The Black Family Is Struggling, and It’s Not Because of Slavery

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Jim's picture

http://www.jewishworldreview.com/cols/will070617.php3

Of the several causes of descent, there and elsewhere, into the intergenerational transmission of poverty, one was paramount: family disintegration. Some causes of this remain unclear, but something now seems indisputable: Among today's young adults, the "success sequence" is insurance against poverty.

The evidence is in "The Millennial Success Sequence" published by the American Enterprise Institute and the Institute for Family Studies and written by Wendy Wang of the IFS and W. Bradford Wilcox of the University of Virginia and AEI.

The success sequence, previously suggested in research by, among others, Ron Haskins and Isabel Sawhill of the Brookings Institution, is this: First get at least a high school diploma, then get a job, then get married, and only then have children. Wang and Wilcox, focusing on millennials ages 28 to 34, the oldest members of the nation's largest generation, have found that only 3 percent who follow this sequence are poor.

A comparably stunning 55 percent of this age cohort have had children before marriage. Only 25 percent of the youngest baby boomers (those born between 1957 and 1964) did that. Eighty-six percent of the Wang-Wilcox millennials who put "marriage before the baby carriage" have family incomes in the middle or top third of incomes. Forty-seven percent who did not follow the sequence are in the bottom third.

One problem today, Wilcox says, is the "soul-mate model of marriage," a self-centered approach that regards marriage primarily as an opportunity for personal growth and fulfillment rather than as a way to form a family.

Another problem is that some of the intelligentsia see the success sequence as middle-class norms to be disparaged for being middle-class norms.

And as AEI social scientist Charles Murray says, too many of the successful classes, who followed the success sequence, do not preach what they practice, preferring "ecumenical niceness" to being judgmental.

In healthy societies, basic values and social arrangements are not much thought about. They are "of course" matters expressing what sociologists call a society's "world-taken-for-granted." They have, however, changed since President Lyndon Johnson proclaimed "unconditional" war on poverty.

This word suggested a fallacious assumption: Poverty persisted only because of hitherto weak government resolve regarding the essence of war -- marshalling material resources.

But what if large causes of poverty are not matters of material distribution but are behavioral -- bad choices and the cultures that produce them? If so, policymakers must rethink their confidence in social salvation through economic abundance.

 

Bert Perry's picture

I just looked at some data about the situation in Puerto Rico (pray, and help if you can), and one thing that struck me is that the power company was not getting paid for a huge portion of their power--it was listed as "unmetered", but in reality, effectively a third or so of power is stolen.  So they raise rates instead of tracking down thieves, thus increasing the likelihood of stealing power and reducing their own ability to keep a power network going.  

And then companies see that everybody steals power, and they wonder what else people will steal, and they choose to locate elsewhere.  Like it or not, culture, and the 10 commandments, matter.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

T Howard's picture

One reason the black community is struggling is that their wealth was stolen from them (repeatedly) by not only slavery but also by jim crow and other racist policies. For example, an entire black community that was prosperous and flourishing (known as Black Wall Street) was destroyed by white rioters looking for vengeance and jealous of black wealth.

Bert Perry's picture

Agreed that until about 50 years ago, wealth was systematically taken from the black community.  However, that isn't the major problem for the community, or any other; keep in mind that most immigrants, legal and illegal, arrive with little more than the shirts on their backs, and a great portion of them are doing fine because they heed Dr. Williams' wisdom of finding a job, staying out of criminal activity, graduating from high school (generally college), and getting married before having children.  

Now there may be certain cultural habits which make this more difficult for blacks, but let's not forget the wisdom of Scripture, repeated in Stanley and Danko's "The Millionaire Next Door", that most wealth is not inherited.  In fact, inherited wealth makes it less likely for one to stay wealthy--just ask Rehoboam, no?

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Robert Byers's picture

T Howard wrote:

One reason the black community is struggling is that their wealth was stolen from them (repeatedly) by not only slavery but also by jim crow and other racist policies. For example, an entire black community that was prosperous and flourishing (known as Black Wall Street) was destroyed by white rioters looking for vengeance and jealous of black wealth.

That's only a small part of the story.  The Tulsa race riots in 1921 were truly horrific, but the community was quickly rebuilt and flourished.  In fact "Black Wall Street" reached its peak two decades AFTER the riots (in 1941), not before.  It no longer exists because it was wiped out by liberal urban planners in the 1960s who destroyed the Greenwood neighborhood by running I-244 right throught the heart of it.  It was not conservative white envy but the liberal "do-gooder" impulse that ended the once-thriving business and residential area.

David R. Brumbelow's picture

Too bad Walter Williams and others of his insight seem to never be invited to Racial Reconciliation meetings and Race Dialogues.  

David R. Brumbelow

Joel Shaffer's picture

What Racial Reconciliation meetings and Race Dialogue meetings are you talking about?  Those put on by Christians?  Which Christians?  If that's what you mean, there are several People of Color such as Dr. Anthony Bradley from Kings College and Rudy Carrasco from Partners Worldwide and the Acton Institute that are conservative that speak on racial reconciliation.   Both of them have made the point about fatherlessness and weak family structure is the main problem when it comes to why so many Blacks and Latinos families are trapped in poverty.  However, they have also made the point that it is not the only reason.  There are many other issues that go on that contribute to poverty among Blacks and Latinos, including systemic racism.   

By the way, here is a video trailer from one of Dr. Bradley's books.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GBayJoiSi10Q

Bert Perry's picture

I've been following the career of Dr. Bradley, as well as the careers of Drs. Sowell and Williams, for a while, and the big difference is that the mainstream media covers mostly civil rights activists on the left.  

That noted, we don't have that excuse, as we can read his books for a price and even watch some things for free on YouTube.  Worth our time as we learn how to undo centuries of segregation and racism.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

T Howard's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

Agreed that until about 50 years ago, wealth was systematically taken from the black community.  However, that isn't the major problem for the community, or any other; keep in mind that most immigrants, legal and illegal, arrive with little more than the shirts on their backs, and a great portion of them are doing fine because they heed Dr. Williams' wisdom of finding a job, staying out of criminal activity, graduating from high school (generally college), and getting married before having children. 

Except that most immigrants haven't been stigmatized and systematically denied opportunities like the African-American community. It's one thing to start from zero and build wealth. It's another to repeatedly start from zero (because of theft) and to be denied that opportunity to build wealth. Even the Irish had it better.

T Howard's picture

Robert Byers wrote:
The Tulsa race riots in 1921 were truly horrific, but the community was quickly rebuilt and flourished.  In fact "Black Wall Street" reached its peak two decades AFTER the riots (in 1941), not before.

The community was rebuilt, but its foundations were destroyed. African-American power and wealth in the community was diluted and eventually "redistributed" to the white community.

Bert Perry's picture

T Howard wrote:

 

Bert Perry wrote:

 

Agreed that until about 50 years ago, wealth was systematically taken from the black community.  However, that isn't the major problem for the community, or any other; keep in mind that most immigrants, legal and illegal, arrive with little more than the shirts on their backs, and a great portion of them are doing fine because they heed Dr. Williams' wisdom of finding a job, staying out of criminal activity, graduating from high school (generally college), and getting married before having children. 

 

Except that most immigrants haven't been stigmatized and systematically denied opportunities like the African-American community. It's one thing to start from zero and build wealth. It's another to repeatedly start from zero (because of theft) and to be denied that opportunity to build wealth. Even the Irish had it better.

Wait a second.  Yes, if you look only at the 19th and 20th centuries in the United States, you could say blacks had it worse, but the Irish had been sharecroppers/serfs of the English since the 12th century.  The English corn laws of the 1840s, which forbade export of food to Ireland, more or less put the green isle through its own Holocaust.  And speaking of the Holocaust, I dare suggest that you're not going to be able to prove to me that the Jews were less oppressed, historically, than blacks, when you look back more than a century.   More recently, it was only in the past 50 years that realtors were prohibited from "red-lining" all kinds of minorities--I actually own a cemetery plot whose regulations originally stated that only white Gentiles could be buried there; and the cemetery is in west suburban Chicagoland, not Alabama.  My grandparents bought it around 1940, I believe.

Looking at other minorities, most of Asia and the slavic countries were basically serfs (slaves) until the 19th century, too.  Plus, when one looks at America under Jim Crow and redlining customs in the North , you also see some fairly remarkable economic progress--progress that has arguably been reversed in inner cities since the Great Society.

So I think your hypothesis is a bit too simplistic, brother. 

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Joel Shaffer's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

 

T Howard wrote:

 

 

Bert Perry wrote:

 

Agreed that until about 50 years ago, wealth was systematically taken from the black community.  However, that isn't the major problem for the community, or any other; keep in mind that most immigrants, legal and illegal, arrive with little more than the shirts on their backs, and a great portion of them are doing fine because they heed Dr. Williams' wisdom of finding a job, staying out of criminal activity, graduating from high school (generally college), and getting married before having children. 

 

Except that most immigrants haven't been stigmatized and systematically denied opportunities like the African-American community. It's one thing to start from zero and build wealth. It's another to repeatedly start from zero (because of theft) and to be denied that opportunity to build wealth. Even the Irish had it better.

 

 

Wait a second.  Yes, if you look only at the 19th and 20th centuries in the United States, you could say blacks had it worse, but the Irish had been sharecroppers/serfs of the English since the 12th century.  The English corn laws of the 1840s, which forbade export of food to Ireland, more or less put the green isle through its own Holocaust.  And speaking of the Holocaust, I dare suggest that you're not going to be able to prove to me that the Jews were less oppressed, historically, than blacks, when you look back more than a century.   More recently, it was only in the past 50 years that realtors were prohibited from "red-lining" all kinds of minorities--I actually own a cemetery plot whose regulations originally stated that only white Gentiles could be buried there; and the cemetery is in west suburban Chicagoland, not Alabama.  My grandparents bought it around 1940, I believe.

Looking at other minorities, most of Asia and the slavic countries were basically serfs (slaves) until the 19th century, too.  Plus, when one looks at America under Jim Crow and redlining customs in the North , you also see some fairly remarkable economic progress--progress that has arguably been reversed in inner cities since the Great Society.

So I think your hypothesis is a bit too simplistic, brother. 

In America, African-Americans have had it far worse than anyone (except maybe Native Americans) since they were brought over as slaves beginning in the 17th century.  I think that is what T. Howard was arguing. Globally expanding the argument doesn't really help because we are talking about building wealth in America.  The context is America.  The Jewish Halocaust didn't take place in America and neither did the serfdom of the Irish by the British.  Of course they experienced many levels of persecution, but in the United States, neither the Irish nor those who are Jews experienced as much injustice and persecution as African-Americans.  Hopefully we are in agreement with that.  

Bert Perry's picture

Joel, no argument that African-Americans got things worse if you limit things to the U.S., sure.  That noted, why would oppression in the United States generate these results, but not elsewhere?  That's not usually how sociology and psychology are practiced, and the very question suggests that other factors besides the ones T. Howard mentions are in play, which is precisely my argument. 

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

T Howard's picture

Bert, the social and historical context in America is a significant factor to the African-American experience. You can't ignore that.

Bert Perry's picture

But if that context is remarkably similar from nation to nation, we cannot ignore that, either. 

A great example is that slavery in the Caribbean was, judging by mortality rates and treatment, every bit as brutal in the Caribbean as it was in the worst plantations of the U.S., and moreover the practice ended at about the same time there as here--1763-1886 in the Caribbean (mostly 1838 in British possessions).  Why are things so different?  You've got the same basic DNA, the same brutality, and yet....very, very different outcomes.

Again, it suggests something else is going on. 

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Jim's picture

When a family of 7 can flee Afghanistan [post-Soviet invasion] as refugees with nothing ...

And come to America and achieve this:

  1. Daughter = pharmacist
  2. Daughter = financial grad 
  3. Son [my son-in-law] = MBA MIT 
  4. Daughter = PhD in Pharmacy
  5. Son = unsure of degree but from U of Minn

1st generation (Mom and Dad): worked cleaning hotels & restaurant cooking. Ultimately opened Afghani restaurant that struggled until closure.

-------

My wife's family is amazing. They went from a small poor farm with only running water in the kitchen and a 3 hole outhouse to:

  1. Son 1: Left home to join the Navy. Received EE degree from U of Florida. Worked for IBM and is a millionaire 
  2. Son 2: Left home to join the Navy.  Now deceased but had a successful post Navy career as a helicopter mechanic
  3. Son 3: Left home to join the Navy.  Now very ill with leukemia but received degree from Florida in physical therapy
  4. Daughter 1: Received educational degree from Florida
  5. Daughter 2 [my wife]: Worked her way through college and graduated with a 4.0 in Math from Florida State 

 

 

 

T Howard's picture

Bert Perry wrote:
But if that context is remarkably similar from nation to nation, we cannot ignore that, either.

It's not. The cultural and historical context is not "remarkably similar" between the Caribbean islands and the U.S.

T Howard's picture

Jim wrote:

When a family of 7 can flee Afghanistan [post-Soviet invasion] as refugees with nothing ...

Agreed. Even black Africans who come to America often fare better than African-Americans. It's interesting to note that many African-Americans don't consider black Africans who are now American citizens truly African-American. Black Africans who are now Americans have a very different culture and mindset than African-Americans.

TylerR's picture

Editor

T Howard wrote:

Even black Africans who come to America often fare better than African-Americans

Why is that, do you think?

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government.

T Howard's picture

TylerR wrote:

T Howard wrote:

Even black Africans who come to America often fare better than African-Americans

Why is that, do you think?

They don't share the same cultural and historical context. This affects their lifestyle and mindset.

Bert Perry's picture

T Howard wrote:

 

Bert Perry wrote:

But if that context is remarkably similar from nation to nation, we cannot ignore that, either.

 

It's not. The cultural and historical context is not "remarkably similar" between the Caribbean islands and the U.S.

Well, then, provide some evidence.  As I see things, you've got the same colonial powers (England especially), the same genetics (west equatorial African), an even harsher version of slavery than most slaves in the U.S. experienced, and poverty that can only charitably described as grinding compared to the U.S. version.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

T Howard's picture

I've followed Boyce Watkins for awhile now and like what he's trying to do for the black community. He promotes what he calls, The Black Wealth Bootcamp. I know he is a controversial figure for many (e.g. he is an advocate for reparations, an acquaintance (but not a follower) of Farrakhan, etc.), but his message of economic empowerment and cooperative economics is solid stuff.

He agrees that family structure is the key to building generational wealth, just as Williams does. He does not kowtow to the democratic party, the public education system, or black elites because he believes they have hurt the black community.

Joel Shaffer's picture

TylerR wrote:

T Howard wrote:

Even black Africans who come to America often fare better than African-Americans

Why is that, do you think?

It comes down to one word:  Hope.  Immigrants come to America with the Hope of making a brand new life.  Whereas, many African-Americans that are trapped in chronic poverty for several generations see the American dream as a farce.  Add to the many stories passed from generation to generation of multiple instances of discrimination along with current examples of discrimination that they experience in many different contexts (employment, housing, education, law enforcement/criminal justice system, government agencies such as Child Protective Services, Friend of the Court), often times it leads to being caught in a survival mentality where one is much more concerned about living day-to-day than planning for the future.  Its in those living day-to-day where the bad choices/sins/hustling often takes place.   That is the culture and context that I've been connected to for 27 or so years of urban ministry.     That is why discipleship is wholistic on our context.  Not only teaching the Scriptures-whole counsel of God, but also teaching the economic system, financial management and entrepreneuership in order so see at-risk urban families break the cycle of poverty. 

Bert Perry's picture

Watkins has some things that are going to hurt his followers pretty badly, IMO.  One thing that leapt out when I looked at his site is that he's calling corporate employment a "plantation" and is encouraging people to get off it--when in reality, what a large portion of his audience needs to hear is Dr. Williams' advice to get a job, any job.  Implicitly, he's discouraging one of the key behaviors of prosperity.

It really illustrates a cultural divide that dates back at least to Booker T. Washington's disputes with W.E.B. DuBois; Washington believing that as African-Americans learned trades and good character, whites would realize their errors in racism, and DuBois favoring classical education and political activism.  It's an oversimplification for sure, but suffice it to say that a variant of DuBois' vision seems to be dominant.  

In the meantime, immigrants are listening to Booker T. Washington and Walter Williams and getting a job, any job.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Joel Shaffer's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

Watkins has some things that are going to hurt his followers pretty badly, IMO.  One thing that leapt out when I looked at his site is that he's calling corporate employment a "plantation" and is encouraging people to get off it--when in reality, what a large portion of his audience needs to hear is Dr. Williams' advice to get a job, any job.  Implicitly, he's discouraging one of the key behaviors of prosperity.

It really illustrates a cultural divide that dates back at least to Booker T. Washington's disputes with W.E.B. DuBois; Washington believing that as African-Americans learned trades and good character, whites would realize their errors in racism, and DuBois favoring classical education and political activism.  It's an oversimplification for sure, but suffice it to say that a variant of DuBois' vision seems to be dominant.  

In the meantime, immigrants are listening to Booker T. Washington and Walter Williams and getting a job, any job.

I've heard of Watkins but haven't seen or read anything of him yet, but in my experience in Michigan, so many African-Americans have relied on Corporations such as GM, Ford, and Chrysler for their employment or getting a job within the government.    Starting a business/being an entrepreneur had never even been on the radar screen for many.   

T Howard's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

Watkins has some things that are going to hurt his followers pretty badly, IMO.  One thing that leapt out when I looked at his site is that he's calling corporate employment a "plantation" and is encouraging people to get off it--when in reality, what a large portion of his audience needs to hear is Dr. Williams' advice to get a job, any job.  Implicitly, he's discouraging one of the key behaviors of prosperity.

Watkins encourages the black community to own their own businesses and thus work for themselves and their own communities instead of corporate America (where blacks are often discriminated against).  That is what he means by getting off the corporate plantation.  He encourages personal savings and investing, and when someone spends money to do so within the black community to keep the money within the community and to build wealth within the community.

Bert Perry's picture

OK, first of all, I dare suggest that anyone living in the USA who is not homeless needs to take a look at shorpy.com or read the autobiography of Booker T. Washington if he truly thinks the American dream is dead.  I've seen how the poor used to live in this country (free and slave, all colors), how the poor used to live in Europe, and how the poor still do live in Malaysia and the U.S.

As such, I guarantee that if you took the residents of this cabin and showed them the housing, diets, and treatment for the poor today, they would quite frankly be puzzled about what anyone in this country today has to complain about.   "They get all that without working 12 hour days in the hot sun, a factory, or a mine?"

Regarding Watkins, the trick is that not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur, as doing so requires a certain amount of capital, risk tolerance, and personality characteristics.  Not everyone can, or should, try.  Moreover, most entry level jobs outside of government are with corporations like Wal-Mart, Meijer, McDonald's, small factories, and the like.  So when he calls it a "corporate plantation", the large portion of young black people who are not ready or cut out to be entrepreneurs are going to hear that as "your first job is going to be humiliating and degrading."  

Nothing wrong with encouraging entrepreneurship, but there is everything wrong with assuming that corporate work is going to be like a plantation.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.