But instead of confronting the problem at the core of the black/white economic divide, he chose to repeat the litany of liberal explanations. Even while acknowledging the role of welfare policies in the erosion of black families, his main emphasis was on "[a] lack of economic opportunity among black men, and the shame and frustration that came from not being able to provide for one's family. ... The lack of basic services in so many urban black neighborhoods -- parks for kids to play in, police walking the beat, regular garbage pick-up and building code enforcement -- all helped create a cycle of violence, blight and neglect that continue to haunt us."
Politicians in general -- black, white, and brown -- have avoided talking about illegitimacy, even though it now threatens not just the black community but increasingly Hispanics and poor whites as well. Nearly half of Hispanic babies are being born to single mothers today -- a big increase in just the last few years -- and one in four white babies are born out of wedlock. And when you factor in high divorce rates, substantial numbers of American children will spend a major portion of their childhoods in female-headed households.
This crisis, far more than race, is the most important social issue of our time. Obama could use his bully pulpit to talk about it, but instead he chose to try to explain away black racism and rehash racial grievances, both black and white. Ironically, given Sen. Obama's problems with his own church, hundreds of black churches and faith-based organizations around the country are involved in efforts to encourage marriage, including some in Chicago. Obama could have proven himself a genuinely courageous leader had he been involved in this effort.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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