Magazine article Sojourners Magazine

Enduring Family Values

Magazine article Sojourners Magazine

Enduring Family Values

Article excerpt

Nearly 50 yea rs ago, the U.S. Department of Labor issued one of the most controversial and influential reports of our time, "The Negro Family: The Case for National Action," aka "The Moynihan Report," named after its author Daniel Patrick Moynihan. The March 1965 report offered our nation's first comprehensive look at the roots of poverty in the African-American community 100 years after the Civil War. The picture wasn't pretty.

Pointing to black poverty's roots, Moynihan started with the hell that was the U.S. slave system: "American slavery was profoundly different from, and in its lasting effects on individuals and their children, indescribably worse than, any recorded servitude, ancient or modern." Going on to quote Nathan Glazer, Moynihan illuminated the absolute powerlessness and dehumanization of enslaved black people under antebellum law and within the social structures of slavery.

Moynihan went on to examine the impact of the Reconstruction period, urbanization, unemployment, and inequitable wages on African Americans' economic station in U.S. society. He concluded that the single greatest result of these forces was black families' demise. And the single greatest result of this demise was entrenched poverty, according to Moynihan.

A 2013 Urban Institute report, "The Moynihan Report Revisited," reflected that in the early 1960s Moynihan was alarmed that 20 percent of black children lived in single parent households with their mothers (not their fathers), but by 2010, 20 percent of white families lived in such households while 53 percent of black children were being raised by their mothers. According to the Urban Institute, fatherlessness in the U.S. has gotten worse, and it is no respecter of race.

The Twittersphere blew up in January 2013 when Oprah Winfrey aired a live telecast of her Lifeclass on her OWN network. It was the first of a two-part series on "Fatherless Sons" that she followed up with a twopart series on "Daddyless Daughters" later that year.

The multiethnicity of the "Sons" and "Daughters" in both the studio and online audiences was stunning. With Moynihan's report indelibly fixed in the American consciousness, with whispers of welfare queens, Willie Hortons, "takers," and "deadbeat dads" of the darker hue etched into the mass consciousness of our society, I expected the audience to be black-that's it, just black. …

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