Some will regard the following guest post by Roger Clegg, president and general counsel of the Center for Equal Opportunity, as politically incorrect. I do not. I suspect, however, that I would have posted it even if I did, based on a belief that the best way to fight political correctness is by being willing to say, write, and publish arguments that some denounce as politically incorrect. This willingness, of course, has its limits. There are, after all, some arguments I would not be willing to post here even though the proctors of political correctness would applaud my refusal. And I am reminded — indeed, I remind myself — of some critics of McCarthyism who eagerly signed any statement or petition put in front of them, whether they agreed or not, as their way of resisting the fear that prevented others from speaking out. But enough about me; here is some much needed blunt talk from Roger on race (and other matters):
Many African Americans have blown it. By no means all, but many. By no means only African Americans, as I’ll discuss below, but a disproportionate number of them.
African Americans finally and rightly achieved great equality of law, and along with it much greater equality of opportunity than they had ever had, as a result of the Civil Rights Movement that culminated in the 1960s. But they have failed to take advantage of it.
It’s a sad irony that, at the same time something good was happening for them, sometime bad was happening, too. This is not to say that great progress hasn’t been made in shrinking various socioeconomic gaps between African Americans and other groups, but the progress could have been much greater.
To be blunt: The reason I say that African Americans have blown it is because, at the same time that they were achieving so much, they abandoned marital childbearing in large numbers. At the same time the civil-rights advances were occurring, the black family started to implode, so that now 71 percent of African Americans are born out of wedlock.
And now those in organizations on the left like Black Lives Matter are blaming others for this failure by too many African Americans. Yet it is this failure that accounts for the persistence of racial disparities, not racial discrimination. For raising children without fathers results in more crime, more poverty, more unemployment, more substance abuse, more high-school dropouts — you name the social problem, and it goes along with illegitimacy, and that includes the problem of illegitimacy itself, which has become intergenerational and culturally ingrained.
And, what’s more, the persistence of racial discrimination is itself caused by the racial disparities as much as it is a cause of them. Racial stereotypes often lead to discrimination, but racial stereotypes, alas, are not completely divorced from reality.
Recall the confession years ago of Jesse Jackson — yes, Jesse Jackson of all people — that if he hears footsteps behind him on a dark street he is relieved when a nervous glance back over his shoulder reveals that the two youths behind him are white, not black.
Why did this happen — why, that is, did the African American family implode at the same time as the Civil Rights Movement was triumphing?
I don’t know. John McWhorter, a decade ago in his book Winning the Race, blamed it on the hippies — or, more precisely, on the cavalier liberal attitude in the 1960s toward sexual promiscuity. It’s as good a theory as any I’ve heard. The same forces that gave us the Civil Rights Movement also gave us the Great Society, and with the latter came a decidedly anti-bourgeois mentality. But, as Irving Kristol warned, it’s a mistake to look down on the bourgeoisie, and we ignore its values at our peril.
Upper class whites were able to recover from the sixties nonsense. Lower-income blacks, not so much.
Whatever the cause of that 71 percent number, in any event, what is to be done now?
Here again, I’m afraid that it’s hard to say. You can’t pass laws against illegitimacy and promiscuity. These are fundamentally moral problems. My own view is that we need another Great Awakening. And of course that’s something else that can’t be legislated.
But the good news is that the black out-of-wedlock birthrate can go from 71 percent to 0 percent in exactly 9 months without it costing anyone a dime. All that’s necessary if for African Americans — and, in particular, African American women — to will it.
I stress women not because they are more culpable. To the contrary, biology being what it is, I think it is more likely that they can be persuaded to behave responsibly than men, especially young men. And women, after all, are the ones more likely to bear the brunt of the problems of single parenthood.
I’m under no illusions, though: This message has to be carried by someone like Oprah Winfrey, or better yet whoever the younger version of her is these days, rather than an old white guy like yours truly.
And, while I’m focusing on African Americans here, let me also hasten to add that all of this is true for members of other racial and ethnic minority groups — and for whites, too.
Indeed, much is being made now of the collapse of strong families and the concurrent rise of social pathologies in large swaths of white America. That seems to be the theme of J.D. Vance’s new book Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis. That was also the point of Charles Murray’s earlier book, Coming Apart.
That’s all true. This is really not about race. Bad behavior leads to bad results for any demographic group, and bad behavior for any demographic group is strongly correlated with raising children in a home without a father.