Christina Cross is enjoying a fellowship at Harvard University where she has been researching African American family values. Her conclusions are at odds with traditional values that encourage two-parent families.
It seems that Black children do not derive the same benefits from the traditional family as White kids. Growing up with a single parent (usually a mother or grandmother) results in the same African American academic failure rate as having two parents. In other words, things are just fine in the African American Community, sociologically. The real problem is with our racist society.
Cross has found, after examining thirty years of data, that poverty affects Black families more than who is missing from the dinner table. Echoing Michelle Obama’s refrain that “it takes a village” to raise children, Cross writes that living with two parents is no guarantee that Black children will equal Whites academically, or economically later in life.
This is revolutionary! The NY Times gave Cross an op-ed last week to promulgate her findings. It totally contradicts previous studies like the 1965 Moynihan Report which blamed out-of-wedlock births and the preponderance of female-headed households for Black disadvantages. Moreover, it contradicts common sense and thousands of years of European and Asian tradition. Perhaps it better reflects something in sub-Saharan African values.
I’m reminded of former President Barack Obama’s family history. His father was a Kenyan Muslim who had three wives. He fathered Barack with a White lady and soon abandoned her and Barack. Fortunately for Barack, his Euro-American mother and grandparents had the wherewithal and values to raise him to be a success. By contrast, had Barack’s mother been Black and his birth father faithful his destiny might have been bleak, using Cross’s conclusions.
The Cross op-ed doesn’t even touch on the grittier aspects of single parenthood among poor Blacks – the multiple fathers, revolving door “boyfriends,” and dumping children onto single grandmothers. As these customs begin spreading among the rest of society, more White and mixed race children are entering this pool of deprivation.
I was raised by a single mother, but it was an Italian-style arrangement. Not only did my father regularly pay child support, but I stayed with him every other weekend. It was not an ideal life for any of us, including my older brother, but it was strongly Italian American both in morality and economic responsibility. The government was not involved in our lives: no rent subsidies, no food stamps, no poverty benefits.
The same can be said for most Asian immigrants and even Black immigrants from many African countries and the Caribbean. They arrive in family units, the traditional kind, and somehow cope with our flawed society.
Cross doesn’t deny that having two parents has its benefits, but mainly for middle class children. However, “…blindly promoting the merits of marriage and the two-parent family is not the answer [for poor Black children], but rather, it’s structural barriers such as housing segregation and employment discrimination that are the problems.”
Cross is essentially putting another nail in the coffin of the traditional nuclear family, just as other sociologists and identity advocates are relegating the male/female genders to pasture. It’s a brave new world they think they are inventing, making “normal” every combination and permutation in human relations. Millennia of societal evolution are being vivisected and nitpicked to accommodate human variety. But perhaps those varieties occurred hundreds of generations ago and failed. Perhaps we arrived at the male/female nuclear family after many trials and errors.
Most historians agree that ancient Italy developed the nuclear family as we know it. While the male/female model was common around the world, there were variations that would not pass muster today. The ancient Greeks considered wives unworthy of social independence. Many Jewish sects still adhere to gender separation. Islam condones multiple wives and forces onerous modesty upon them. Many African societies treat women as workhorses and practice female mutilation. East Asian societies had little regard for women. South Asians, even though matriarchal, once sent wives to burn on their husband’s funeral pyres. It was the Etruscans and Romans who liberated wives and created the nuclear family we enjoy today.
Cross and her ilk may think they are explaining the socio-economic failure of their community, but they are just dumping their problems on others. -JLM