The Moynihan Report

“From the wild Irish slums of the 19th-century Eastern seaboard, to the riot-torn suburbs of Los Angeles, is one unmistakable lesson in American history: a community that allows large numbers of young men to grow up in broken families, dominated by women, never acquiring any stable relationship to male authority, never acquiring any set of rational expectations about the future–that community asks for and gets chaos. Crime, violence, unrest, disorder. . .are not only to be expected, they are very near to inevitable.”

Daniel Moynihan-1965

It’s a statement that rings true today just as it did forty years ago.

I think everyone should be required to read the Moynihan Report. This document, known then as “The Negro Family: The Case For National Action,” is now referred to as the Moynihan Report. The report was leaked to the media in July 1965, one month before the devastating riots in Watts. Moynihan urged that the Federal Government adopt a national policy for the reconstruction of the black family. He laid out clear arguments, noting that the real cause of the troubles in the black community, was not so much segregation, or a lack of voting power, but that the structure of the Negro family is highly “unstable and in many urban centers…approaching complete breakdown.”

Mr. Moynihan was ostracized for his findings with the release of this report. Critics came from all corners of society. Civil-rights leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. and John Lewis spoke out angrily against the report. Others said that is that it assumed that middle-class American values are the correct values for everyone in America. They suggested that he assumed everyone should have a family structure like his own.

Well, after 47 years to observe what has happened,  I feel he was right. We now have generations of fatherless kids who have no guidance. Widespread fatherlessness is a major problem in our society and is affecting people in ways they may not totally understand. Take a look at what is going on in communities of color all across the United States. It is now effecting people of all hues.

The effects of widespread fatherlessness are everywhere and has a direct impact on nearly all of the social issues facing America today. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 24 million children in America, almost one out of three, live in homes where the biological father is absent. The number of single parent households living below the poverty line is staggering. Poverty rates are highest for families headed by single women, particularly if they are black or Hispanic. In 2010, 31.6 percent of households headed by single women were poor, while 15.8 percent of households headed by single men and 6.2 percent of married-couple households lived in poverty. Since the publication of the Moynihan Report, the proportion of African American children born outside or marriage has ballooned from 24 percent to 70 percent today. Things are CLEARLY not getting better.

Little has changed to improve the lives of black children since then. In fact, it has gotten worse. This is a phenomenon that is becoming a bigger problem than we’d like to admit. The acceptance of the ‘new normal’ of widespread fatherlessness will eventually have the same devastating effects in the white community as it has had in the black community for decades.  Moynihan meant for the report to serve as a call to action for a larger discussion and planned social and political intervention. I feel the time has come to have that conversation, to begin a new dialogue and to spread awareness of the issues that still persist almost 50 years later.

Kay S. Hymowitz sums things up in her essay “The Black Family: 40 Years of Lies,”

So, have we reached the end of the Moynihan report saga? That would be vastly overstating matters. Remember: 70 percent of black children are still born to unmarried mothers. After all that ghetto dwellers have been through, why are so many people still unwilling to call this the calamity it is? Both NOW and the National Association of Social Workers continue to see marriage as a potential source of female oppression. The Children’s Defense Fund still won’t touch the subject. Hip-hop culture glamorizes ghetto life: “ ’cause nowadays it’s like a badge of honor/to be a baby mama” go the words to the current hit “Baby Mama,” which young ghetto mothers view as their anthem. Seriously complicating the issue is the push for gay marriage, which dismissed the formula “children growing up with their own married parents” as a form of discrimination. And then there is the American penchant for to-each-his-own libertarianism. In opinion polls, a substantial majority of young people say that having a child outside of marriage is okay—though, judging from their behavior, they seem to mean that it’s okay, not for them, but for other people. Middle- and upper-middle-class Americans act as if they know that marriage provides a structure that protects children’s development. If only they were willing to admit it to their fellow citizens.

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