When it comes to the issues of the black community, there is plenty of blame to go around. In society. In the Church. And, yes, in all levels of Government.
Recently, Captain Capitalism provided an interesting take on black illegitimacy, suggesting that feminism–implemented by government–has effectively given the red pill to black men, and has fostered a disaster expressed that is seen in the illegitimacy rates, which exceed 70% in the black community.
My take on it? This problem is a confluence of factors.
First off, we need to be honest here: illegitimacy among American blacks has been problematic for decades, even before the 1960s. In 1940, the black illegitimacy rate was 19%. It had risen to 22% by the mid-1960s. As of 2010, it’s at 72%.
For a little over 20 years, black illegitimacy was relatively stable, with a slight uptick. It would be fair to ask two questions:
(a) What caused that uptick to 22%?
(b) What caused the spike we have seen since the 1960s?
In 1930, black unemployment was lower than that of whites. Unfortunately, the passage of Depression-era laws that empowered labor unions, and the increase of the minimum wage, had the effect of (a) shutting blacks out of many jobs due to union rules, and (b) raising wages so high that blacks were priced out of the labor market. This had the effect of driving black unemployment up.
Given that illegitimacy rates were already bad, an increase in black unemployment would have led to even more illegitimacy, ceteris paribus. That is because a black man would have more economic incentive to forsake responsibility for a child conceived out of wedlock. That illegitimacy only rose 3% between 1940 and the mid-1960s was probably miraculous.
Enter the Great Society…
At this point, we must concede that government was hardly embracing feminism at the time. In fact, many within government probably had the great intentions of helping to address what was a very real problem in their midst–illegitimacy–even though they weren’t thinking through the actual causes or the potential unintended consequences of what they were doing.
Moreover, the religious leaders in the black community welcomed the intervention of government. And one can fully understand why, given the overt discrimination against blacks in many sectors of society. The Civil Rights era was kicking into high gear, for both better and worse.
Speaking of for better and worse, we cannot leave out the Civil Rights leaders, who themselves were a mixed bag.
For better: Martin Luther King, who–for all his personal issues–was calling blacks and whites to embrace a higher standard.
For worse: the poverty pimps who would use the Civil Rights movement to enrich themselves at the expense of those whose cause they claimed to champion. Examples include Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.
Now how did this pan out?
First, government intervention only created (a) an economic incentive for those single mothers to have more children out of wedlock and (b) never get married. If he mans up and marries her, she’ll live worse than she does under welfare.
The government became her husband, and shoved the black man into irrelevance.
(Was government thinking in feminist terms at the time? Probably not. But that is–functionally–how it played out.)
Making matters worse, there are now children growing up in that home without a father. Those children are at home with their mother, who receives a check from the government.
Those children may go to school, but–without guidance from a father figure–they don’t have the same incentive that those with a two-parent household have. Nor are they likely to see the connection between work and pay, if their experience involves mother receiving a check from the government every two weeks.
Even worse, those children aren’t likely to see the portrait of marriage, let alone grow up with the expectation of being married.
End-result: children in those homes will repeat the cycle, and in many cases with the complications: delinquency, crime, drugs, and other risky behavior.
As these dynamics have played out, what have the responses been?
From the government: the answer has been more money, more programs, and more help to combat the issues of black Americans.
From the religious leaders: lean on the government to keep the money flowing. That means pledge allegiance to the Democratic Party. Religious leaders get paid by tithes and offerings, and that–over the years–has become dependent on government checks going to their parishioners.
Those few blacks with the responsibility to call a spade a spade–Walter Williams, Thomas Sowell, Clarence Thomas–get dismissed as “Uncle Toms”. (Even Bill Cosby–who is no conservative–received a great amount of flak for ranting against those blacks who are irresponsible.)
What is the way forward here?
There are no easy answers. The illegitimacy rate is 72%, and that represents a whole generation of black children, the majority of whom will grow up without a father in the house. This is a social disaster in the making that requires nothing short of a miracle for a turnaround.
No government program is going to fix this, and–in fact–government intervention will likely only make the problem worse. If anything, government may be the reason that the situation is as bad as it is today.
(1) We need to get the government out the business of doing for people what they ought to be doing for themselves. Toward that end, we need to end government programs that have incentivized illegitimacy.
(2) We need to look long and hard at our justice system and revisit this idea of putting non-violent offenders in jail. The War on Drugs has been an out-and-out disaster, as it has taken non-violent offenders and tagged them for life. I’ve seen it happen to whites, and I’ve seen it happen to blacks. The economic impact is disastrous.
(3) In the absence of government, the Church needs to intervene on behalf of the blacks, even as they call out the black leaders who have shirked their responsibility in the name of politics and personal greed. This is going to require a lot of resources–both people and money. There will be a need for lots of tough love. It won’t be easy, but this is a challenge that the Church in the United States can meet.
(4) We need to become a society that values and promotes marriage. This is not about government programs; in fact, we need to get government out of the business of marriage licensing.
What I mean by that is that the Church needs to do a better job communicating the place of marriage in the witness of the Gospel, calling men and women–so inclined–to embrace it as a good thing, with the men embracing the responsibilities and difficulties just as Christ receives us in our sin, and wives accepting their husbands even if they don’t fit the model of perfection to which they feel entitled.
In that process, we must affirm the value of the husband. In most cases, even a bad father is better than no father. The men have seen their role devalued by society for the last 50 years, and we need to confront that great injustice.
We also must affirm the role of the wife. Husbands have great value, so do the wives. Children need fathers; they also need mothers who are help-meets to their husbands.
We cannot kowtow to the women and blame their plight solely on the men; we cannot kowtow to the men and blame their plight on the women. There is plenty of blame to go around: men who swallowed the red pill; women who rode the carousel; a government that coddled the women; preachers who sat on their tushies and looked the other way.
We must acknowledge the sins of each, and call them, not to the government, but to the cross.
Government has done enough damage here.