Obama has ignored the fundamental collapse of the black American family

Barack Obama

*Originally published in the Guardian March 3, 2014

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.

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12 Responses to “Obama has ignored the fundamental collapse of the black American family”

  1. brown sugar mama says:

    I remember vivid parts of my childhood. Back then, it seemed as though black adults were out of control and ignorant. Of course, I couldn’t point out their faults since I was a child. It was disrespectful to voice your opinion about grown ups. It would cost you a beating. Anyway, the female who gave birth to me wasn’t mother/good woman/wife material. Like so many other adult females (and males), she lived life in the streets. Partying, drinking, and sleeping around was of upmost importance to these adults. The good, decent adults who worked everyday and properly raised their children were shunned within black neighborhoods. It was awful hearing blacks put down other blacks simply because they were trying to live a decent life. Isn’t that what decent folks do?

    Till this day, it’s not the gov’t’s occupation to “fix” the black family. It’s black people’s job to take responsibilty for their own behavior and actions. The POTUS doesn’t have the power to monitor unfit and ignorant black people. There’s been entirely too many years of ignorance among too many blacks. Not something that can be easily shaken off, especially with a “Brother Keeper’s” program. What needs to be recognized is that there are blacks who belong in jail/prison. These are blacks who should have their children taken away. There are adults who shouldn’t have children. There are blacks who are indeed a danger in society.

  2. David N says:

    Everything that you said is, of course, absolutely true. But, imagine if a white person said this. He would be tarred and feathered and labelled a rascist.

    We have black illegitimacy because federal policies encourage that behavior. We pay women if they have children out of wedlock. I remember a documentary I watched on this subject. They were interviewing a little child whose mother and grandmother had lived their lives on welfare. They asked her what she wanted to do when she grew up. She said, “I want to work for the government just like mommy and nanny.”

  3. a visitor says:

    Well miss Conservative Black Chick, it seems that while Obama has ignored the plight of the black family, Bundy did not. And you did not do your homework and listen to unedited clip before you accused this man of being a racist and became a tool for democrats on CNN. I hope you exercise more caution in the future. You lose credibility this way.

  4. InterestingPerspective says:

    First – I want to applaud Crystal for making a poignant plea to the sensibilities of the African American community.

    I will confess – I am White male – the antithesis of the directed satire. However, it is clear that the family is the root of issues faced by all communities in the US and around the world. It would be foolish for us to put all of the blame on a signal ethnic community.

    That being said – the results are too significant to be brushed aside. It is agreed that racism has devastated the black community. And although massive strides have been made to close the gap – we still have a lot of work to do.

    But I have to agree with Crystal, the community has to take a stand for who they are not who they were. The Jewish community did not allow the Holocaust to define them. Hard to equate the two – because slavery existed for such a long period of time – I understand that. But we have to pick a point, stop looking at the past and start moving forward.

    I am not discounting the need to pursue renumeration, no more than I would recommend a business to stop pursuit of a valid lawsuit. At the same time I would not recommend a business shut its doors to improve their chances for a bigger settlement either.

    Racism is disgusting in all its forms. I think that the majority of people under the age of 40-50 in the United States agree with that. Although it will always rear its ugly head – the majority have the ability to silence this issue. But it will never die if we do not highlight the value of personal accountability and stop the incessant race baiting and refocus efforts to rebuild the family unit.

  5. enoughsaid99 says:

    I have to agree with your statements on personal responsibility. I have voted Democratic for many years, but now I’m more of an independent thinker. The Democrats have done nothing, but took advantage of our votes, and have created more problems. The black family is the key, and women have to be more responsible on the men they choose to sleep with, who clearly are not husband, or father material.

  6. Maria says:

    Saw your pain, I send you a hug and a prayer. We will make things better.

  7. Christopher says:

    Wow! 1) We all know that the American govern. never made significant or genuine efforts to remunerate or improve the living conditions of African Americans. We also know that the effects of slavery, Jim Crowe, and segregation continue to linger in our communities. We know are aware that blacks just received their Civil Rights 49 years ago. For the most part, we know why the black family is in such a dire condition. So when a politician wants to address the issue, an issue that this country never really and sincerely addressed, why is it seen as a hangout to blacks?

    2) This comment is insane:

    “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.”

    3) This nation enslaved, raped, murdered, and discriminated against black people. Why is it that when it propose to erect programs to address the effects of hundreds of years of terrorism it receives criticism?

    4) This would only help the businesses, not the residents of the community. Also, if they’re operating in the community they will likely hire those in the community. So, giving them a tax credit to do something they are likely to do has little to no benefit for the residents:

    “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.”

    You’re pro business anti helping black people-which is something this country never did.

    I could go on and mention how warped and convoluted this perspective is, but I’ll leave it at this: If you don’t want or need help breaking down the old, partially operating barriers that was designed to keep black people down and out of the game, then don’t criticize those who do need the help. The help is owed to them! Yes, it is! This govern. and nation ran afoul with black people and turned its back on them when it could no longer exploit them. Are you against Germany paying Jews for the Holocaust? Are you against America paying Japanese for putting them in internment camps? Mind you that these were direct payments for the pain and suffering and lost of property, and official apologies came with them. America didn’t officially
    apologize for slavery until 2008, and no direct payments for pain and suffering were issued to African Americans. So, this small gesture of sympathy, empathy, and perhaps remorse is a warranted. The US spent money keeping us down, so why can’t it spend money on lifting us up? It’s our dollar too that they are spending.

  8. “parenting is the real problem here” I have been saying this for years now however I always get in trouble with black females, black male and female feminist and the rest of the liberal and progress educated elites.

  9. Aize says:

    HOw is it any more his responsibility than any other presidents? It’s not! Just as is it’s not POTUS responsibility to keep pressure on Cuba for the Cubans in Miami, protect Israel for the Jewish here, or have an immigration policy that makes Mexicans happy. Our country through the guise of Globalism has been become the welfare check for the world. As Americans, you all contribute to the greatest commodity of political capital there ever was; your ignorance! Stop and think for a second how much of your tax dollars go to aid and assistance to garbage abroad. You fan the race and division issues the political elite start, and you wonder why nothing of substance ever gets resolved (no matter which party is in charge). Wake up and quit being used. Damn!

  10. Autonymous says:

    This is happening to all races in this country, exactly because of what you name as the problem, Ms Crystal: out-of-wedlock children. I remember well, in the 60’s, what with that “Let it all hang out” mentality… and it’s back again, in full swing. So long as they feel they are caring towards humanity, personal responsibility is secondary. Just do whatever…

    I wish i could talk about people i know, but they’d read this and know… i see these failures all the time. Friends’ kids ruining their lives and their parents’ lives. Peers i know who ruin each other’s marriages. They all run around campaigning for the unloved and uncared-for, yet THEY ARE THE ACTUAL CAUSE of these unloved and uncared-for people.

    When people who barely have enough to get by, they ought to be focused more on their own families and not on how the rest of the world is doing… nowhere are we to clean others’ side of the street and expect them to clean ours. Charity and Love and Responsibility ALL begin at home.

  11. Jeff says:

    The Black American Family has some major problems that the liberal talking heads continue to ignore. The Sharptons, Jacksons and others refuse to speak about these issues and blame conservatives. The liberals cannot fix the problems, it must be done by taking personal responsibility.

  12. Franklin says:

    The only thing obama cares less about than black american families….

    Is white american families…..

    obama is a sick twisted person…..even hates to be around his own family….

    ships his kids off 90% of the year…..

    avoids michelle like she’s white……

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