Recapping Freedom’s Journal Institute’s “Black Conservative Leadership Summit” on the State of the Black Family
Washington, DC – June 14-15, 2017
Recently, a group of black conservative scholars and leaders, co-sponsored by the Heritage Foundation in our nation’s capital, along with a few white contributors, gathered from across the country to discuss issues of importance to the black community. The Annual Black Conservative Summit’s (BCS) Leadership Initiative with theme “Black Families Matter” was organized by Eric M. Wallace, PhD, Co-Founder and President of the Freedom’s Journal Institute for the Study of Faith and Public Policy.
The purpose in gathering this august group of scholars, pastors, activists, and researchers was to examine and discuss the state of the Black family since the release of the often criticized, yet eerily prophetic report issued by the U.S. Department of Labor known as The Moynihan Report [The Negro Family: The Case for National Action circa 1965].
Written in 1965 by sociologist Daniel Patrick Moynihan who served as Assistant Secretary of Labor during the Johnson administration, the Moynihan Report argued that the emerging phenomena of black single mother led families, at the time of the report about 23%, would become increasingly detrimental to the black community; and would inevitably lead to increased poverty, political weakness, and other devastating social ills.
In the report, Moynihan is quoted as saying that because of the then alarming 23% black illegibility rate: “the gap between the Negro and most other groups in American society is widening.” He also said that, “the collapse of the nuclear family in the black lower class would preserve the gap between possibilities for Negroes and other groups, and favor other ethnic groups.”
At the time of Wallace’s Washington, D.C. BCS Leadership Initiative, and fifty-two years after the release of Moynihan’s dire warning, the out of wedlock birth rate among Black Americans has skyrocketed to an almost unbelievable 72% as of 2015.
As pointed out by several presenters at the BCS, this unprecedented out of wedlock birth rate can be directly correlated with the rise in poverty, violent crimes, gang activity, and mass male incarceration that is currently destroying the black community. Furthermore, these findings are consistent with what Senator Moynihan warned in his report would most likely transpire in the black community if black fatherlessness continued to proliferate.
Likewise, in explaining his personal motivation for organizing the most recent BCS Leadership Initiative, and branding it under the Black Families Matter banner, Dr. Wallace stated: “It has been clear for a very long time that gang violence in the inner cities, especially in cities like Chicago, are a consequence of one parent households; and to be more specific, fatherless households.”
In addition, Wallace insists: “For us to effectively address community issues such as gang violence, crime, abortion, and school drop outs, we need to first address the dysfunctions of our families, which continue to adversely affect our children. If Black Lives Matters, as one group has insisted, then black families must also matter enough that we would be willing to do whatever is necessary to strengthen them.”
The Washington D.C. gathering found almost unanimous agreement from the faculty of presenters, whose combined years of expertise and research resulted in the conclusion that, among other things: “The state of the black family in America in 2017 is critical, and without immediate intervention, both divine and political; the black community will continue to crumble in on itself until it is utterly destroyed.”
Ironically, despite the ominous conclusions, which were drawn from black thinkers at the 2017 BCS, or those from Patrick Moynihan’s 1965 Report, or even those drawn from renown black sociologist E. Franklin Frazier who published the Negro Family in the United States back in 1932, or any of the other undeniable indicators that clearly confirm its truths; the black community writ large has not yet come into agreement that returning to faith in God, and rebuilding our commitment to the traditional black family, are the only viable solutions to our escalating cultural maladies and declining social values.
Interestingly, even with all the data and research that clearly establish the crumbling foundations of our families as the root cause of poverty and juvenile delinquency within the black community, many blacks resent any public criticism of the cultural trends and environmental norms that lead to broad acceptance within the culture of fatherless black homes.
For example, once revered comedian Bill Cosby suffered the consequences of that reality when he faced massive backlash from black people for his controversial criticism of black irresponsibility in the areas of education and child rearing. Some say he crossed the proverbial red line when he castigated some blacks by saying: “You cannot simply blame whites for problems such as teen pregnancy and high school drop-out rates.” Recent news stories clearly show exactly what Cosby got in return for going out on that limb.
Similarly, recently this author was asked: “do you really think that the traditional Black family is still relevant in 21st century America?” Considering just how much the concept of family has evolved, why are conservatives, like those of you who met in Washington, so keen on holding on to your antiquated understandings of what a family looks like, or how they should operate?
Before attempting to answer, I needed to get some clarity as to what this person understood to be my view of the “traditional black family” considering that he was a millennial and the product of all the recent social engineering that has so fundamentally changed families from what was traditional, into what is now modern. My thoughts were perhaps he had no idea what a traditional, Biblical family really looked like due to the increasingly rare examples available to him for examination in 2017.
Case in point, in her 2006 Washington Post article entitled “Marriage is For White People”, author Joy Jones chronicled in detail the demise of marriage in the black community, and pointed to the rapid change in the black perception of marriage as unnecessary or unattainable as the primary reason.
After hearing one of her students boldly declare that “marriage is for white people”, Joy Jones became painfully aware of all the current statistics that indicated that not only had black perception of marriage fundamentally changed, but the black practice of marriage had also. These statistics were also shared by presenters at the Black Families Matter Summit to wit:
- The marriage rate for African Americans has been dropping steadily since the 1960’s, and today, blacks have the lowest marriage rate of any racial group in America.
- According the U.S. Census, in 2001 43.3% of black men, and 41.9% of black women in America had never been married, in contrast to 27.4% and 20.7% respectively for whites.
- African American women are the least likely in our society to marry.
- In the period between 1970 and 2001, the overall marriage rate in the US declined by 17%, but for blacks it fell by more than 35%.
I also realized that the person who challenged me might not only be unclear as to what traditional black families look like, but he also appeared to be clueless as to how vitally important they once were towards building a strong, healthy, and functional black community.
As a baby boomer, I understand that what was once traditional for us, a man and a woman committed to each other for life through marriage, and raising their children together with shared responsibilities that included providing for them, keeping them in discipline, and sharing family values; was no longer commonplace or anticipated in this generation.
Traditionally, it was fathers who showed boys how to become men, and mothers who instructed girls into womanhood. Basic skills of life were shared within the family, and morals that influenced our shared community ethics were inculcated into the children though observation of the parents. Parents were our primary roles models back then, and that was a big deal to us. Apparently not so much in these times, and our communities have suffered greatly from this changed paradigm.
Back in 1965 when Moynihan was published, 70% of black children were born into a two-parent household, which included a father and a mother. By 2017, that trend had been completely reversed, with more than 72% of black children being born into a single parent household, usually headed by a single black woman.
Statistically, according to sociologist Andrew J. Cherlin, a black child was more likely to grow up living with both parents during slavery days, than he or she is today.
So, do black families matter, or not?
Back in 2012, following the tragic death of a 17-year old black teen named Trayvon Martin and the subsequent acquittal of George Zimmerman for his killing; three black activists named Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometi, and Alicia Garza founded a national protest movement that they called “Black Lives Matter”.
Motivated by what appeared to be a growing crisis of racist white cops brazenly gunning down unarmed black men in the streets, this group of irate, socially conscience black citizens set out to launch a movement that included street protest, media campaigns, and other mechanisms designed to reaffirm to the nation that black lives indeed had intrinsic value.
With a tag line that reads “This is Not a Moment, but a Movement,” BLM set about to communicate to the nation that it was not going away until fundamental changes had been accomplished in America in respect to how black lives are valued, and treated.
Understanding the dire consequences associated with the destruction of the black family, Dr. Eric Wallace and the Fellows of Freedom’s Journal Institute have made a similar commitment of persistence in working to reestablish value of the institution of marriage within the black community, and to rebuilding the black family as the foundation to a revitalized and prosperous black community.
BCS participant Star Parker of the Coalition for Urban Renewal and Education (C.U.R.E) pointed out that: “marriage is the number one weapon in the war against poverty in America. In the United States, marriage decreases the probability of child poverty by 80%. Understanding that, the obvious answer to reducing black poverty is strengthening the black family; and that must be accomplished not only through changed behavior among blacks, but also through government policy.”
Former President Barack Obama once said: “But if we are honest with ourselves, we’ll admit that way too many fathers also are missing – missing from to many lives and too many homes. They have abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men, and the foundations of our families are weaker because of it.”
The sad state of the black family, and thus black society, can be clearly illustrated in a comparison of a traditional adage from my childhood, and how it could be expressed today.
In 1965 they said: “first comes love, then comes marriage; and nine months later comes a baby carriage.”
In 2017 black America we say: “First comes attraction, then comes sex. A baby and government dependency is what happens next.”
This must be reversed, or Black Lives Won’t Matter.