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January 16, 2012

Comments

In general (with admitted variations, both geographic and class-based), we have achieved a generation who are far far less likely than their parents and grandparents to pigeonhole people strictly on the basis of race. Which is a step forward, albeit not the end of the journey.

But, as with any cultural change, it only locks in when the generation before is no longer around to maintain the old traditions. When King was still with us, nobody, but nobody, would have even considered that a black man might win the Presidency. Or even that a non-white person might be in the Senate (outside Hawaii). And yet, here we are.

Another couple of decades on, I expect we will have moved further. The biggest reminder of how far we have come will be among Republicans in the Deep South. (In case it isn't obvious, I just spent a couple of hours listening to the debate in South Carolina. My suggestion is to move all of them to Florida, build a wall, and let rising sea levels take care of the rest.)

As to the statistics cited in russell's post, I'm not sure how the single-parent stat is relevant unless you're on the Santorum bus that the way out of poverty is marriage. Perhaps the child poverty rate is more telling: In 2010, 38.2 % of black children lived in poverty compared to 12.4 % of white children, 35% of Hispanic children, and 13.6 % of Asian children.

I would say that the most relevant statistic is the one dealing with incarceration. The incarceration rate, especially of African-Americans, is a national scandal, but nothing will be done about it as long as the "civil libertarians" spend their time on Bradley Manning rather than issues such as the three strikes law.

I agree with wj that things have improved dramatically since King's time. But the fact that "progressive" white people are so reluctant to support a black Democratic president, perhaps the finest President of the United States in at least a generation, speaks volumes.


Changing one's thinking is difficult. I grew up in Finland, in an all-white environment: I never had, all the way from primary school to the senior high, a non-Finnish or non-white classmate. (If you count us Finns white, that is.) In my junior high of over 600 pupils, there were two pupils with Asian background, and even they had been adopted as small children.

In the university, things were not much different. I happened to have a few foreign student friends, but I don't think a single student in my major was anything but white.

When I came to US as an exchange researcher, my closest colleague was a black man. Granted, he was Indian, but still, his face was darker than a roasted coffee-bean. (As such, he was not culturally considered "black" by his American colleagues and, in fact, he self-identified as "white".) I really had a difficulty not paying attention to the strange sight of my friend's face. I'd say it took me over a month until I stopped paying attention to his skin colour.

Now, I'm back to Finland. I'm, again, working in an all-white environment. As my community is located in a rural area, I don't think the whole municipality where I live has a single black inhabitant, although it has a few inhabitants of Asian origin.

The impression I get is that in the US the image of the black violent male (likely in connection with drugs) is deeply ingrained. Over here (Germany) that specific part of anti-black racism is practically absent. This does not mean that there is no anti-black racism or anti-black violence (actually quite a bit of it). But blacks are not seen as a violent threat. I would even say that blacks are seen as the least threatening 'non-white' ethnic group. The equivalent to the US image of the violent black male would be an adolescent Turk (usually in a small group, less so as a single person). Religion does not play a role there. Islam may be feared especially by the older generation but the fear of the adolescent Turk is that of secular violence because he either wants to rob you or stab you for an insult you were not aware you committed against him.
So, as I see it, society 'needs' a designated target of fear and projects on it certain images of violence (usually at least slightly grounded in reality). The choice of the group has less to do with the group itself but more with convenience and tradition. In the US it was the American Indians first, later replaced by the African black slave or descendants thereof. East Asians and Mexicans/Latinos went in and out of fashion but (to my knowledge) were never able to fully compete. Over here Turks share the position with Easten Europeans. Jews are still high up on the hate-list but they are not feared for bodily violence. I assume the idea there is that "The Jew" is a coward who will never attack you personally but either hire a goon to do the dirty work or use more subtle methods to sick you dry. Btw, the objects of hatred need not be present at all. The most rabid anti-semitism can be found in areas where there is not a single Jew. Observations in kindergarten have shown that kids know that calling someone a "Jew" is an extreme insult while having no idea at all what a Jew actually is.
As far as Turks are concerned I think that the historic conflict with the Ottoman Empire plays little to no role in modern German prejudices (can't speak about Austria. They have and are their own branch). I assume German anti-Turk prejudices come from the guestworker programs of the post-war era and the way those were handled. Those guestworkers came primarily from backward Anatolia (not westernized Western Turkey), so they were seen as very alien in the first place. Also they were actively discouraged from assimilation because the intention was to get rid of them once the rebuilding work was done. Instead they stayed and even over time moved their families over here. The anti-assimilation stance resulted in Turkish ghettos (unwalled) that grew big enough to self-stabilize, i.e. it is possible to live in them as in Anatolia without any need for close contact to the German society. That creates some real problems and political Islam has begun to play a role there too. (but this is a rather recent phenomenon with has not yet fully suffused the existing set of prejudices). A separate set of problems is the younger generation that is firmly rooted here and gets into conflict with both the German society (with German prejudices playing the main role) and their traditionalist relatives. The most prominent victims are young Turkish women murdered in 'honour killings' because they are unwilling to bow any longer to the archaic dictates of their families but cannot escape them either.

The impression I get is that in the US the image of the black violent male (likely in connection with drugs) is deeply ingrained.

It probably doesn't help that crime rates are strongly correlated to race, here in the US. But almost certainly also correlated to other factors that also correlate to race, so blaming race as the root cause is probably not a supportable claim as blaming those other factors (poverty, poor education, etc).

This is not a problem confined to the US, though.

I'm also not sure they're better.

That's an interesting question. How could we find the answer, in some non-subjective way? I don't have any good ideas.

How to make things better, though...I'd submit that considering doing something about the war on drugs might have some effect, but that's really all I've got at present.

unless you're on the Santorum bus that the way out of poverty is marriage

That's Santorum paraphrasing some conclusions arrived at by Brookings, but you probably already knew that. I'd suggest reading Brookings' conclusions and see if you disagree with those, and then consider whether Santorum has mischaracterized them.

I've read some of them, but I haven't delved down to the point (if there is one) where the opinions are firmly connected to data.

as with any cultural change, it only locks in when the generation before is no longer around to maintain the old traditions

I guess the thing that I find alarming is that a lot of "old traditions" have passed away, however blacks as a group still lag whites and others by almost every imaginable metric.

And, for the "old traditions" that have passed by, new and equally harmful ones have emerged. Differential sentencing requirements for rock vs powder cocaine, frex.

In some ways - incarceration, exposure to crime - I think blacks may be worse off than they were 50 years ago.

Why the persistence of two societies, divided by color? Or, is that not really an accurate description of the situation?

I'm not sure how the single-parent stat is relevant unless you're on the Santorum bus that the way out of poverty is marriage.

Single-parent household correlates with other measures of social and economic hardship.

This has nothing to do with the personal attributes of the single parent, nor with Santorum's dream of a return to Leave-It-To-Beaver style family life.

Kids absorb a lot of money and time. Two people bring more resources than one. I'm not making any point deeper than that. I'm not even making that point, in fact, it's just one cite among many others indicating that, in US society, black people continue to be remarkably disadvantaged.

On the one hand, I share your frustration. On the other hand... from the time the colonies started passing black codes and buying slave labor to the 1960s was what, ~350 years?

Maybe expecting things to even out in ~50 years, especially given that drastic methods were eschewed, is unrealistic?

And by "even out" I'm not just talking money. This is touchy and I hope I don't misstep here, but here goes: I do think some of this is cultural, and I think that is the result of hundreds of years of oppression, hardship, hatred, etc. The poison (good choice of word, IMO) did a lot of damage. And we're gonna snap our fingers and it's all gonna be ok?

I can think of some things that might help going forward (ending the WoD, some sort of concerted effort by law enforcement to reach out to communities where the relationship is adversarial, better support for community/state colleges), though I'm not sure any of them are brilliant. And brilliance might not even work. We should try, of course, to be brilliant about this. But I think we also have to accept on some level that time is a necessary ingredient. But how do you do that w/o getting complacent?

I'm all twisted around now. Sigh.

Another factor to consider is wealth. IIRC, the white/black disparity there is even more striking than for income. It really does matter a great deal, both in terms of being able to get ahead, and having something to fall back on in tough times.

The ability to pass wealth on (as opposed to income), also plays a big part. My parents paid for my college education, my wife's parents paid for hers. My parents loaned us money to help with the down payment on our house.

Even more mundane things. All of our dining room furniture used to belong to my parents (who in turn received it from my mother's great grandmother). All of our bedroom furniture was inherited from my wife's grandmother. Etc.

It adds up, especially as time goes on.

"I'd submit that considering doing something about the war on drugs might have some effect"

Pretty much THE effect, yeah. Like how anti-Irish, anti-Catholic sentiment dropped precipitously when Prohibition ended. Ending the drug war won't make anti-black, anti-Hispanic bigotry vanish, but calling a truce should do wonders to diminish the hostilities. Call it a hunch.

That's Santorum paraphrasing some conclusions arrived at by Brookings, but you probably already knew that. I'd suggest reading Brookings' conclusions and see if you disagree with those, and then consider whether Santorum has mischaracterized them.

I would appreciate a link if you would like me to respond specifically to the Brookings study you mention. I have read a great deal about single parenting versus two-parent households, as well as working parents versus stay-at-home parents, as well as homeschooled children versus public schooled children versus private schooled children, etc. I may have missed the Brookings study, but these issues have been debated for years and years, and I've been reading about them for almost as long, as well making my own observations, which obviously count for little.

Yes, it helps when children have an established support system (caring adults), and money. It also helps when they have peers who come from families that value education. When a child's "coolness" factor in part derives from doing well in school, a child will tend to try to do well in school. These kinds of issues have nothing at all to do with single parenting or dual parenting, but they have a lot to do with the community a child grows up in and the resources a child can depend on for care and nurturing. Money is easier to come by when more people are contributing, but the "more people" don't have to be parents. I really wish that the stigma against single parents would go away - people are dissuaded from getting out of acrimonious, destructive, relationships when they feel society is constantly telling them: Oh no! You're choosing to be a single parent?

But as Rob in CT suggests, and as Ugh (in a way) emphasizes, time and generations of accumulated wealth may improve the racial disparity. But to say that things haven't gotten better is to deny reality. I remember separate bathroom facilities (from when I was very young in the South). Can you imagine Barack Obama travelling to Mississippi and being told he couldn't use the white bathroom? russell says he isn't sure that things are better. I am sure that they're better. They are most definitely better. But I agree that we're not done. Obama's speech on race might be worth reviewing.

Like how anti-Irish, anti-Catholic sentiment dropped precipitously when Prohibition ended.

That's a very interesting point, not one I had thought of. Thanks!

Money is easier to come by when more people are contributing, but the "more people" don't have to be parents.

Also a very good point, and applicable beyond just money. Thanks sapient.

Krugman weighs in, making the connection to poverty and income disparity.

sapient, I'd tracked back to Brookings while Googling Santorum on the issue of marriage and poverty, but hadn't stumbled upon any kind of published study. Instead they have an assemblage of writings by their scholars, fellows, what have you on the topic of poverty here. The first of these is as far as I've read, penned by Isabel Sawhill.

My point was pretty much confined to pointing out that Santorum may actually have had a decent point, even if it's a point that should be dead obvious to practically everyone.

It probably doesn't help that crime rates are strongly correlated to race, here in the US. But almost certainly also correlated to other factors that also correlate to race, so blaming race as the root cause is probably not a supportable claim as blaming those other factors (poverty, poor education, etc).

Slarti, I suspect that, if you work backwards a bit, you will find this. Drug laws are enforced very differently, depending on whether the individual is white or black. As a result, a large number of young black men end up with prison records. Which means that their prospects for getting a non-criminal job are greatly reduced. Which means that they end up commiting more crimes -- hence the crime rates that you cite. Likewise the poverty rates, etc.

In part, that disparity in enforcement is a matter of access to better legal talent. But part of it is due to the drug laws having been deliberately written so that drugs most commonly used by blacks are punished more harshly than those used predominantly by whites (see crack vs. powdered cocaine). Likewise, the only reason marijuana is a proscribed drug is that when the law was written its use was far higher in the black (and Asian) community than among whites.

In short, if anyone wants to deal with the black crime problem, injecting some sanity into the drug laws is the necessary first step. Anything else is a, probably vain, attempt to treat symptoms.

And, as you say, addressing the crime problem is going to be a significan tpart of addressing the remaining prejudice (outside the South). On the South, see this James Fallows article:
http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/01/on-race-dog-whistles-and-the-old-confederacy/251497/

From that speech of Obama's:

"This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can't learn; that those kids who don't look like us are somebody else's problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy. Not this time.

"This time we want to talk about how the lines in the Emergency Room are filled with whites and blacks and Hispanics who do not have health care; who don't have the power on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington, but who can take them on if we do it together.

"This time we want to talk about the shuttered mills that once provided a decent life for men and women of every race, and the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from every religion, every region, every walk of life. This time we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn't look like you might take your job; it's that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit."

Realizing how when Obama made this speech (as an answer to the Reverend Wright controversy), the financial crisis was just starting to settle into people's consciousness, it's amazing that Obama has been able to focus on any of the things he campaigned about, but I would argue that he has.

Thank you, russell, for the substantive post. Sorry for magnifying the single-parent issue, which creates a visceral "not again" reaction. I would really rather see us consider "our children" a collective responsibility, not just the problem of a nuclear (or other) family. The number of children in poverty is rising, which isn't a surprise to anybody here. The Republican party just keeps talking about destroying the safety net. Whatever our quibbles, we can't let them keep doing it.

sapient: The incarceration rate, especially of African-Americans, is a national scandal, but nothing will be done about it as long as the "civil libertarians" spend their time on Bradley Manning rather than issues such as the three strikes law.

Huh...

Ugh, perhaps you could connect the dots?

I thought it was just me.

Critics seemed to think King's focus on the Vietnam war was detracting from his civil rights mission, e.g. (in King's words):

Over the past two years, as I have moved to break the betrayal of my own silences and to speak from the burnings of my own heart, as I have called for radical departures from the destruction of Vietnam, many persons have questioned me about the wisdom of my path. At the heart of their concerns this query has often loomed large and loud: Why are you speaking about war, Dr. King? Why are you joining the voices of dissent? Peace and civil rights don't mix, they say. Aren't you hurting the cause of your people, they ask? And when I hear them, though I often understand the source of their concern, I am nevertheless greatly saddened, for such questions mean that the inquirers have not really known me, my commitment or my calling. Indeed, their questions suggest that they do not know the world in which they live.

The speech is King's response as to why the critics are wrong.

sapient's comment, along with some of his prior comments here, suggests the same themes of King's critics.

Just so you know, the "free Bradley Manning" movement isn't synonymous with any particular anti-war movement. Like King, I opposed the war in Vietnam, and I don't think it was a distraction for him to talk about his own opposition. Unlike King, I'm not a pacifist. I'm not sure where King stood on whether it was a good idea for soldiers who were entrusted with confidential information to spill it all to a world-wide audience. That's all I'm going to say about your comment, which I believe is totally off-point. My own point was that I don't see a lot of social movement against the three-stikes laws, which are (in addition to the drug laws generally - thank you, wj) one example of why our country has such a huge incarceration rate, and why African-Americans are disproportionately represented in prisons, and why that community is overrepresented in poverty statistics.

wj, thanks for the Fallows link. I looked around for the Atlantic Civil War issue because I was so taken with Ta Nehisi-Coates's discussions on the Civil War, but I haven't found it. (I confess that I only looked at newsstands in general stores, not at Barnes and Noble or other more comprehensive collections.)

I particularly enjoyed this, and preceding related discussions regarding whether the Civil war was "worth it." It relates generally to whether any war is "worth it," a question I don't think is always so simple to answer.

sapient - "That's all I'm going to say about your comment, which I believe is totally off-point."

Not as off-point as Bradley Manning.

Well, I get it now, fwiw. (Yay!...)

Lurker's and Hartmut's comments are interesting in that racism (or, at least, suspicion of the "other") may never really go away. Except that the very purpose of the United States (at least in its post-WWII civic folklore) is as Mother of Exiles. Even though we recognize that we've had to struggle against racism and bigotry, there was a sense that our country is really above all of that (at least as an aspiration). So, although it's essential as a matter of human rights for everyone to recognize and eradicate their own brands of racism, it's especially so for Americans to do so in order to validate our national identity. Just a thought.

Lurker's and Hartmut's comments are interesting in that racism (or, at least, suspicion of the "other") may never really go away.

I think this is true, but what strikes me is that for this to apply to American blacks, we need to see them as "other".

Hispanics, Asians, likewise.

And, likewise whites, from the point of view of people who not white.

And for "we" in my first sentence, please read "white Americans". I don't think American blacks think of themselves as anything other than American. By far most have family histories in this country that predate most white folks'.

Seeing people who are not white as being "other" in the context of American social identity gets close to the heart of the matter, I think.

Are we holding on to some sense that the US is a "white" nation, whatever that means?

Isn't it time to let that go? In what meaningful sense does "white" or "not white" have anything to do with "American"?

I find the whole "legacy of slavery/racism" explanation for these disparities rather unconvincing. The historical fact is that the metrics, such as rate of single motherhood, imprisonment, employment, actually got worse over the course of the 20th century, not better. "Legacies" revert towards mean, rather than gathering steam.

Rather, as I see it, the war on poverty had the unfortunate side effect of encouraging the creation of a self-sustaining culture of poverty. Blacks were, due to such 'legacy' as there was, ideally positioned to get sucked into it in disproportionate numbers, but it's a poverty thing, not a racism thing.

And it's a real, genuine self-sustaining culture, albeit parasitic on the larger culture. It's going to be hard to fix the situation without something which could accurately be described as "cultural genocide".

"And for "we" in my first sentence, please read "white Americans". I don't think American blacks think of themselves as anything other than American. By far most have family histories in this country that predate most white folks'."

You think wrong. Black people think of themselves as Black Americans just as much as white Americans think of themselves as white. I could show black networks,black awards shows, black activist organizations, black CEO associations, black only dormitories at most universities. I could go on, as evidence.

But the truth is you just have to watch any black comedian (or George Lopez)to understand the depths of racial identification in the Black and Hispanic communities, oh yeah, the black community, not to mention the view of whites as the "other".

Not sure it changes much of the above discussion but it just isn't true.

Brett, you're incorrect about "the historical facts". Read this to get an idea of the general economic picture of African Americans during the 20th century. There was an increase in unemployment as a result of migration from southern agricultural work to northern urban areas, but it began prior to the "war on poverty" and it reflected an attempt to flee the Jim Crow environment in the South.

As to "rate of single motherhood" - irrelevant. As to imprisonment, that started increasing in the '80's with the war on drugs.

Time to just say no to the war on drugs.

And antipoverty measures work.

I find the whole "legacy of slavery/racism" explanation for these disparities rather unconvincing.

IMO there is something to this. Focusing on legacies is not, again IMO, going to be very productive.

What I'm curious about is the persistence of attitudes *in the present day*.

And it's a real, genuine self-sustaining culture, albeit parasitic on the larger culture.

Two sides to that, to say the least.

You think wrong.

To clarify: I recognize that blacks identify as black, what I don't think they do is identify as other than American.

In contrast with Turks in Germany, South Asians in Finland, etc. In those countries there is an at-least-arguable connection between ethnicity and national identity.

I don't see that as valid in the US. It's not the basis of our existence as a country.

Part of my comment was the observation that different groups of 'them' have very different types of prejudices attached to them but those also differ from society to society. My (subjective, unscientific) thesis is that predetermined prejudices 'seek' groups to attach to. So there 'has to be' a group that is seen as inherently violent and thus a bodily threat to the dominant group. Then there has to be a group that by means of their capable but perverted minds sucks you dry etc. In the "West"* the latter traditionally is The Jew (supported on the smaller scale by The Gypsy) while e.g. in South-East Asia it's The Chinaman. The designated sexual predator is (in my experience) usually not a group distinct from the above but attached to one. In the US it was traditionally the black male that was seen as lusting for the white woman while (in the past) in Germany it was the sly Jew in disguise. In both cases 'racial purity' (symbolized by the female) got violated/soiled/destroyed but by different means (rape vs. seduction).
So I think that in the hypothetical case that after the US Civil War all Blacks on American soil had been transferrred to Africa, there would have been a prejudice in search of a target to attach to. Absent Blacks the 'violent threat' would have been some other group.
Caveat: I think there has to be made a distinction too between 'organic' attachment of prejudice and 'artificial'. Quite often the 'ruling class' directs or even creates prejudices against certain groups in order to serve as a diversion or as lightning rod. But even absent that my thesis of the 'free-floating prejudice in search of a target' indeed predicts that mankind will never drop racism and related phenomena. The only hope is to reduce/limit the damage caused and to unmask and thus disarm the manipulation that seeks to profit from it.

*including Eastern Europe

concerning Blacks in Germany:
There never was a significant minority of blacks in Germany and the few Africans present were seen as exotic, not threatening. There were only two instances were Black persons got into a position of relative power, French colonial soldiers after WW1 and black GIs after WW2. In both cases prejudice immediately attached to them, although far stronger in the former than the latter (French occupiers vs. American liberators). But once those groups went away (after a relatively short period of time) the prejudice only remained where it was kept alive artificially (although the mixed offspring and the mothers often were shunned). Time had been too short for permanent attachment. On the other hand, in the case of Jews the prejudices were so old and traditional that they could survive in the absence of physical targets. Aided by the fact of course that blacks stick out while (non-Orthodox) Jews don't. So, there could be hidden Jews doing their evil deeds while even rather dim bulbs would have difficulty to believe in the evil black conspiracy, when there is no black within a hundred miles.

Man, I always love when noted race experts Brett and Marty weigh in. Their comments are so illuminating.

Can either of you tell me why there ain't no *white* history month?

. "Legacies" revert towards mean, rather than gathering steam.

Uh huh.

As to "rate of single motherhood" - irrelevant.

Really? I mean...really? Single motherhood has nothing to do with outcomes, then? Nothing at all?

Maybe I've misunderstood your point, here.

Uh huh.

Hey, look! There are 40 assholes on Facebook!

I'm actually surprised that they could only find 40, or that these 40 were notably worse than the next 40.

Slartibartfast, single motherhood has nothing to do with outcomes except insofar as it has to do with poverty. Do you know any single mothers? I know a lot of them, and outcomes have been fantastic. Famous example of someone I don't know, but have heard of: Barack Obama. Single parenthood is not the issue. Poverty is an issue. Lack of a support system is an issue. The support system doesn't have to be a husband and wife team.

The historical fact is that the metrics, such as rate of single motherhood, imprisonment, employment, actually got worse over the course of the 20th century, not better.

Brett, you're incorrect about "the historical facts".

As noted above, I'm open to the idea that it's time to stop arguing about the legacies of things that have been gone for 150 years.

I would, however, like to expand Brett's description of the social history of black people in this country during the 20th C.

During the 20th C. blacks in this country were systematically excluded from participating in the public life of this nation on a par with whites. By law in much of the country, in practice in nearly all of it.

During the 20th C. blacks could be physically and verbally abused and harrassed, publicly, with virtual impunity. In many areas of the country they could be killed, gruesomely and publicly, with impunity.

Black people's attempts to secure the most basic, quotidian rights and privileges - things white people simply do not even think about, they are so plainly normal - were met with systematic, nationwide campaigns of the most brutal terroristic violence this nation has ever seen. From both private actors, and public.

If you want to talk about "cultural genocide", you need to talk about 100 plus years, *post slavery*, of black people in this country enduring a regime of systematic, ubiquitous, punishing oppression.

For a f**king century. *After* slavery.

The miracle of it is that black Americans survived as an intact social and cultural group, at all. Apparently, they are a remarkably resourceful demographic.

So yeah, you can't go grab a black person, publicly hang them, sexually mutilate them, take their knuckles or ears for your private trophy collection, burn their body, and take pictures of it and make postcards out of it to hand around to your buddies anymore.

We have made progress.

And we should all be freaking grateful for it, because people died to make it happen. They died, or had dogs set on them, or had the god-damned shite beaten out of them, or were otherwise subjected to sheer terroristic violence, to make that happen.

I didn't do it, and unless I seriously mistake your personal history, Brett, neither did you. Other people did, we received the fruit of their sacrifice as a gift.

So we should give thanks for that, and give respect to the folks who paid for it.

Because by god it did not come for free.

But yes, all of that is in the past. Not quite so distant as the word "legacies" might indicate, but in the past.

What I want to know is why, after all that was said and done, at such great cost, over so many years, we have not come further.

We made some progress, then it seems we actually slipped back a bit, and now we seem to be stuck.

Why is that? I want to know. Were King alive, he'd want to know, also.

Slartibartfast, single motherhood has nothing to do with outcomes except insofar as it has to do with poverty.

This appears to be you making my point. What else were we talking about, besides poverty?

I'm guessing that either you mis-typed, or you're agreeing with me emphatically.

...or I'm failing to parse you correctly. Always a possibility, even when unstated.

russell, I agree that looking forward (or even from side to side) might be more productive than dwelling on the past. (Hmmm, where have I heard about that before?) And it's true that although we should all be in a position to acknowledge that slavery happened, we should all be able to put it in the past having ideally moved way beyond it to a society of perfect equality. Unfortunately, the past doesn't die that easily.

It's not just that the legacy of slavery poisoned "black culture;" it's that it continues to poison "white culture." Although I'd never been particularly interested in the minutia of the civil war (as many are who live in my area), in the past few years I've studied up a bit more, and a lot of the attitudes that existed then just aren't that different now. Did you watch the Republican debates, and listen to the audiences? What was that? It was the sense of white entitlement, and outrage at having had it taken away. It's being threatened again, by demographic and social change, not to mention by a black president.

It's not just that the legacy of slavery poisoned "black culture;" it's that it continues to poison "white culture."

Indeed. There's a reason why "food stamp President" is a popular line in the SC GOP primary, fer instance.

...

So, how to actually make progress? I share Russell's feeling that "we're stuck."

Perhaps we're wrong about that (which is basically the argument I made in my first post), but it feels that way.

Slartibartfast, I'm countering people who seem to believe: "Your problem is that you have children out of wedlock, or you've gotten divorced. If you'd just quit doing that, everything would be much better/fine."

Everything isn't better though if 1) mom and dad can't find a job, or mom and dad's income doesn't equal a living wage; 2) mom or dad is an abusive parent; 3) mom or dad has a serious problem of some kind interfering with her or his ability to be a care provider. But, everything might be fine if 1) dad pays child support even though he's not living with mom, 2) single mom or single dad has a network of loving friends or family who help out with the kids, 3) kid has access to public institutions (such as daycare and school), 4) healthcare is available, 5) etc.

All of the latter things, the thing that make the kid fine - all of those are desirable whether or not there's a single parent. It's nice for kids to have supportive people around. Those people are often parents, but many parents aren't supportive regardless of their marital or financial status. We would be better off, as a society, if we would see children as people that we all needed to help support. Although I'm not in favor of creating incentives for people to have more children (by paying people to be stay-at-home parents, for example), we need to have institutions that make it easy and possible for children to be supported.

Hey, look! There are 40 assholes on Facebook!

I'm actually surprised that they could only find 40, or that these 40 were notably worse than the next 40.

Well, the point being that, Brett's idiotic point about "'legacies' regressing to the mean" aside, in the year 2012, these 40 randomly-chosen people feel comfortable referring publicly to Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as "Nigger Day" (and in at least one case, "Dead Nigger Day") without (apparently) worrying for one second that friends, family or employers will react negatively to them.

Which means that they exist within a network of people among whom such a sentiment is at best quotidian and at worst "edgy."

(I have unfriended more than a few former high school friends on Facebook for similar reasons.)

If you think that these are the only 40 such people in the US, I'd suggest that you are sadly mistaken.

As russell notes above, there are people on this very thread who were actually alive when *it was illegal for black people to marry white people* in much of the United States. Or when there were separate "whites" and "coloreds" drinking fountains and bathrooms, among many other things.

So spare me any talk of "legacies," at least any such talk that makes it sound like distant historical events.

Next, we can discuss the five former Confederate states (including yours!) that celebrate "Robert E. Lee Day" on the same day as Martin Luther King Day.

Regarding "single motherhood", what exactly is the policy proposal to deal with it? I mean, I can certainly see "end the drug war" and "make the economy grow" as helpful, but those are both very good things for lots of other reasons....

Slartibartfast, I'm countering people who seem to believe: "Your problem is that you have children out of wedlock, or you've gotten divorced. If you'd just quit doing that, everything would be much better/fine."

Everything isn't better though if

I sense much potential for talking-past-each-other here, so I'll cut to the chase and say that I (I can only speak for myself) have never held that ending single parenthood will solve absolutely all problems.

Or that single parenthood all by itself is responsible for anything awful.

It's single parenthood combined with a number of other factors such as no job skills, little to no family support, and a number of other things. Again: all stuff that I think is almost by-inspection true.

If you think that these are the only 40 such people in the US, I'd suggest that you are sadly mistaken.

I'd suggest that maybe you're misreading me quite badly, if you even suspected I was suggesting such a thing.

Because what "the next 40" could there possibly be, if I thought there were only 40? I'd guess there are literally thousands of such people on Facebook that could have been used in a given list of 40-worst.

"To clarify: I recognize that blacks identify as black, what I don't think they do is identify as other than American."

Thanks russell, I certainly agree with the clarification.

I think the single-parent thing is simply presented as one of many factors that correlate to worse outcomes for kids. Sure, you can mitigate that correlation by introducing other compensating factors - ones that aren't naturally present in single-parent households. That you have to do that is sort of the point; it's harder to keep it together by yourself as a parent. And I think that's what Slart means by "outcomes."

It's not to impugn the virtues or morals or worthiness of individual single parents, and I agree that to do so doesn't help, well, anything, really, and probably makes matters worse. But that's not what's going on here, I don't think. It's a separate issue from noting a particular correlation along with several others.

If one were to make that case that, if you were to control for every other contributing factor, the correlation goes away, one might be right. I couldn't say. But, since life doesn't control for those things, the correlation exists. Single-parent households tend to be worse off, and there are a greater percentage of them among black American households than white American households. It's one of a lot of other statistics that demonstrate that blacks in America are having a harder time of it than whites.

Good point, Rob in CT, regarding the debates.

Let's sharpen it.

http://www.balloon-juice.com/2012/01/17/let-lee-decode-the-2012-campaign-for-you/

If any group of people has a "legacy" fetish in the area of black civil rights and all that preceded it in American history, it's the current rancid incarnation of the Republican Party.

The dog whistles, and the pack of baying hounds tracking the still-chained legacy through the swamps of South Carolina and environs who inevitably pick up the race-hustling scent and come running, are trotted out and put through their paces electorally every two years by the usual suspects, with increasingly bald-faced malignity and then, like a treasured reliquary of a mythical America, held aloft to re-conjure the worst instincts America has to offer.

The last thing these people (you know, the ones actually running for policy jobs, not any of us at OBWI) want is a legacy returned to the mean. Keeping the legacy at high simmer is the game in campaign and policy, now fueled by enormous amounts of money.

And the flame is turned up under plenty of Others besides the "blahs". A Santorum campaign aide vomited up some bile the other day regarding the advisability of electing a "lady" as President (that wasn't a lady, bub, it was Michelle Bachmann). The Newt, never to be outdone, wants an American Muslim President to give up Sharia, whatever that means (well, it has nothing to do with meat preparation, I expect, but rather to conjure up in the baying hounds' pea-brains a Muslim President foregoing flying Air Force One into the Pentagon).

Rick Perry, a dumb pig get for whom my Thanksgiving Turkey may rise out its gravy and commit an honor killing, in his and Fort Sumter's honor, nuff said.

Then, natch, we have Mitt Romney, who doesn't mean a thing he says but would happily declare the White House a Confederate Territory and Warren Buffet a 3/5ths citizen if it meant keeping his tax rate below 15%.

The worst of the lot, Ron Paul, somehow comes to look like the best of them by cursory comparison, even by some 2008 Obama supporters who believe health care reform didn't go far enough in the direction of universality through the offices of government.

What? Even leaving aside the pure hate of the newsletters, not to mention the steaming pile of crap that is Paul's political legacy, do these people know about Paul's campaign manager who was so mesmerized by the fatal Paul ideology that he spent $400,000 dying uninsured from cancer, with the bill going to his mummy, who, natch, left it to the rest of us, otherwise known in elite circles as the government?

I love the Martin Luther King-would-be one-of-us-had-he-lived meme thrown around by FOX and the rest of the right-wing media.

I can't discount it completely, except for this: I suppose if Strom Thurmond had remained a Democrat, along with his "legacy" spawn, now embedded in the Republican Party, MLK would have at least declared himself unaffiliated by now.

Also, of course, MLK was shot in the head by confederate conservatives before he could reconsider the advisability of his tax burden, and Strom Thurmond wasn't afforded the same treatment, the latter being preserved like reliquary beef-jerky by the Republican Party (Richard Nixon and his spawn) to fondle and milk the "legacy" for its racist vote-getting properties, otherwise know as the Southern strategy.

America made its choices, as usual, from the barrel of a gun. We're terrible shots, we are, always killing the wrong people.

I've just started reading Simon Schama's "Rough Crossings -- Britain, Slaves, and the American Revolution", but I'll note that at least one of Patrick Henry's slaves, when given the choice of liberty or death by the somewhat cynical British crown, chose the former and promptly lit out for the British lines. Thomas Jefferson lost @ 30 slaves in the some 30,000-strong migration and George Washington, through whose wooden teeth passed nary a fib, denounced (in what Schama calls "contortions of logic so perverse" -- hear those echos in the dog whistle bon mots dropped in the debates) Lord Dunmore (he who issued the proclamation in Virgina that escaped slaves would safe harbor behind British lines) as "'that arch traitor to the rights of humanity' for promising to free slaves and indentured servants, whilst those who kept them in bondage were heroes of liberty."

Yes, great progress had been made.

And, yes, the Democratic Party has taken black America for granted.

And, no, the Republican Party does not want a return to slavery.

Now, when they (not just Republicans, heck, even Steve Jobs and his liberal elites at Apple looked the other way when their Chinese factories had to string nets between buildings to catch the suicides who grew weary of testing our f*cking I-phones) stop looking so favorably upon indentured servanthood, we'll be home free, free at last.


I think that's what Slart means by "outcomes."

GOOOOOAAAAAAAALLLLLLLL!

Sorry. Sometimes when I succeed in some small measure at communicating my thoughts I just have to rhetorically tear off my jersey and have a run around the playing field.

It's not to impugn the virtues or morals or worthiness of individual single parents

See above. Yes, my intent was not to blame the poor sods who are stuck in poverty with no discernable way out, but rather to note that there may in fact be ways to get better general outcomes for other people in the future. Because we sure as hell can't undo what's already done.

On the single-motherhood discussion, two words: feedback loop.

One might even say legacies gathering steam (or at least perpetuating) rather than reverting to the mean.

For a longer version: what hsh said.

Talking about single parenthood, without more, doesn't get us anywhere. A parent, or two (preferrably) exist to teach their children, by example and by imparting guidance, discipline, love, etc.

Children learn, in many ways big and small, how to be adults, by watching their parents.

So, a hard working, self-improving, high integrity single parent sets a good example and, working hard as a parent, gives his/her children a good home and a good start in life.

I would like to see the breakdown of how single parenthood breaks down. My sense, in the African American community particularly, but in statistically significant numbers across the board, is that the largest cohort of single parents is single mothers, with a high school education at best, who are themselves the product of single mother homes with similar, limited educational achievement. Daughters learn from the mothers and sons learn from . . . who? And what do they learn? What examples, role models, are there in this cohort that signal success in life?

Contra Sapient, I suspect this aspect of single parenthood is the single largest predictor of a child's inability to take advantage of public education, to integrate successfully into the workforce, to break the cycle of poverty.

here may in fact be ways to get better general outcomes for other people in the future.

OK, let me ask again: what specific policies do you have in mind for reducing the incidence of single-parenthood in the future?

This whole discussion seems really abstract to me, so let's make it concrete.

OK, let me ask again: what specific policies do you have in mind for reducing the incidence of single-parenthood in the future?

I don't know that there is a policy that specifically addresses that problem in and of itself. But that doesn't change the fact that there is a statistical correlation between single-parent households and worse outcomes for the kids raised in those households, and that the higher prevalence of single-parent households among black households serves as evidence that blacks are worse off (even if it's an effect rather than a cause).

I mean, I agree that fixing poverty and drug laws would do more to help than specifically targeting single parents (however one might go about that - weird...), and that fixing those things would probably result in there being fewer single parents among black parents.

I take it as an indicator. I don't break my thermometer to get my fever to go down, either.

Yes, who is going to argue with the concept of two parents and the pluses thereof, including those for either parent?

I mean, besides Opie Taylor? ;) Chip and Ernie had a good Dad, even though their mother, Uncle Charlie, was a bit of a grouch and a little broad in the beam, but attentive nonetheless.

We can see with our own eyes that two parents done Dobie Gillis good.

In the old movies, Mickey Rooney achieved redemption whether he was Andy Hardy with two attentive parents or an orphan at Boys Town, with Spencer Tracy filling in as Father. Or was it Pat O'Brien?

Still, given the higher mortality rate of men over women, I wonder if anyone has done a survey of children's success rates in life (not to mention just turning out to be decent human beings) throughout history according to whether they were raised by one parent, two parents, or their grandparents.

The verdict seems to be in for feral human children raised by wolves.

Pete Rose's Dad managed to raise a thoroughly miserable human being who could lay the bat on the ball better than just about anyone. Would that his mother have stepped in at some point to soften the edges.

I seem to remember reading plenty of auto- and biographies about famous men who were raised by single mothers, the fathers either croaking or lighting out early for saloons in the territories.

Actor Jack Nicholson was raised, if I have this straight, by his grandmother and his sisterhismotherhissisterhismother.

Look what happened to him.

Why does it seem (I'm happy to be corrected) that the prevalence of single parenthood (nearly all single fathers) among white TV sitcoms was not a prominent issue and, in fact, chuckle-worthy.

Despite dead, absent mothers up and down prime time.

In reality, too, throughout American history single parenthood was viewed, it seems, with stoicism.

It wasn't until the single parents were poor black mothers that hackles were raised and redemption withdrawn.

In the spirit, however, of writer Walker Percy, who posed the question of how it is that a man or woman can explain everything in the universe except for him or herself on an ordinary Wednesday afternoon, I'd like to ask how Rick Santorum could have been raised by two parents and extoll the obvious virtues of such an arrangement and yet still turn out to be a such a corrupt, mean spirited lousy get?

the higher prevalence of single-parent households among black households serves as evidence that blacks are worse off (even if it's an effect rather than a cause).

I'm sorry, is there a shortage of evidence that black people in the US are statistically less well off than whites? That seems like a really obvious proposition for which lots and lots of evidence exists. So I'm really confused by how much of the conversation keeps focusing on single-parent families.

If that focus lead to concrete policies that reduced the incidence of single-parent households or made their lives better, that would be one thing, but it looks like this is a policy dead-end (or that the only policies it suggests are obviously good ones we should be implementing for many other reasons). So why then all the discussion about single-parent households per se? Is it because such talk gives people an opportunity for ego-boosting public moralizing? Or what?

I don't break my thermometer to get my fever to go down, either.

When my thermometer indicates I have a fever, I don't spend hours at a time talking about my damn thermometer. And if I did, you might well question how much I actually cared about my health.

So I'm really confused by how much of the conversation keeps focusing on single-parent families.

I was responding to your question. People make comments and people respond. We're just talking here.

I'm done, unless someone else comes up with another point on the topic that interests me, if that helps.

Daughters learn from the mothers and sons learn from . . . who?

Sons can't learn from mothers?

that doesn't change the fact that there is a statistical correlation between single-parent households and worse outcomes for the kids raised in those households,

Could we have a link to figure out what we mean by "worse outcomes"?

OK, let me ask again: what specific policies do you have in mind for reducing the incidence of single-parenthood in the future?

I don't have any specific policies handy; sorry.

This whole discussion seems really abstract to me, so let's make it concrete.

I'm comfortable with discussing abstract ideas, but you're welcome to steer the conversation in a different direction if you like.

"•American blacks are 6 times more likely to be murdered than whites, 7 times more likely to be the murderer"

However 80% of homicides by poison were committed by whites per these stats.

"However 80% of homicides by poison were committed by whites per these stats."

From which we can conclude that white two-parent families read British mysteries to their kids at bedtime.

Poison is traditionally used by women while violent murder tends to be the male domain. 'Black' crime (apart from the consumption of certain 'non-white' drugs) is on the violent side, so one would expect it to be both predominantly male and low on poision. Which leaves the latter to the non-blacks. Add to that that whites are a majority in the US, so in absolute numbers one would expect more crimes committed by whites, so the 80% number should be seen in context (while the 'x times more likely...' is corrected for fraction).

In reality, too, throughout American history single parenthood was viewed, it seems, with stoicism.

It wasn't until the single parents were poor black mothers that hackles were raised and redemption withdrawn.
In part, this is partly demographics. With a higher mortality rate, it was very possible for a woman or man to be widowed at a young age. Thus, if you were a 25-year-old woman with a small child, you could either be a "respectable" widow with orphan children or an "immoral" unmarried mother. And because the taint of the latter was horrible, it would not be prudent to ask about it. You should assume that the single mother you were seeing was a widow, unless you had clear knowledge to the contrary.

In addition, single unmarried mothers were not infrequent even in the polite society. Without the pill, you would have a steady supply of pregnant daughters of the well-off families. Thus, even if the taint was severe, it applied to women of all social classes.

Now, with low mortality, you can safely assume that a single mother is not a widow. In addition, with abortion and pills well available to the middle classes, carrying unwanted pregnancies to term is a thing for lower classes. Thus, the single mothers are much easier to scorn on than 100 years ago.

In reality, too, throughout American history single parenthood was viewed, it seems, with stoicism.

It wasn't until the single parents were poor black mothers that hackles were raised and redemption withdrawn.

So...Nathaniel Hawthorne was exaggerating, was he?

No, it turns out that he wasn't:

In 1636, the Plymouth Colony codified its five crimes that were punishable by death:

willful murder
forming a solemn compact with the devil by way of witchcraft
willful burning of ships or houses
sodomy, rape, and buggery
adultery.
Plymouth Colony never attempted to put anyone to death for adultery, however. In 1639, Mrs. Mary Mendame of Duxbury was convicted of "uncleanness" with an Indian named Tinsin, and was sentenced to be whipped at a cart's-tail through the town streets and to wear an AD badge: which, if she was found without, would be branded onto her forehead. In 1641, an adulterous affair between singleman Thomas Bray and Mrs. Anne Linceford was discovered, and both parties were sentenced to public whipping at the post, and to wear the AD badge on their clothing. In 1658 the law was finally rewritten to formalize how it had been administered previously: it defined the punishment for adultery as two severe whippings, once right after conviction and once at a second time to be determined by the magistrates; and the individual would have to wear the letters AD "cut out in cloth and sowed on their uppermost garment on their arm or back." If at any time they were found without the mark within the jurisdiction of the Colony, they would be publicly whipped. In 1662, Thomas Bird was sentenced to double whippings for committing "several adulterous practices and attempts, so far as strength of nature would permit" with Hannah Bumpass, who was also sentenced to be whipped once "for yielding to him, and not making such resistance against him as she ought." Bird was also sentenced to pay Hannah Bumpass £10 for "satisfaction for the wrong he hath done her."

Sounds less than stoic.

But certainly things have changed since then. Gradually. Certainly it is NOT true that extramarital sex and pregnancy has been viewed with stoicism throughout American history.

And certainly there were some periods where change was less gradual:

By the middle of the eighteenth century, parental influence over the choice of a spouse had sharply declined. One indication of a decline in parental control was a sudden upsurge in the mid-eighteenth century the number of brides who were pregnant when they got married. In the seventeenth century, fathers--supported by local churches and courts--exercised close control over their childrens' sexual behavior and kept sexual intercourse prior to marriage at extremely low levels. The percentage of women who bore a first child less than eight-and-a half months after marriage was below ten percent. By the middle of the eighteenth century, the figure had shot up to over forty percent.

So. It's possible a case for recent stoicism could be made, but not the throughout-history kind.

I don't mean to trivialize slarti's point, but excuse me: Hannah Bumpass?

Some things are simply chock-full of hilarious accidental perfection.

/digression

Sons of bitches! Bumpasses!

I'm getting russell's point wrong:

-Accidentally
-Deliberately
-Not at all

Check one.

Sounds less than stoic.

Yes.

Sometimes I do history in the Gingrich manner, which is to say, declaring from the orifice farthest from the brain.

However, consider the stoicism it took for the magistrate, the bailiff, the jury, and the gallery to stifle their giggles every time they heard the words "and for her stoicism in not adequately fending off he who done her wrong, I hereby sentence Hannah Bumpass to a single lash across her, uh, bum, I mean a ... , jeez, no a ...(here the bailiff leans over and whispers in the magistrate's ear), I say, her sit-upon.

This after the bailiff requested that Hannah stand, do a slow 360, and approach the bench backwards.

Then Hannah, like any number of swishy blondes in the movies of the 1950s, gathers her ermine's and turns the heads of every fake stoic in the courtroom as she takes the long way out of chambers.

Imagine my reaction when, in my last wakeful moments as the dial was turned to administer the anesthetic for my colonoscopy, the doctor's benign (good sign) face appeared over me and uttered the words, "Good morning, I'm Doctor Rector."

And then there was the good time had when Rep, Dick Armey began an address to the House on C-Span with the immortal words:
"I rise to erect legal impediments to the immoral singing of 'Come ye, all ye merry gentleman' by the all-male Full-Frontal Nude Choir and Review during prime time Christmas Day football games.

Be a good stoic and question not the veracity of my history on this.

Then, natch, the guy who witnessed the shower rape of the boy at Penn State just had to be named Mike McQueary.

Our guest speaker the Rev. Dick Johnson will now bless us with a short admonitory sermon regarding the advisability of maintaining one's chastity until marriage, and perhaps even after, depending on how things go.

The standards singer Dick Hymen was said to never leave a dry seat in the house.

That's not true at all. It was Rudy Vallee they spoke of.

Spelled "Hyman". Also not a singer per se, but jazz pianist and composer.

All else is absolutely accurate.

The urologist that did my brother's vasectomy was, as God is my witness, Dr. Blank.

The urologist that did my brother's vasectomy was, as God is my witness, Dr. Blank.

Not as bad as vasectomy-performing urologist Dr. John Losee.

Puritans were, of course, well known for their enlightened views about things such as sexuality, witchcraft, etc. And marriage was such a phenomenally egalitarian institution throughout U.S. history! And women had so many choice in their sexual expression! If they were sexually active and single, they were stigmatized (or jailed), and if they were sexually active and married, they were someone's property! And they often died from having children! We definitely want to look to that wonderful time in order to inform African American women today what they should be doing about their reproductive rights!

We definitely want to look to that wonderful time in order to inform African American women today what they should be doing about their reproductive rights!

I'm sure this was russell's intention when he mentioned the single-parent statistic. I mean, it's just so typical of his stance on things generally that one couldn't reasonably conclude otherwise, right?

(Oh, crap, I shouldn't be mentioning this. I've exceeded my allowance for discussing single parents in a thread about racial inequality.)

I don't think russell intended anything malicious. russell is much less prone than other people to the tendency to see other people's circumstances as "defective" just because it doesn't fit into his cultural preferences. But since many people in politics, and in discussions generally (including this one), seem to believe that African American marriage patterns are largely responsible for the failure of that community to achieve economic equality, I think it's worth discussing.

On the other hand, hairshirthedonist, if you agree with me that whether people get married or not is irrelevant to the issue of why the African American community is less prosperous than other demographics, then you and I agree. So thanks for that.

African American marriage patterns

I can't imagine what this could mean.

I can't imagine what this could mean.

It means that people complain that two-thirds of black children are in single-parent homes. Meaning that not enough African American parents are married (presumably using the term "marriage" as defined by state marriage laws). Got it?

sapient: irrelevant?

I don't think it's a root cause. I do, however, think it's a problem (with the acknowledgement that by "it" I don't mean every single instance of single-parenthood, but am speaking generally). Note: single-parent/multi-parent not unmarried/married. It's about support, not a piece of paper.

Feedback. Discrimination/high unemployment/high incarceration rate ---> fewer two-parent households ---> harder to acumulate wealth.

That's all. This is not intended as a moralizing critique of African American culture. Really. It's just math.

Again, this isn't the root cause, and frankly I don't think much can be done about it w/o addressing the actual root causes. Which I don't really know how to do, beyond advocating for an end to the ruinous War on Drugs.

To clarify:

The citation of the single-parenthood number among American blacks was intended as a data point, among many others, that reflects their relative social disadvantage.

It's a phenomenon that correlates - not causes, not is caused by, just correlates - with other metrics of social disadvantage.

And were you to put aside, for a moment, your laudable concern that we not all pile our weird cultural prejudices on the single parents of the world, and simply consider the ground reality of child-rearing, it would not be hard to see a number of reasons why that correlation might exist.

And, I believe you should feel free to set that concern aside in this context, because as far as I can tell NOBODY here has any interest in piling on single parents.

For the record, and as a personal aside, I myself was largely raised by a single parent, my mother. My father was involved in my life, but did not live with us, and from the time I was about 10 day to day hands on parenthood came to me via my mother.

My wife, likewise, was a single parent when I met her.

I participate in an extensive blended family including a bewildering range of ex- and step- and in-law- relations, including a pair of ex-step-daughters-in-law with whom my wife and I are quite close. And one of *them* was a single parent for a number of years.

I have no issue with single parenthood. I have no issue with non-traditional family structures. For that matter, I have no issue with traditional family structures.

Whatever works.

Long story short, when I cite single parenthood, I'm not making any statements about anybody. It's just a statistic, a data point, among many many many others, that indicate that black people in the US operate, still, lo these decades later, at a disadvantage.

sapient, I think the higher percentage of single-parent households is an indicator of disadvantage. Whether people (black or otherwise) get married or not may or may not be relevant, depending on the reasons - whether it was purely a matter or preference, whether it was something over which the parent had no control, or whether what control there was resulted in the choice of a least-bad option.

Even if you assume that a higher percentage of single-parent households among black households relative to non-black households (however those things are defined) is purely an effect of disadvantage rather than a cause, it remains a valid indicator.

Or do you assume those single parents representing the differential chose to be single parents as a pure matter of preference (i.e. they would rather raise their kids on their own than with a caring, responsible and helpful spouse)?

(I don't think you assume the latter, btw, based on your earlier comments. We probably do agree for the most part. I think there's a lot of talking past each other going on here.)

To echo russell, I'd have to draw you a flow chart to explain my family and upbringing. Both geography and the people involved varied over time. I have an awesome ex-step-mother, btw. Her husband, whatever you might call him (my kids call him grandpop), is cool, too.

Thanks for the comments supporting the idea that single parenting isn't something deserving of stigma. I'm not trying to accuse anyone here of malice or ill will.

I do think that the "correlation" between single parenting and disadvantage isn't necessarily a cause or effect (a possibility that others also seem to question) of poverty. There is a racist stereotype out there that says blacks are lazy, undisciplined, and sexually incontinent, and if they'd exercise some self control and have a little work ethic, we wouldn't be seeing the economic disparities that we see. Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich don't explicitly say this, but do suggest various social solutions that make me suspicious that this is what they believe. Even if people here don't support those two candidates, I think it's worth being careful not to unwittingly support the stereotype that is still apparently held by so many people.

When we cite "correlation" with no real evidence of cause and effect, other than just a hunch that the single mothers we're talking about don't have an alternative support system than husbands, we reinforce (IMO) that pernicious stereotype, perhaps without meaning to do so. I agree that many in our culture, those who rely on a very isolated idea of nuclear family, aren't very well equipped to support children except in the context of marriage. But some people live in communities which have a stronger tradition of relying on extended family and other social networks to raise children. There might be a "correlation" between poverty and some communities who have had this tradition. And the marital status of the parents is irrelevant to the legal support obligation of the parents. Single mothers should be getting child support from a father. Obviously, if the father is poor, there's not as much child support to be had.

That's all I'm saying. Thanks for considering the point.

Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich don't explicitly say this, but do suggest various social solutions that make me suspicious that this is what they believe.

I'd agree with the former but have my doubts about the latter, i.e. I could believe that Rick Froth is genuine but doubt any sincerity on The Amphib's part. Apart from him being the orifice that is typically associated with the name of the other, I think Mr. Goingrich(quick) says what he says because he believes that the base (which is very base indeed these days on the Right) loves it. Btw, it's typical and unique for this 'intellectual' to go specific in ways unheard of before. Case in point: He specified that 37 (black/poor) kids = 1 union worker. Was there any branded product with a displayed 37 involved maybe (á la Manchurian Candidate)?

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