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Crisis in the Black Community

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February 25, 2011|6:11 pm

It was former Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.) who first said, “What’s the use in being Irish if you don’t know someday the world will break your heart.” He said that when JFK was assassinated. And it fell to Irishman Moynihan in 1965 to break the news that a 25 percent out-of-wedlock birthrate in the black community was a harbinger of social disaster. Moynihan’s report on black families was shouted down by liberal social theorists then. They accused him of “blaming the victim.”

Shelby Steele, a black scholar, captured the 1960s mindset among liberal theorists: “Bad faith in America became virtuous in the ’60s when America finally acknowledged so many of its flagrant hypocrisies: the segregation of blacks, the suppression of women, the exploitation of other minorities, the ‘imperialism’ of the Vietnam War, the indifference to the environment, the hypocrisy of puritanical sexual mores and so on. The compounding of all these hypocrisies added up to the crowning idea of the ’60s: that America was characterologically evil.”

Thus, for liberals, concentrating on mundane matters like family formation seemed to be “selling out” to bourgeois values.

Dr. Patrick Fagan directs the Family Research Council’s Marriage and Religion Research Institute (MARRI). Pat was born and educated in Ireland. He came to America with a passion to help the family – all families. Like Moynihan, he has a special concern for black families. This is where the crisis of family breakdown is most severe.

Fagan’s latest MARRI study, “The Annual Report on Family Trends (2011),” tells us why. For example, only 16 percent of black children aged 17 in Washington, D.C. have been raised by a mother and father who are married. By contrast, in largely white, mostly Mormon Utah, 59 percent of black children grow up in intact families. All other figures range between these two extremes.

The numbers per thousand for live births, abortions and miscarriages for 2005, the most recent reported, should shock us. The rates per thousand unmarried white women were a total of 76 pregnancies resulting in 43 live births, 22 abortions and 11 miscarriages. The rates per thousand unmarried black women, were a total of 150 pregnancies, resulting in 68 live births, 62 abortions, and 20 miscarriages.

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Thus, the abortion rate among unmarried black women is more than three times that of unmarried white women. It should also be noted that states like New York, Massachusetts and California provide state funding for abortions. These states have large concentrations of black people. In New York City, for example, a recent study shows that six of every ten pregnancies of black women end in abortion.

Dr. Fagan’s MARRI studies show convincingly that the more young people have sex outside of marriage, the less likely they are to marry, and if they marry, the more likely they are to divorce. Thus, government support for Planned Parenthood, whose primary goal is to facilitate and foster sexual activity by minors and young adults, seems like bad social policy.

Planned Parenthood, of course, wants to work without parental knowledge or consent. A generation ago, liberals in Congress shouted down the Reagan administration’s attempt to force Planned Parenthood to give parental notice. And it was only parental notice – not even consent – that would be required when minor children were being plied with federally-funded contraceptives.

Marriage may be the prime mover in family income statistics. TIME Magazine last fall linked up with the Pew Foundation to poll Americans’ attitudes toward marriage. They reported that in 1960, the median household income for married adults was only 12 percent higher than for singles. But by 2008, the married households had a startling 41 percent higher income than the unmarried.

TIME therefore concedes that if you’re married, you’re more likely to be well off.

Thus, anything that threatens marriage also threatens the material well-being of those most vulnerable in society. This means, especially, children. While the TIME Pew survey found Americans broadly tolerant of differing lifestyles, it said Americans still overwhelmingly favor marriage for child-rearing. More than three-quarters of respondents say children need a mother and father.

In a recent interview with former Education Secretary Bill Bennett, scholar Allen Guelzo reported on a little-noted phenomenon from 1866. Thousands more marriages were suddenly registered in Tennessee. That’s because thousands of former slaves walked hundreds of miles to make their marriages legal.

What hope and what change those barefooted marchers brought about. In a first act of freedom, they committed to one another in marriage. That’s a remarkable statement about the sanctity of the home from men and women who, due to slavery, had lost so many loved ones for so long.

Their example still resonates today. These brave freedmen marched out of slavery to honor and cherish marriage. May we emulate them, not forsake them.

Ken Blackwell is a senior fellow at the Family Research Council and former mayor of Cincinnati. Robert Morrison formerly served in the U.S. Department of Education, and is also a senior fellow at the Family Research Council.
 

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