Obama has ignored the fundamental collapse of the black American family
On Thursday at the White House, President Barack Obama unveiled a new initiative, created through executive order and partnering with businesses and foundations to spend $200m (maybe) over five years, “to help young men of color stay out of prison, stay out of jail”.
What an aspiration!
“This is an issue of national importance,” Obama said of his My Brother’s Keeper program, aimed at black and Hispanic men. “It’s as important as any issue that I work on.”
What a wonderful realization for the nation’s first black President to acknowledge! And with the parents of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis behind him, no less!
Sadly, the message to minorities – and blacks in particular – is that we blacks can’t be expected to take individual responsibility for our lives like our white counterparts … so the government has to do it for us. Blacks should find Obama’s assumptions more than disturbing. Young black men wouldn’t be wrong to find My Brother’s Keeper downright offensive. And everyone should realize that the first black president is not holding blacks accountable to the same standards as whites when it comes to parenting.
And parenting is the real problem here – not the often repeated media narrative of The Troubled Black Teenager upon which society inflicts so many ills , but the long overlooked and systemic problem of the broken black family.
The president knows the grim facts. “If you’re African American, there’s about a one in two chance you grow up without a father in your house – one in two,” he said in his announcement. “We know that boys who grow up without a father are more likely to be poor, more likely to underperform in school.” He went on:
As a black student, you are far less likely than a white student to be able to read proficiently by the time you are in fourth grade. By the time you reach high school, you’re far more likely to have been suspended or expelled. There’s a higher chance you end up in the criminal justice system, and a far higher chance that you are the victim of a violent crime. … And all of this translates into higher unemployment rates and poverty rates as adults.
What Obama conveniently left out of his narrow narrative is the root cause of the problems facing not just young black men but the American black family today: 72% of all black babies are born out of wedlock. Think about that: it’s an anomaly for black children to be born to parents who are married. And that’s where the overwhelming crime and economic malaise begins, among the 13% of the US population that is black.
Worse still, there is a direct correlation between kids born out of wedlock and higher rates of crime. According to a 2010 study in the Journal of Law and Economics, kids grow into adults who turn to crime precisely because of a lack of educational opportunities and parenting. And that is exactly the pathology being born out in the black race.
Over 50% of homicide victims are black, according to a 2014 study conducted by the Violence Policy Center, which characterizes the rate as epidemic. According to Justice Department data from 1980-2008, “blacks were six times more likely than whites to be homicide victims and seven times more likely than whites to commit homicides”. More than half of all federal prisoners are black.
More blacks go through “stop and frisk” in New York City because more blacks are committing more crimes in the city – last year, blacks made up 74% of shooting victims, 74% of shooting suspects and 70% of shooting arrestees.
This is not a new problem. Back in 1965, when the illegitimate birth rate among blacks was 23.6% and counting, then-Assistant Secretary of Labor Daniel Patrick Moynihan presented a policy analysis to President Lyndon Johnson. He warned that the black family “is highly unstable, and in many urban centers approaching complete breakdown”, concluding that the federal government must enact policies that “bring the Negro American to full and equal sharing of responsibilities and rewards of citizenship.”
Nearly 50 years later, the black family has all but collapsed, while the federal government continues to reward irresponsible citizensip. And what of “equal sharing of responsibilities”? With less than three years left in his landmark presidency, Obama’s new plan still does the opposite of that, instead continuing to feed a mindset that blacks are blameless victims for problems of their own creation, yet owed America’s collective social justice as a remedy.
In his book of essays, A Dream Deferred – more relevant during the last week than perhaps any other since its publication at the same fading moment of the Clinton administration – the race scholar Shelby Steele writes how this double standard prevents blacks from gaining true equality in America:
In redemptive liberalism, others are responsible for the problems blacks suffer, and blacks are, in an odd way, responsible for preserving the weaknesses that keep others responsible.
Why won’t America ever see a government program that teaches white men how to live responsibly? Because society expects whites to take responsibility for their lives. Even the progressive black politics of a progressive black president seem to hold whites to a standard of excellence – and blacks to an all too familiar standard of inferiority. That kind of underlying assumption, Steele writes, inevitably leads blacks toward feeling “entitled to irresponsibility”.
“We all have a job to do,” Obama said on Thursday. “And we can do it together – black and white, urban rural, Democrat and Republican.” He should have told black Americans – directly – what Steele prescribes: that they “must be agents of their own fate”.
It’s not everyone else’s problem to ensure black and Hispanic kids go to school, stay out of trouble and finish high school. That’s the job of parents. And if Obama was really serious about fixing the troubles facing black men, from childhood all the way through to a crime crisis later in life, he would advance policies that reward responsible behavior, not more out-of-wedlock births.
Potential solutions could include making long-needed changes to Clinton’s 1996 welfare-to-work reforms by cutting off aid to mothers who have more than two children out of wedlock. And by punishing black men by putting them on probation for fathering babies out of wedlock and forcing them to do community service or other government work.
Obama could also work to establish so-called Enterprise Zones, long championed by Republican Jack Kemp, which give tax credits to businesses operating in inner cities and hiring people who live there as a way to reduce crime and poverty. Most importantly, Obama could start supporting – rather than fighting – school voucher programs, which undeniably help blacks escape poverty and crime.
“The worst part,” Obama said before those families of victims and business leaders and philanthropists, “is we’ve become numb to these statistics” because “we take them as the norm”. Well, they’ve been the norm for going on a half-century, and it’s about time the one man most compelled to lead compels blacks to act for themselves, to be keepers of our own individual destinies.