Mona Charen

 Okay. Now back to planet Earth. More than 75 percent of African-Americans are middle or upper class in 2005. Among those who make up the 24.7 percent in poverty, the overwhelming majority are unmarried women and their children. Family structure is the alpha and omega of poverty in America. You can slice the statistical pie in a thousand ways and still come to the same conclusion. For example: In 1995, the poverty rate for married couple black families was about 8 percent. In the same year, the poverty rate for families headed by white single women was about 27 percent. As David Eggebeen and Daniel T. Lichter wrote in the American Sociological Review, "Children from female-headed homes are five times as likely to be poor as children in two-parent families and nine times as likely to be in deep poverty." Maggie Gallagher, massaging the data a bit more to include a comparison with families that start and remain intact, yielded this statistic: "A child that is born out of wedlock is 30 times more likely to live in poverty than a child that was born in a marriage and whose parents stayed married."

 The prisons are full of African-American youths. Some Farrakhan followers and others who are simply misinformed interpret this datum as evidence of racism in police departments and courts throughout the country. But not just any African-Americans crowd the prisons. The prisons are dominated by males raised without fathers. And while the illegitimacy rate among Americans at large is frighteningly high at 25 percent, it is stratospheric among blacks at 68 percent.

 We are beyond the era of marches. The march on Washington Martin Luther King Jr. led in 1963 demanded, rightly of course, that the white majority live up to its responsibilities and cease hindering and persecuting American blacks. But no march and no demand can cure what ails some black Americans today. Only a profound renewal of faith in the values of marital fidelity and commitment can hope to alter the landscape of poverty. These are matters of spirit and belief; they can come only from within a community, not from outside.

 But it is not impossible to achieve such a renewal. In the 19th century, Britain underwent a profound reformation of mores and morals led by the Victorians. Through Sunday schools, YMCAs, temperance societies and charitable work, they were able dramatically to reduce levels of crime, drunkenness and family breakdown. Within the black community today, there are many similar efforts (for example, the ministry of Eugene Rivers and the National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise). To succeed though, blacks will have to reconcile themselves to the hard truth that poverty among blacks is about family structure, not white racism.

Mona Charen

Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist, political analyst and author of Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help .
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