Out-of-Wedlock Births, Race, and the Washington Times
[On] the [Martin Luther] King holiday - Donna Brazile, the campaign manager of Mr. Lieberman's ill-fated 2000 quest, continued the affirmative-action debate on CNN's "Crossfire." In a telling moment, conservative host Tucker Carlson asked Miss Brazile, the first black American to manage a major party presidential campaign, a straightforward question: "What percentage of black children in this country are born out-of-wedlock?" She replied, "I would think around 35 to 45 percent." "Actually," Mr. Carlson told her, "it's two out of three."
A reasonable person might ask: What on earth does Mr. Carlson's question about unwed childbearing have to do with affirmative action? The editors continue:
When Mr. Carlson pressed Miss Brazile to address this familial catastrophe, she incongruously replied, "The number of blacks in prison has increased." Sadly, if Miss Brazile has absolutely no comprehension of the extent of the out-of-wedlock problem, she probably does not know that there is an indisputable correlation between rising proportions of illegitimacy and increasing prison populations.
OK, Ms. Brazile might have given a better response. But Carlson's comment was clearly a non-sequitur, and it's understandable that Brazile would respond defensively. After all, how would a Times reporter feel if, in the middle of a televised discussion of foreign policy, the co-host suddenly asked, "Isn't the Washington Times a Moonie newspaper whose assistant national editor is a member of the racist, neo-confederate League of the South?"
When there is a low sex ratio-that is, when there are many more women than men-marriages will be less common and more fragile, cohabitation will become more general, divorce will be more frequent, and children will be more likely to be raised in one-parent families. … For a century or more, [African Americans] have had a lower sex ratio than whites. … Young black men are scare because they are in prison or overseas in the armed forces and because black men die at a higher rate than black women…. If African American women had access to more potential marriage partners, more would get married.
After criticizing Brazile, the Times editors then blithely proceed to the 1965 "Moynihan report":
Mr. Moynihan cautioned that the alarming rise in black illegitimacy threatened to overwhelm the stability of the black community. As the racist barriers were being dismantled, Mr. Moynihan warned, "At the heart of the deterioration of the fabric of Negro society is the deterioration of the Negro family." For this he was roundly labeled a "racist" and much worse by his liberal peers. … Nearly 40 years after Mr. Moynihan's warning…the battle over affirmative action rages unabated. Would this be so if Mr. Moynihan's warning had been heeded and the problem of illegitimacy were addressed?
What was Moynihan's warning, exactly? The Times does not give so much as a word on the causes of family breakdown, as detailed by Moynihan.
[After slavery] The Negro was given liberty, but not equality. Life remained hazardous and marginal. Of the greatest importance, the Negro male, particularly in the South, became an object of intense hostility…. Unquestionably, [Jim Crow segregation] worked against the emergence of a strong father figure. The very essence of the male animal, from the bantam rooster to the four-star general, is to strut. Indeed, in 19th century America, a particular type of exaggerated male boastfulness became almost a national style. Not for the Negro male. The "sassy nigger [sic]" was lynched.
On economic forces:
The conclusion… is difficult to avoid: During times when jobs were reasonably plentiful…the Negro family became stronger and more stable. As jobs became more and more difficult to find, the stability of the family became more and more difficult to maintain.
Moynihan concluded his report by making "the case for national action":
Three centuries of injustice have brought about deep-seated structural distortions in the life of the Negro American. … The policy of the United States is to bring the Negro American to full and equal sharing in the responsibilities and rewards of citizenship. To this end, the programs of the Federal government bearing on this objective shall be designed to have the effect, directly or indirectly, of enhancing the stability and resources of the Negro American family.
Would the Washington Times have supported Mr. Moynihan's policy suggestions to address family breakdown? Does the Times support those policies today? Do the editors support large-scale government efforts to combat the legacy of legalized discrimination through greater education opportunities, job creation, and higher wages, particularly for Black men? They do not say.
[A]s the Hispanic community emerges as the nation's largest minority, it's worth noting that 42.5 percent of Hispanic births in 2001 were to unmarried women. That's 16 percentage points higher than the black percentage when Mr. Moynihan sounded his alarm. We thought Mr. Lieberman and Miss Brazile should know.
Oddly, no figure is given for the percentage of out-of-wedlock births among whites (it's 27.6 percent), though that figure is higher than it was among blacks when Moynihan "sounded his alarm." During the last decade, out-of-wedlock birth rates rose fastest among whites. Moreover, between 2000 and 2001, out-of-wedlock birth rates for blacks and Hispanics actually declined slightly. The editors also do not mention the encouraging decrease in father absence among blacks.
Institute for American Values