The Moynihan Report-The Negro Family: The Case For National Action

The Moynihan Report suggests that the breakdown of the black nuclear family in the ghetto has created many problems within the context of social and economical advancement for the black population. The African American Revolution was an important milestone in the fight for black freedoms and equal treatment in America. The struggle for liberty and equality among African Americans, both virtues promised in the US Declaration of Independence, is still ongoing, and the progress in 1965, when Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote his report, seems to be no different than what is seen today in 2015. Continued subjugation of the black population had begun to show its effects in the early 20th century leading to a massive deterioration of the black family, the focus of Moynihan’s report.

The African American Revolution was borne out of frustration for the injustices and discrimination experienced by the black population over centuries of slavery. Small liberties were gained when slaves were emancipated. However, the fight for equality proved to be a difficult battle for even though they had been freed from slavery, they were not considered equal to whites as evidenced by Jim Crow laws and other discriminatory tactics to withhold equality. Equal opportunity for success should be afforded to all citizens, but too many barriers exist for African Americans preventing them even minimal chances of having a successful life. Even creating a successful family dynamic equal to that of whites has been hard to achieve.

Family dynamics is an important factor that shapes the future of individuals. Children growing up in unsupportive or dysfunctional families have more obstacles in their path to healthy life outcomes. These children experience higher rates of delinquency, arrests, and incarceration and lower rates of educational attainment, employment and economic success. It is important to note that whites cannot understand what it means to grow up in a black family, much less a black family living in poverty with one, sometimes two, parent absent. This, I feel, is a major reason why the plight of the poor black family living in the ghetto is not apparent to the larger society as suburban whites are too far removed from the reality of the poor black population; they feel all families must be like their strong, middle-class family unit.

In fact, the differences between white and nonwhite family structure is remarkable. Among poor blacks living in the ghetto, separation/divorce rates are higher, there is an increase in female headed households as well as children born out of wedlock, the latter two are typical consequences of desertion on the part of black fathers (the poor man’s divorce). Although some critics argue that his report is blaming blacks for creating their circumstances, Moynihan actually points out that much of the reasons for the breakdown in the poor black family, and the subsequent deterioration of the communities in which they live, can be attributed to the fact that black families were negatively transformed during the American chattel slavery era. While enslaved, men were separated from their wives, their manhood and sense of independence stripped. Women on the other hand, became strong and independent, as a result of having no one to rely on but themselves. Following emancipation, men were further relegated by white society as “boys” rathen than men, and women continued their independence in the home and as breadwinners, further emasculating the black male population. These feelings of inadequacy create unhealthy behaviors in men and lead to a decline in their personal and professional life, exacerbating the deleterious effects of poor, female-headed households living in the ghetto.

It is no surprise that many factors, including joblessness, poverty, and broken families, are at work here that perpetuate the cycle of the underclass in the ghetto and that there is no one solution to correct it. Although maybe the first step is for America to acknowledge the problems and continually discuss it on a national level to increase the awareness of the plight of the poor black family and begin to enact solutions. Legislation and programs enacted since slaves were emancipated, provide that equal opportunities for success and advancement in life will be made available to all, not that they will actually afford individuals success. I suppose the 64 thousand dollar question is how can society ensure that equality results in successful outcomes.


One thought on “The Moynihan Report-The Negro Family: The Case For National Action

  • October 18, 2015 at 4:50 pm

    Moynihan noted that blacks gained liberty but not necessary equality, which is a important factor that continues to plague black folk. As you noted when Moynihan wrote his article/paper some (many black scholars in particular) stated that he was blaming the victim for their circumstances (social pathology approach) and soon after this report many black scholars began to examine the black community using the strength approach thus justify/explaining the different (potentially deviant) behavior that is displayed in many poor black communities.
    Currently we see 7 out of 10 black children born out of wedlock, the unemployment rate for black males is typically twice the number of whites, lower high school completion rates, etc . It is obviously the situation has not improved much since this report was first written but as you noted in the Massey & Denton article continued institutional and discriminatory practices hinder many in the black community from realizing their full potential (life chances).

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