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The Implosion of the Black Family

How Absent Fathers and Social Welfare Played a Role in the Demise of the Black Family 

The state of the black family correlates directly to the strength and magnitude of black power.

The Nation

“The destruction of a nation begins in the homes of its families.”
— Scholar and Pan-Africanist Dr. Umar Johnson

The black family is the Black American's most precious defense against white supremacy. So precious, in fact, that the state of the black family correlates directly to the strength and magnitude of black power. In essence, there is no black power without the black family.

Not only is the black family a priceless form of defense, but it is also the magic bullet for black restoration and advancement; the penicillin of race relations. Yes, it’s that important, so meditate on it if you have to. The black family is the Black American’s most precious defense against white supremacy. Let it be a law that governs your actions and interactions. If every black person in America, young and old, really thought about what that simple sentence means and lived by it, Black America would never be the same.

Here’s the logic: it's only from individual, strong, black families that we have the black community, and only from the black community does true afro-authentic black power emerge. And from black power comes black empowerment, black businesses, black schools, black media, and the next Black Wall Street. All of these are cures to the pervasive disease that is white supremacy. But the root of it all is the black family; one mother, one father, raising up their children with intention, under one roof.

The power, simplicity and truth of this statement struck me as I watched Dr. Umar Johnson’s June 2017 interview with The Breakfast Club, a morning radio show focused on modern day black, culture, music and experiences. I watched, mouth agape, eyes glued to the screen of my phone as Johnson articulately asserted that the black power base was the black family during a discussion about the state of Black America. This statement is painstakingly true, and we’ve all heard the old adage, “The truth will set you free,” but the truth is only as powerful as its reach. As a member of the black community and of a black family, it is my responsibility to spread this truth to my highest capability, because soaking up this ideology 50 years ago could have saved us from the severe degradation and decay of the black family that we have today. We’re living in a brutal reality that we, in some ways but not all (we'll get to that later), brought upon ourselves.

Black power is about unity, community, and intentionality and, in the context of the black community, each of those things springs from beneath a single roof of a single cohesive family. It starts at the dinner table, in the family room and in the backyard and before a child is even born. And just like the breakdown of the black family has brought the greater community to shambles, this antidote of the highest importance can also be used to soothe generations of a backsliding community and as a tool to build it back up.

Stop pretending broken families are okay.

“Blacks ultimately need to help themselves.”
— Author and journalist Jason Riley

Don Lemon’s 2013 claim that, “more than 72 percent of children in the African American community are born out of wedlock,” sparked discourse in the black community. Coming from someone whose blackness had been challenged before, critics questioned the truth of his bold statement and whether or not it was an attack on black mothers. However, Politifacts’ always faithful truth-o-meter swooped in with its blue and red bipartisan wings to fact check the validity of Lemon’s statements and, to the dismay of many, prove him... right.

According to the most recent, 2010 census, 73 percent of black children are born to unmarried mothers, a higher rate than any other ethnic group in America. This is absolutely NOT okay. It's not okay because the list of consequences that children who grow up in a home without a father are likely to face is unfortunately and depressingly endless.

Let's begin *sigh*. Children who grow up without fathers are four times more likely to be poor, more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, twice as likely to commit suicide, achieve lower grades in school, and more likely to drop out of high school. Fatherless kids are also more likely to commit a crime and get pregnant as a teen, possibly continuing the vicious cycle of out of wedlock births. The problems above are mirror images of the headline issues of the problems plaguing the black community. We know a major risk factor for these issues is single motherhood, so why not make an effort to initiate real change and prevent this pattern from enduring? This is all unfortunate evidence that when the black family breaks down or is incomplete (missing a father), black society breaks down, too.

Such a simple preventative step could do wonders for our black children and black families and potentially rid black people of these damaging epidemic like issues; it's called birth control. Or abstinence. Or heck, probably the most ideal option, just getting married. The bottom line is that it's way too easy to end the problem of out of wedlock births in the black community. Doing so would help to eradicate a slew of problems ravaging black America like drug addiction, poverty, and homelessness, along with setting the stage for a rooted black family to emerge.

How Bill Clinton's "War on Drugs" Became the "War on Black Fathers"

Earlier I made the (to some, depending on how woke you are) bold accusation that some of the problems destroying Black America aren’t the fault of Black America.

Here's how it happened: In the 1984 Presidential election, Republican Ronald Reagan won every state in the United States except for Minnesota. This catastrophic loss forced the Democratic Party to reinvent itself to be more competitive against Republicans by the time the next election rolled around. So the DNC, in an effort to understand what went wrong, sponsored a massive survey of 5,000 voters. In the survey, white southerners described the Democratic Party as the “give away party, giving white tax money to blacks and poor people.”

Between 1994 and 1999, two-thirds of people sentenced to the death penalty were black. Coincidentally, after Bill Clinton entered office, he worked to make dozens of new crimes eligible for punishment by the death penalty. Also coincidentally, between 1994 and 1999, two-thirds of people sentenced to the death penalty were black. It was as if the Democrats were working to prove to white southerners that they weren't “the give away party” and that they weren't afraid to punish black people. Under Clinton’s presidency, the Violent Crime Control and Law enforcement Act was passed. This legislation included plans to add 100,000 police to the streets and expansions to who could be eligible for life imprisonment and the death penalty. There was even legislation passed that made it legal to reject families who had applied for public housing if any one member of the family was suspected of having committed a drug crime. What this meant for black people was losing black fathers to prison, and often to life sentences and to the death penalty. It meant more homeless, struggling, single parent families; the result of a systematic effort by the Clinton Administration to visibly distance themselves from Black American interests, in order to win over white voters. The sudden "enthusiasm" that fueled the "War on Drugs" is dog-whistle politics for the "War on Black Fathers," the war on black families, and by default, the war on black people. These policies literally turned American prisons into immobile, modern slave ships that fractured black families and destroyed black communities indefinitely.

The Poison in Social Welfare Policies

“The black family survived centuries of slavery and generations of Jim Crow, but it has disintegrated in the wake of the liberals' expansion of the welfare state”.
— Author, economist, and philosopher Dr. Thomas Sowell

Since the massive implementation of the welfare state by 1960s liberals, the incidence of single-parent black families has increased from 22 percent in 1960, to 66 percent in 2015. The severity of many other issues that plague Black America today, such as ghettos and violence, has compounded since welfare policies became more widespread, especially under President Lyndon B. Johnson, who first introduced the "War on Poverty."

While the left thought they were doing us a favor, the lack of accountability applied to the distribution of welfare handouts have led black people to simply settle for less-than-great living situations. Poverty became a vicious cycle, following and haunting each subsequent generation. The further blacks fell behind economically, the less white people or wealthier citizens wanted to live near us. Redlining forced blacks out of certain communities and into others in the 1970s. There, crime increased as black families were left cut off from the rest of non-black America. The schools in these communities were subpar and poorly prepared students for success in college or otherwise. Once a family was on welfare, it was difficult for a parent to return to school because college classes do not count as "work" and the family could lose access to welfare. This further fueled the cycle of dependency on the welfare state. So here we are: for many families, fathers are gone and higher education is out of the picture for the mother. As far as the child goes, he is not being properly nor sufficiently educated in his local school.

Where is the incentive to work? There is none. There is only the incentive to rely on the government. A commonly used argument against socialism is that the safety net provided by the government will stifle the drive and determination to be self-made and work to the top on your own. If people already know that they are guaranteed to have enough money to survive, then why pursue higher education or strive for economic self-sufficiency? It is this logic that has prevented socialism from seeping into the infrastructure of American politics, yet the liberals of the 1960s had no problem forcing it upon minority and lower class demographics 50 years ago.

Self-Hate: Putting down black women (or men) isn't cool.

“The black woman is the most disrespected woman in America.”
— Civil rights leader Malcolm X

Malcolm X said it and Kevin Hart proved it. Lil Wayne proved it. Kodak Black proved it. Gilbert Arenas proved it. Tommy Sotomayor proved it. The worst thing about it all isn't that Malcolm X’s words proved to be tragically timeless or that I was able to name most of these people off the top of my head. The worst thing about it is that all of these are the names of black men. As a minority in America, we can't necessarily bet on White America accepting us with open arms, but we without a doubt should be able to be confident enough that we, Black Americans, as the 13 percent of the U.S. population that we make up, can count on each other for unity and acceptance. We can't talk about the black family without discussing black love and black marriage. Marriage is the foundation of the family and a black woman makes up 50 percent of that foundation. How can we talk about fueling black power and black progress and black pride and black unity when every other month there's another black man coming out to proclaim his distaste for his other half? There is no black family without the black woman.

How does what a beautiful, little, black girl sees when she looks in the mirror change after she hears Gilbert Arenas explain that dark-skinned women aren’t beautiful? How does what a little black boy thinks of the little girls in his class change after he sees comedian Kevin Hart make dark-skinned women the butt of his joke on Twitter about credit? Black Americans have had the largest increase in marrying outside of our race when compared to all other ethnicities; a jump from 5 percent to 18 percent since 1980 according to Pew Research. Are we even setting up the next generation to produce black families?

Black Women aren't only the victims of this trend. As a young, black female, I couldn't count how many nonsensical ways I've heard black women justify why they “don't like black guys” with mundane and hollow reasons like, “I grew up around white guys,” and, “it's what I'm used to.” In 2015, artist Azealia Banks ignorantly explained to the whole world why she doesn’t date black men. Listening to them, sometimes I wonder to myself, don't they know? There is no black family without the black man. A strikingly relevant line by artist Rhapsody from one of my favorite Kendrick Lamar songs entitled "Complexion" goes like this: Call your brothers magnificent, call all the sisters Queens. Yes, black lives matter, but black love matters, too.

Self-Love and the Vision for the Next Generation

“What does liberation for black people really mean? Does it mean white people suddenly decide to like us? … I don't care about that… I want us to love each other. I want us to build a community that is economically vibrant and viable. I want to see us educate our own children. I want to see us support our own businesses.”
— Professor, author, and scholar Boyce Watkins

This is The Vision. This is what Black America could look like if we didn't stop with being “woke” but instead, woke up then resisted, as well. Resist the statistics that say our black children are destined for a lifetime of teenage pregnancies and out-of-wedlock births and crime and substance abuse and mountains of debt. Resist the calculated image of ignorance the media paints for black people every day. Resist the brainwashing messages telling little black girls that their skin is too dark and little black boys that they're destined to become thugs and gang members. Instead, tell him that the blood in his veins is as precious as the gold lodged in the ground beneath the sands of Africa. Make sure your daughter knows that her skin is more perfect than black diamonds and her smile more stunning than pearls. Self-love starts in the home.

There's this beautiful YouTube channel I've found myself addicted to in the last few weeks. It's called Beleaf in Fatherhood and it's a vlogging/documentary channel featuring a gorgeous black family of two loving, doting parents and their young sons, Theo and Uriah. The video that really got me hooked was one entitled “Father Does Baby Dreadlocks.” On the surface, it's just some adorable, father-son bonding time. It’s one of those videos that you just can’t watch without smiling and maybe even catching a brief bout of baby fever. And don't get me wrong, the cuteness is a big draw, but there’s much more to it than that. I mean it wasn’t the cuteness of the video that kept me coming back. It’s what the father was instilling in his son that got me addicted to the channel. There’s this mantra he has his little boy (who can't be more than two-years-old) repeat and it is so incredibly powerful. The four simple statements are: I am strong. God loves me. Black is beautiful. I am a leader.

I am not an emotional person, but watching this video for the first time nearly brought tears of joy to my eyes. This is a glimpse of the vision I have for my family one day. The intentionality of the present moment is what builds black families and sets the stage for black progress and power.

I imagine what it will be like to take on the responsibility of raising my own black family. I dream of the encouragement I can give my children throughout the day, whether on notes on napkins tucked away in their lunch boxes or whispering in their ear as I tuck them in at night that I hope they dream dreams fueled by imagination as vast as the Grand Canyon. I plan on taking my job as a member of a black family, and role as a black mother, so seriously I may just be tempted to waltz out of the hospital with my newborn, hold him up high under the watching stars of the night sky and yell, “Behold! The only thing greater than yourself!” You think I’m kidding, but I’m not. Just wait.


"Beleaf In Fatherhood." YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web.

Drboycewatkins. "What Does It Really Mean to Be "woke?"" YouTube. YouTube, 26 Aug. 2017. Web.

"Kendrick Lamar (Ft. Rapsody) – Complexion (A Zulu Love)." Genius. N.p., 15 Mar. 2015. Web.

"The Law of the Jungle." Poetry Lovers' Page - Rudyard Kipling: The Law of the Jungle. N.p., n.d. Web.

Luscombe, Belinda. "Pew Study on Marriage: More Americans Marry Other Races." Time. Time, 18 May 2017. Web.

Mathewrodriguez. "Here's the Malcolm X Speech About Black Women Beyoncé Sampled in 'Lemonade'." Mic. Mic Network Inc., 24 Apr. 2016. Web.

Murch, Donna. "The Clintons’ War on Drugs: When Black Lives Didn’t Matter." New Republic. N.p., 09 Feb. 2016. Web.

"National Center for Fathering." National Center for Fathering The Consequences of Fatherlessness Comments. National Center for Fathering, n.d. Web.

Politifact, and Don Lemon CNN Anchor. "CNN's Don Lemon Says More than 72 Percent of African-American Births Are out of Wedlock." @politifact. N.p., 27 July 2013. Web.

[email protected]_iyana | March 31, 2015 - 12:04 Pm, Iyana. "Azealia Banks Explains Why She Doesn't Date Black Men." Vibe. N.p., 31 Mar. 2015. Web.

#TeamEbony. "Bruh: NBA Baller Gilbert Arenas Disrespects Black Women." EBONY. N.p., 15 Apr. 2017. Web.

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