The Black Family is Struggling, and It’s Not Because of Slavery

The black family was stronger the first 100 years after slavery than during what will be the second 100 years.

By Walter Williams Published on September 20, 2017

That the problems of today’s black Americans are a result of a legacy of slavery, racial discrimination, and poverty has achieved an axiomatic status, thought to be self-evident and beyond question.

This is what academics and the civil rights establishment have taught. But as with so much of what’s claimed by leftists, there is little evidence to support it.

The No. 1 problem among blacks is the effects stemming from a very weak family structure.

Family Structure

Children from fatherless homes are likelier to drop out of high school, die by suicide, have behavioral disorders, join gangs, commit crimes, and end up in prison. They are also likelier to live in poverty-stricken households.

Was the increase in single-parent black families after 1960 a legacy of slavery, or might it be a legacy of the welfare state ushered in by the War on Poverty?

But is the weak black family a legacy of slavery?

In 1960, just 22 percent of black children were raised in single-parent families. Fifty years later, more than 70 percent of black children were raised in single-parent families.

Here’s my question: Was the increase in single-parent black families after 1960 a legacy of slavery, or might it be a legacy of the welfare state ushered in by the War on Poverty?

According to the 1938 Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences, that year 11 percent of black children were born to unwed mothers. Today about 75 percent of black children are born to unwed mothers.

Is that supposed to be a delayed response to the legacy of slavery?

The bottom line is that the black family was stronger the first 100 years after slavery than during what will be the second 100 years.

At one time, almost all black families were poor, regardless of whether one or both parents were present. Today roughly 30 percent of blacks are poor.

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However, two-parent black families are rarely poor. Only 8 percent of black married-couple families live in poverty. Among black families in which both the husband and wife work full time, the poverty rate is under 5 percent. Poverty in black families headed by single women is 37 percent.

The undeniable truth is that neither slavery nor Jim Crow nor the harshest racism has decimated the black family the way the welfare state has.

The black family structure is not the only retrogression suffered by blacks in the age of racial enlightenment.

The undeniable truth is that neither slavery nor Jim Crow nor the harshest racism has decimated the black family the way the welfare state has.

Unemployment

In every census from 1890 to 1954, blacks were either just as active or more so than whites in the labor market. During that earlier period, black teen unemployment was roughly equal to or less than white teen unemployment.

As early as 1900, the duration of black unemployment was 15 percent shorter than that of whites. Today it’s about 30 percent longer.

Would anyone suggest that during earlier periods, there was less racial discrimination?

What goes a long way toward an explanation of yesteryear and today are the various labor laws and regulations promoted by liberals and their union allies that cut off the bottom rungs of the economic ladder and encourage racial discrimination.

Labor unions have a long history of discrimination against blacks. Frederick Douglass wrote about this in his 1874 essay titled “The Folly, Tyranny, and Wickedness of Labor Unions,” and Booker T. Washington did so in his 1913 essay titled “The Negro and the Labor Unions.”

To the detriment of their constituents, most of today’s black politicians give unquestioning support to labor laws pushed by unions and white liberal organizations.

Then there’s education. Many black 12th-graders deal with scientific problems at the level of whites in the sixth grade. They write and do math about as well as white seventh- and eighth-graders.

All of this means that an employer hiring or a college admitting the typical black high school graduate is in effect hiring or admitting an eighth-grader. Thus, one should not be surprised by the outcomes.

The most damage done to black Americans is inflicted by those politicians, civil rights leaders, and academics who assert that every problem confronting blacks is a result of a legacy of slavery and discrimination. That’s a vision that guarantees perpetuity for the problems.

 

Copyright 2017 The Daily Signal

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  • UCanKeepUrPlan

    Once again Mr. Williams is spot on. It’s unfortunate that the black communities won’t listen to men like Mr. Williams. Instead they attack people like him calling them “Uncle Tom’s”.

  • Kathryn Rose MacDonald

    Interesting perspective I’ve not often read nor heard. Thank you, Mr. Williams. The longer I live, the more I am inclined to believe We the People have been sold a bill of goods by certain special interest groups and news media.

  • BXVI

    Well, I guess blaming the “welfare state” is one way to shift the blame from slavery or racism. But isn’t that just another dodge? When do we ask the black community to take responsibility for its own moral failings and stop blaming others?

    • BroFrank

      Ditto within the white community as the moral carnage, within our promiscuous society, takes its toll among those families, as well.

      • Kevin Carr

        Sure all racial groups could be and have been affected by much of the government’s interference in the family. The black family was and has been a targeted group. When LBJ signed the War on Poverty, his response was “I’ll have these n*ggers voting Democrat for the next 200 years. In the meantime moral standards were loosened, God was kicked out of school, abortion clinics were set up, primarily in black and Hispanic neighborhoods as Ms. Sanger wanted. Sure, we bought the garbage they were selling, because as I stated before, we began to trust Government more than God. Black out of wedlock births are at 72%, whites are closing the gap, there is about a 30% margin. Not good for anyone, but it has been killing us in larger numbers. Government poverty programs made it possible for blacks to be irresponsible, no fathers in the home has been very devastating. Anyone dare say different is blasted, Dr. Williams being one of them as well as Shelby Steele, Carol Swain, Herman Caine, Star Parker, even Bill Cosby.

    • Kevin Carr

      The welfare state has been part of the problem, My parents never spent one day on welfare and taught my sisters and I personal responsibility, we are all in our 50’s, and none of us has spent one day on welfare, and our families are intact. LBJ knew what he was doing when he signed the so-called “war on poverty”. Also, when people start trusting govt more than God, you ask for trouble.

    • ScratInTheHat

      Everyone regardless of color fall for what their culture feeds them. We have culture problems not race problems. The main reason blacks have suffered since the civil rights act is the culture that has been driven into them by our government for political advantage. We have all seen it! The media, the schools, the general culture have all made it impossible to say anything about what black culture is doing to itself. Everything is reflected back to someone else doing it to them. Take race out of it. If you had a child that could never be chided for what they did and every time you did it was your fault as a parent for what they did to themselves how would that work out for them in the end? Our cultures need to change so that we don’t blame others for what we do to ourselves. Until we kill the government driven propaganda turning the culture into a nightmare on so many things that is not going to happen.

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