Jonah Goldberg

Statistics on the black family are, if possible, even more depressing. In a moving essay in the Washington Post, Joy Jones lamented how wedlock has become unfashionable in much of black America. A sixth-grader informed her that "marriage is for white people." The statistics back the kid up (though marriage among whites isn't that rosy either). More than two-thirds of black babies are born out of wedlock. Sociologist Andrew J. Cherlin of Johns Hopkins University says blacks were more likely to be raised by both parents during slavery days than they are today.

There's a lot of Marxist-infused nonsense about how economics are at the root of black America's problems. But this doesn't hold up to scrutiny. Of course poverty makes social pathologies worse, but it's the pathologies that cause poverty in the first place.

Family breakdown in the black community has occurred despite a steady rise in the wages of blacks since World War II, when 80 percent were born to married parents. Racism alone cannot be blamed anymore for causing all black problems. By every measure, racism, particularly official racism, has declined even as these problems have worsened.

Racism is surely still a problem, but it pales in comparison to family breakdown. Nothing more perpetuates the cycle of moral and financial poverty. If you are raised by two married parents today, black or white, it is unlikely that you will be poor, or poor for long. Blaming slavery and historic white racism for family erosion may be satisfying - often accurate - but it promises few solutions.

Pat Moynihan predicted all of this chaos more than 40 years ago in his report, "The Negro Family: The Case for National Action," which urged the government to help stop black family breakdown before young men raised without fathers sowed chaos in their own community and the nation. Moynihan was greeted with denial and outrage by black and feminist ideologues, who insisted he was trying to impose white middle-class norms on the benign, even "superior," female-headed black family. The PC mob won, and U.S. social policy was pushed in exactly the wrong direction until the welfare reform of the 1990s.

The Congressional Black Caucus and its sundry enablers are the intellectual heirs of Moynihan's critics. Indeed, many of them are the same people. Given the state of black America, their priorities often seem otherworldly: giving felons the vote and pushing for slavery reparations.

Obviously, black America's problems are larger than the black caucus. But the caucus has failed to provide the morally serious leadership - leadership that builds on the historic social conservatism and self-reliance of African Americans - that is sorely needed.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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