Wednesday, August 12, 2015

What a dead white man can teach America about inner-city decay

From the Economist:

This year marks the 50th anniversary of a bold and controversial attempt to explain what has gone wrong in America’s inner cities: Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action”. Moynihan, then a bureaucrat in the Department of Labour, made two main points. First, he argued that the lingering effects of two centuries of slavery had undermined the black family—at the time, 25% of black babies were born to unmarried mothers (see chart 1). Second, he argued that family instability was at the root of many other problems, from crime to poverty.

Fifty years later, black America still fares badly on many of the predictors of success and signals of distress that concerned Moynihan. If it were a separate country, it would have a worse life expectancy than Mexico, a worse homicide rate than Ivory Coast and a higher proportion of its citizens behind bars than anywhere on earth (see interactive). This is despite the fact that, overall, America is home to the richest, most successful population of black African descent that the world has ever seen.

More here.

A buddy of mine posted the above linked article on my facebook page a few weeks back.  Here's the comment I left:

Okay, read it, and it's quite a good article, pointing to multiple factors, all of them having, at least, an origin in racism, if not directly motivated by racism today.

I've long been skeptical about Moynihan's assertions linking slavery and black single parent families; I mean, why speculate about the unknowable when we have so much data indicating other causes right in front of our faces? And, as the article observes, white single parent families are now at the numbers alarming Moynihan about black families back in the 60s. Clearly, white single parent families do not exist because of slavery--other factors must necessarily be at work.

But yeah. Good take on the overall complexities and seemingly invisible forces shaping the racist social results we continue to see a decade and a half into the twenty first century. I was particularly impressed by the voucher programs getting people out of the ghettos and how their children fared a decade later. Not all of this, but certainly A LOT, is about the ghettos and poverty.

All Americans have a social responsibility to end this injustice.