A helpful reminder that black family disintegration isn’t the whole truth

30 Jul

Anyabwile offers a helpful reminder that though family structure is pivotal in explaining black social problems, there are other real factors to consider, many of which affect family structure itself. There are one or two points I dispute (he seems unaware that black family disintegration did not occur in drastic fashion until the 1970s, after the sexual revolution and expanded welfare state). But he is right to not let us forget that family disintegration can be traced as well to the national sin of slavery.

Today I’m writing about something I did not expect to write about early this week. Once again it’s something that’s captured my attention in the wake of the Martin/Zimmerman situation, specifically in a couple of conservative responses to the trial and the protests that followed. A couple persons have either tweeted or left in the comments thread video reaction from conservatives responding to what they see as “race baiting” in the Zimmerman affair and offering what they believe to be the unvarnished truth about Black America’s problems. I’m speaking of a Bill O’Reilly “Talking Points” video and a video from Bill Whittle called “Afterburner: The Lynching.” The videos both use a newsroom backdrop and feature a monologue from the hosts. Though there were some differences in what was presented and some details, both videos narrowed their focus at one crucial point: the African-American family.

Essentially, both conservative hosts pinned all the problems of African America on the breakdown of the Black family. In a pretty typical conservative point of view, they emphasized personal responsibility in things like sexual behavior, marriage, and so on. That, we’re told, is really the problem in the African-American community. And both guests wonder, “Why isn’t anyone talking about that?” Civil Rights leaders are castigated for ignoring the real problems and instead bottom-feeding on the country’s “racial” weaknesses. They’re presented as opportunists of the worst sort, unable or unwilling to face “the truth.”

After getting this comment a couple times in comments threads and seeing it passed along in social media, I grew concerned at two basic weaknesses or fallacies in the argument. Let’s look at them in turn.

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