Yet another conservative commentator outside the black community has ventured to tell us what ails us—this time it’s columnist George Will, who said yesterday on ABC television that the breakdown of African-American families was more to blame for the income gap between blacks and whites than a lack of civil rights.
Appearing on “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” to discuss the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, Will said just eight months after the 1963 march, Daniel Patrick Moynihan published his now-famous report on the crisis in the black family.
“A young social scientist from Harvard working in the Labor Department published a report. His name was Daniel Patrick Moynahan. He said, ‘There is a crisis in the African-American community, because 24 percent of African-American children are born to unmarried women. Today it’s tripled to 72 percent. That, and not an absence of rights, is surely the biggest impediment.”
Will was responding to Washington Post correspondent Dan Balz, who said, “We forget that this was the March for Jobs and Justice. There has been tremendous progress, there’s no question about that, in all the ways we’re talking about. But the persistence of the gap between white wealth and black wealth, white income and black income, is something that has stayed almost constant for the past two decades.”
Earlier this year Will had similarly blamed Detroit’s fiscal problems on the collapse of the black family.
“You have a city, 139 square miles, you can graze cattle in vast portions of it,” he said on ABC in July. “Dangerous herds of feral dogs roam in there. You have 3 percent of fourth graders reading at the national math standards. Forty-seven percent of Detroit residents are functionally illiterate. Seventy-nine percent of Detroit children are born to unmarried mothers. They don’t have a fiscal problem, they have a cultural collapse.”
Will’s comments followed those made by Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, who accused President Obama and other black leaders of ignoring the “real problems” facing black people, which was what O’Reilly called “gangsta culture.”
Hearing Will’s attack on black women; recalling the offensive words of director Lee Daniels, who said that when he walks into gay men’s health crisis center in New York and sees nothing but black women and their children, “I thought I had walked into the welfare office”; and the appalling sex spoof of Harriet Tubman on Russell Simmons’ YouTube channel, it’s not hard to conclude that August has not been a good month for black women.
“This is a moment when African-Americans have an opportunity to redefine the tone and tenor of black politics for the 21st century,” writer Brittney Cooper wrote on Salon.com. “The ways in which historical narratives of race relations past have reasserted themselves with a certain kind of urgency this summer, through the brazen acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s killer, the rollback of the Voting Rights Act, and the continued erosion of affirmative action policies should constitute a collective wakeup call. At the same time, black communities seriously owe it to themselves to have a conversation about what it would mean to place black women’s needs at the center of our politics at least half of the time.”