medical schools a generation ago. It is not. Once the bars were down the Jewish lads swarmed in to the schools and were more than equal to the competition of their fellow students.
We have been in the business of breaking down job barriers to Negroes for four years now. We can no longer deny that our hardest task is not to create openings, but to fill them.
This problem is now compounded by a biological explosion. When you became Vice President one of every ten Americans was a Negro. Before 1972 the proportion will be one in eight.
In the next five years the Negro work force will expand 20 percent. Twice the rate of the whites.
Many of these young persons pouring into the labor force are simply not going to be prepared to compete.
There is one dramatic measure of their disabilities: 56 percent of the Negro youth called up for Selective Service fail the mental test. That is a test of ability at about the seventh-eighth grade level. 14 percent of whites fail it.
Little wonder 22 percent of Negro male teenagers are unemployed today.
* * * * * *
Many explanations are put forward. In the Department of Labor, however, we feel that the master problem is that the Negro family structure is crumbling.
Somehow American national policy (quite the opposite is the case in Europe) has never given serious attention to the role of family structure in social problems. Yet everyone knows from personal experience how fundamental it is.
You were born poor. You were brought up poor. Yet you came of age full of ambition, energy, and ability. Because your mother and father gave it to you. The richest inheritance any child can have is a stable, loving, disciplined family life.
* * * * * *
A quarter of the Negro children born in America last year were illegitimate.
29 percent in Chicago
36 percent in Memphis
43 percent in Harlem
The white illegitimacy rate is 3 percent.
Almost one-fourth of nonwhite families are headed by a woman. 36 percent of Negro children are living in families with one or both parents missing.
56 percent of Negro youth sooner or later on, receive Aid to Families of Dependent Children payments provided by the Federal government. As against 8 percent of whites.
Probably not much more than a third of Negro youth reach 18 having lived all their lives with both parents.
Because many middle-class Negro families are doing very well indeed, these overall statistics probably conceal the degree of disorganization among the families of the Negro poor.
Without exception every statistical measure of Negro family stability has gotten worse, not better, over the past fifteen years.
The main reason for this is the systematic weakening of the position of the Negro male. This problem is as old as America and as new as the April unemployment rate.
Slavery — destroyed the Negro family. Mammy was a respected figure. Sambo was jeered.
Reconstruction — terrorized the Negro male by lynching, and humiliated him by segregation.
Urbanization — poured families into slums where the family had no identity. The cabin in the cotton was at least a separate housing unit that defined the family (Negroes are now more urban than whites.)
Unemployment — undermined the role of the Negro man as the breadwinner. Last year 29 percent of the Negro males in the work force were unemployed at one time or another – half of these for 15 weeks or more.
By contrast Negro women have always done and continue to do relatively well. There are, for example, more Negro women college graduates than male. In relative terms Negro women get better jobs, higher salaries, more prestige.
Moynihan made a suggestion to the president that they ignored, to EVERYONE’S peril:
“Federal government can make an historic new departure. It can make the decision that an object of national policy is to bring the structure of the Negro family into line with that of the rest of our society.”
And…here we are.