POS334-L: THE RACE AND ETHNICITY BOOK REVIEW DISCUSSION LIST

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Daniel Patrick Moynihan FAMILY AND NATION (Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich - 1986)

Subject: Rev: Moynihan's FAMILY AND NATION (Huck)

Subject: huck and marriage(Eichstedt)

Subject: Re: huck and marriage(Huck)

Subject: Re: Reply to Review: Moynihan

 


Date: Sun, 1 May 1994 07:57:25 -0600 (CST)
From: "Robert Huck"
Subject: Rev: Moynihan's FAMILY AND NATION (Huck)

Review:  FAMILY AND NATION
                             Daniel Patrick Moynihan
                      (Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich - 1986)
                                  Robert Huck
                           Illinois State University
                                  May 1, 1994


Throughout this course I have been trying to make sense of
problems that seem  beyond understanding.  This year we will celebrate
the 30th anniversary of the Civil  Right Act.  Next year we will
celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act.   Next year will
also be the 30th anniversary of the Watts riot.  Contradictions like
this  have run throughout this course.  Derrick Bell looks at racism and
sees a white  community that is iredeemably racist and still unwilling to
share power with blacks.   Shelby Steele sees the same racism and blames
black Americans for giving up.  Arthur Schlesinger said that Europe is
the unique source of the ideas of individual liberty and  Civil Rights. 
Molefe Asanti looks at the same Europe and sees nothing but oppression, 
discrimination, and genocide.  Martin Luther King and Vernon Johns used
the teachings  of Jesus Christ as a foundation for their ideas of
liberation.  Forrest Wood sees  Christianity as inherently racist. 
Finally, Ruth Sidel sees the collapse of the black family  as an effect
of poverty.  Daniel Patrick Moynihan sees it as a cause.

It is this last issues that is so perplexing.  At a time when
black Americans should  have seen their greatest advances, they became
poorer.  At a time when they have  unprecedent opportunities, many get
lost in an endless circle of illegitimacy, crime,  drugs, gangbanging,
and nihilism.  We all know the numbers.  In 1965, when Moynihan  wrote
his famous report, 25 percent of all African-Americans were born out of
wedlock.   The 25 percent is now 68 percent.  There are more black men in
prison, on parole, or  awaiting trial than there are in college.  Murder
is the leading cause of death among  young black men.  Nineteen out of 20
blacks who are murdered are murdered by other  blacks.  If whites killed
blacks as much as blacks kill each other, we would justifiably call  it
genocide.  It is not much of an exaggeration to say that we have all but
lost an entire  generation of African Americans.  There are success
stories, but when an entire group  of people has more of its members in
prison than in college, it is easy to lose hope.

Moynihan wrote FAMILY AND NATION in response to the discrepancy
between  black opportunity and achievement.  Written 20 years after his
landmark report for the  Johnson Administration, FAMILY AND NATION is
Moynihan's way of saying "I told you  so."  In the 1965 report, Moynihan
made a few simple observations that should have  prompted action and
concern.  Lyndon Johnson used the Moynihan as the basis for his 
commencement address at Howard University on June 4, 1965.

The family is the cornerstone of our society.  More than any other
force it shapes the attitude, the hopes, the ambitions, and the values
of the child.   When the family collapses it is the children that are
usually damaged.   When it happens on a massive scale the community
itself is crippled.
So unless we work to strengthen the family, to create conditions under 
which most parents will stay together-all the rest:  schools and 
playgrounds, public assistance and private concern, will never be
enough to cut completely the circle of despair and deprivation.  (32-3)

That simple, common sense observation, drawn from Moynihan's own 
experience in the Irish-American community, touched off a firestorm of
acrimony and  name-calling.  Johnson's call for a White House conference
on black families went  unheeded.  There was a conference, but the White
House was forced to drop family  issues from the agenda.  The NAACP
labeled the Moynihan Report as "a new subtle  form of racism" (36).   From
then on policy makers were loath to show concern for the  strength of the
family.  "There was a massive failure of nerve among whites, a spare 
number of academics excepted.  There was seemingly no untruth to which
some would  not subscribe if there appeared to be the least risk of
disapproval from the groupthink of  the moment.  This was notably so
among churchmen"  (36).

This "failure of nerve" was seen most prominently in the defeat
of Richard  Nixon's Family Assistance Plan (FAP).  This plan would have
offered a guaranteed  income to all American families.  It even included
marriage and work incentives and  cost of living adjustments.  The FAP
failed because Northern liberal Senators refused to  reduce welfare
benefits.  Social workers also opposed the plan because of its mild 
workfare provisions.  Black leaders opposed it because it was Moynihan's
idea.  (As an  aside, Richard Nixon shipped Moynihan off to India to get
him out of the controversy.   Moynihan conveniently ignores this.)  The
FAP's failure was devastating to poor  families.  Current welfare
programs (largely dependent on state financing) cannot keep  pace with
inflation.  "[F]rom 1970 to 1985 maximum AFDC benefits for a four-person 
family declined 33 percent in the median state.  In three
states-California, Maine, and  Wisconsin-the value of benefits was
maintained.  In all others it declined" (15).

Once the FAP was defeated, poor families were at the mercy of
capricious state  legislatures and financially strapped state budgets. 
The war in Vietnam ended, white  baby boomers graduated from college (not
a coincidence) and white women entered  the job market by the millions. 
This all happened while the economy slowed to a crawl.   To make matters
worse, beginning in the early '70s there was a concerted effort to shift 
income from the young to the old through increased Social Security
benefits.  "The  average monthly [Social Security] benefit for a retired
couple in December 1984 was  $766, which was half again the poverty line
for an elderly family of two"  (94).  When  non-income support (i.e. food
stamps and Medicare) is taken into account, the elderly  poverty rate in
1984 was only 2.6 percent (96).

Meanwhile meaningful welfare reform was put on the backburner. 
Jimmy  Carter's lone attempt at reform, the Program for Better Jobs and
Income, was never  given a committee hearing in Congress (151).  Ronald
Reagan's vision of welfare  reform was limited to removing recipients
from the roles.  An original, but somewhat  unimaginative approach. 
Needless the say the poverty and illegitimacy rates rose.

FAMILY AND NATION  helps to make sense of some of these
contradictions.   On the surface African-Americans have more opportunity
than their grandparents, but  this opportunity is only superficial. 
There is simply too much competition.  Policy  makers were so afraid of
appearing racist they never recognized the weaknesses of  black
families.  Unless you see a problem, you cannot offer solutions.  Even if
they  wanted to offer solutions, Moynihan's experience taught them a good
lesson.  No one  wanted to be another Moynihan.


Date: Sun, 1 May 1994 07:54:30 -0600 (CST)
Subject: huck and marriage(Eichstedt)

It is always interesting to me how readings of the same materials can
lead people to very different conclusions.  I read Huck's analysis of Sidel's
work and can understand how he comes to the conclusion that he does.  Inb
response, however, I'd like to suggest that instead of wanting to shore up the
banks of marriage (boy, this woman and her (and her's alone?) children are
in poverty, she needs to look at the decisions she made that led her there we
) though that "may be" helpful in alleviating poverty instead look at a
system of sexism that pays women substantially less than men - generally across
the board.  Additionally, less than 20% of divorced fathers pay child support
for their children.  What I'm suggesting is that the types of widespread
poverty that we are seeing is not just the sum of a whole bunch of folks making
bad decisions, but is much more widespread.  Why are you (and others) so quick
to suggest that marriage is the cure and to not even consider sexist work
structures?  What "work" (theoretically and socially) does this sort of focus
do for you?  What does it allow us theoretically, socially, and politically, to
avoid?  I think it helps allow certain structures of inequality to be main-
tained and it allows us to feel reconfirmed in the righteousness of our
individualism.  What do you think?
Jennifer Eichstedt
University of California, Santa Cruz

P.S.  Thank you Gary for giving us all the opportunity to be part of this. I have mainly lurked, but it has been great.  Thanks also for all the folks who have
contributed to this discussion.


Date: Sun, 1 May 1994 07:56:02 -0600 (CST)
From: "Robert Huck"
Subject: Re: huck and marriage(Huck)

On Sat, 30 Apr 1994, Jennifer Lynn Eichstedt wrote:

>
> It is always interesting to me how readings of the same materials can
> lead people to very different conclusions.  I read Huck's analysis of Sidel's
> work and can understand how he comes to the conclusion that he does.  Inb
> response, however, I'd like to suggest that instead of wanting to shore up the
> banks of marriage

Why not?  Marriage works.  Common sense dictates that it is much easier
for two people to raise a family than it is for one.

> (boy, this woman and her (and her's alone?) children are
> in poverty, she needs to look at the decisions she made that led her
> there)
> though that "may be" helpful in alleviating poverty instead look at a
> system of sexism that pays women substantially less than men - generally
> across
> the board.

Believe it or not, I agree with you.  However, almost all poverty policy
since the late '60s has been devoted to supporting single mothers.  In the
quest to support single-parent families, we have ignored the welfare of
the two-parent family.  I will address this issue further in my review of
FAMILY AND NATION.

> Additionally, less than 20% of divorced fathers pay child support
> for their children.  What I'm suggesting is that the types of widespread
> poverty that we are seeing is not just the sum of a whole bunch of folks
> making
> bad decisions,

I didn't say it was.  I recognize that many people fall into poverty due
to circumstances beyond their control, however you must recognize that
some people (like Sandra and her husband) are poor because of bad
decisions.  Why don't liberals ever admit that?  Conservatives should be
criticized for failing to recognize the structural causes of poverty. 
However the causes of poverty are never as simple as either the liberals
or conservatives make it out to be.  Since Sidel never recognized that
some people are to blame for their poverty, I felt it important to
criticize her.  Had I read a book written from the conservative
perspective, I probably would have pointed out its shortcomings also. 
PLEASE do not put me in the same corner with Rush Limbaugh or Jesse Helms.


> but is much more widespread.  Why are you (and others) so quick
> to suggest that marriage is the cure and to not even consider sexist work
> structures?

See above paragraph.

> What "work" (theoretically and socially) does this sort of focus
> do for you?  What does it allow us theoretically, socially, and politically,
> to
> avoid?  I think it helps allow certain structures of inequality to be main-
> tained and it allows us to feel reconfirmed in the righteousness of our
> individualism.

No.  It recognizes the fact that people should be held accountable for
their actions.  It recognizes the welfare of children should be first and
foremost in our public policy priorities.  Our policies should discourage
actions that hurt children and encourage actions that help them.  Study
after study after study show that children from single-parent families
are much more likely to drop out of school, get pregnant, get involved in
illegal activities, and so on.  Teenage parenthood is a bad idea.  Our
policies should recognize this obvious fact and discourage it at all
costs.  If this is a conservative idea, so be it.  But I refuse to be
labeled as a sexist because I believe our policies should discourage
teenage parenthood.  I also refuse to be labeled as a sexist because I
believe that adults are responsible for their actions.  These are not
sexist ideas.  They apply to all people.  Marriage requires
responsibility for both partners, not just the wife.  I hope my story
about Henry and Mary made that clear.  If not, please let me know and I
will clarify this further.



=============================================================================
Robert Huck |rohuck@rs6000.cmp.ilstu.edu
Illinois State University |"No I don't have a gun."
314 Walker Hall |                Kurt Cobain
Normal, IL  61761-2993 |                COME AS YOU ARE
(309) 436-9887 |
=============================================================================


Date: Mon, 2 May 1994 11:05:05 -0500
From: Robert Huck
Subject: Re: Reply to Review: Moynihan


>
> *** Comments from LLEON - LEON, LILLY; 05/02/94 09:23am:
> I BELIEVE THE PROBLEM IS THAT THE BLACK FAMILY IS SEEN SPECIFICALLY
> IN TERMS OF THE TRADITONAL "NUCLEAR FAMILY".  THE CORNERSTONE IS
> AND ANGLO CONCEPT NOT AN AFRICAN CONCEPT.  WE MAY BE USING THE WRONG
> MEASURE.

The two-parent family is hardly an Anglo concept.  It is seen in
virtually all societies, even in Africa.  Even if two-parent families are
unknown in Africa, so what?  Black Americans have abandoned many African
traditions (animism is largely unknown in the United States) white
Americans have abandoned many European traditions (many Europen
households are comprised of three or four generations).  I am not
concerned with European or African traditions.  My concern was with the
welfare of American children.  If that is the concern we have no choice
but to hold oursevles (black and white alike) accountable to a given set
of standards.  These standards must have a child's welfare as the highest
priority.  These standards must state that children should attend school,
stay out of gangs and prison, and not become parents at the age of 15.  I
do not see how anyone could object to these standards.  Do you really
think it is a good idea for 15-year-old children to become parents?  Do
you really think it is a good idea for 16-year-old boys to be in prison? 
I'm sure you don't.  Why can't you recognize teen pregnancy and crime for
the problems they really are?  I cannot believe it is racist for a white
to show concern for these problems.

> IT IS HAS COMPLEX AS THE ISSUE OF COLLECTIVE RESPONSIBILITY, SOME
> BELIEVE THAT WE ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR OUR PAST AND FUTURE OTHERS BELIEVE
> THAT WE ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE PRESENT ONLY.  WHO'S RIGHT?
> SHOULD WE REALLY JUDGE THA BLACK FAMILY BY ANY STANDARD, OTHER THAN
> THEIR OWN.  WHY IS THAT WHEN WE SEEK TO HELP OTHERS WE RARELY ASK WHAT
> THEY WANT OR NEED?  OUR WE SCARED THAT IT MAY REQUIRE MORE FROM US
> THANIDEALISTIC RHETORIC.
>
This sounds nice in theory, but Moynihan shows how this kind of thinking
got us into this mess.  We have to move away from the idea of collective
responsibility.  If everyone is responsible, then no one is responsible.