Rochford: Deeper Issues Pt. 1: Broken Families in the Black Community


Deeper Issues: Broken Families in the Black Community

    *** Note to Editor for deletion after reading: This column had been planned at our weekly meeting  as an alternative to the much longer “Reparations Will Not Work” article, which is part of what we decided would be a three part series of columns.  The current published article, “Reparations Will Not Work” is not is not the work in which I was asked to engage to change and have published, but the spirit of the full article was to be put into three different columns, the first of which is the column as follows below. ***

     The following series of columns could be expanded to include individuals across all racial lines.  For the purpose of these columns, however, I am and will be making a direct appeal to black individuals because I am bi-racial black and white myself.  Political activists and presidential candidates have ramped up the rhetoric as it pertains to reparation policy to correct for the legacy of black slavery.  I hate to do it, but I will provide a qualifier for my ideas.  As it relates to my personal racial history and profile: I have traced the black side of my family, with great effort, to the cotton fields of Mississippi where they spent their lives in bondage until the abolition of slavery in 1865.  The Caucasian side of my family seemed to move from Kentucky, Maryland, and the Carolinas west and across the deeper South over the course of a couple centuries.  In short, I have a “stake in the game.”

     The brief argument in favor of reparations looks essentially as follows: the history of black slavery in the United States, coupled with the Jim Crow era one hundred years into postbellum America, has left black people at large disadvantaged and held back socially and economically.  Undoubtedly, the end of the Reconstruction era after the Civil War left much to be desired in terms of further assisting those blacks who had only recently attained their freedom.

     The disproportionalities affecting the black community in 2019 relating to crime, poverty, drugs, etc. are a cause for major concern.  However, the focus by activists and left-wing politicians point to that superficial notion that the legacy of slavery still represses black society, and reparations may be the key to closing the gaps. 

     This is not convincing, and there are much deeper issues that have not been or are reluctantly addressed, none more so than the single motherhood rate in the black community.  Indeed, regardless of race, children that do not grow up in a two-parent household are more likely to commit crime, live in poverty, use drugs, drop out of high school, be idle (jobless and not in school), experience a teenage pregnancy, and suffer other negative associations.  Many of the consequences listed above are a core part of the grievances the black community and activists speak on but are reluctant to look at in terms of single motherhood as a cause.  This begs the question: what is the single motherhood rate in the black community and how and why has it increased over time especially in the black community, but across other racial lines as well?  I will answer this first question in this column, and my subsequent columns will address the others.

     One may be surprised to learn that at the height of black slavery in the United States in 1860, the black family, even during a time when families could be forcibly broken up within the peculiar institution, existed as a nuclear unit around two-thirds of the time.  Two-thirds is certainly not as high as would be ideal, but fast-forward 154 years and the two-thirds number has essentially flipped, where in 2019 approximately two-thirds of black children live in a household that contains only one parent (often the mother), though access to the other parent (often the father) is not totally limited.  I doubt our county as a whole is more racist in 2019 than proved the case in 1860. 

     As stated above, the consequences on children experiencing broken homes can be devastating.  Lack of a second income, the lack of a father figure, and parental instability has much to do with the negative effects children suffer.  When the single motherhood rate happens to be alarmingly high in the black community, the result can be a generational vicious cycle that maintains the community at a disadvantage both economically and socially.


     I believe that we individuals who happen to be black, mixed, etc. possess great levels of individual agency to help break this vicious cycle, and we need to focus on much more introspection than has been done lately, rather than rely on a narrative of perpetual victimhood.  There are certain values and policies that are important to advocate for, such as keeping the family unit intact and encouraging black fathers to stay in the lives of both the mother and the children (this is not to say there are not great black fathers, there are many).  I will go into more detail about these values and policies in a second or third part of this series of columns.

     Though instant gratification feels better and is obviously much faster, it often does not end in sustained gratification.  This is true for the calls for reparations for the wrongs of black slavery as well; it simply is not good policy regardless of intentions.  Depending upon government and government redistribution of capital only superficially covers the deeper issues at hand with a perpetually flimsy band aid that never actually heals the wounds.  Moreover, those same band aids may indeed be further facilitating the problem in the first place, nefariously guiding the vicious cycle along on its generational course.  These band aids I refer to happen to be the welfare state as it was between the 1960s and the 1990s, and a set of both economic and social problems those programs had a hand in spawning for the black community, along with others.  The consequences of the welfare state, including how the black family developed under such programs, will be discussed in part two.