Earlier this week, New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton spoke on the Morning Joe show about the increasing crime in New York City. In his explanatory analysis, Commissioner Bratton stated that a disintegration of family values is the origin of crime in urban areas such as New York City. In a move to invoke racial dynamics and justify his contention, he cited the widely-read Moynihan Report, a report approximately 50 years old. To place the report in an appropriately historical context, the report referred to Blacks and/or African-Americans, as “negroes.” Although the report has been cited many times within the sociological discipline in discussions referencing the American Black family, the report failed to address many of the structural factors that impacted the lived experiences of Black families residing in urban areas at that time. More importantly, time has passed. This is not to say that the American Black family does not presently face challenges, but it has experienced changes nonetheless.
Statistics released by the National Center of Education Statistics in 2014, revealed that education attainment among Blacks/African-Americans has substantially increased over the last few decades. Specifically, in 2014, the percentage of Blacks/African-Americans that completed high school was 92 percent. Additionally, the percentage of Blacks/African-Americans with an undergraduate was 20 percent. In fact, Black/African-American women are more likely to be enrolled in graduate degree programs than their white counterparts. It is imperative to highlight such figures in order to note that, while the collective socioeconomic condition of Blacks/African-Americans is not on parity with whites due in large part to continued systemic racism, changes in the socioeconomic profile of Blacks/African-Americans have indeed occurred.
Still, Commissioner Bratton’s citation of the Moynihan Report invokes an age-old explanation of urban crime that places the blame squarely on the shoulders of the Black/African-American family. Not only does that “explanation” fail to make a nuanced examination of the socio-historical forces that have impacted the Black/African-American family, it fails to look at Black/African-Americans in a comprehensive and informed manner.
Explicitly, aside from educational attainment, Gallup Polls have found that Blacks/African-Americans are the most religious group than any other racial or ethnic group in the United States. Thus, it begs the question how can it be asserted that a population that is more religious than any other be bankrupt in the area of morals and family values?
Likewise, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released findings from a study of paternal involvement. The
study found that Black/African-American fathers are more likely to eat dinner with their children than fathers of other races or ethnicities. It also found that Black/African-American fathers are also more likely than white fathers to help their children with homework. Despite such evidence, the absent Black father myth continues. Such myths paint and homogenize the Black/African-American family as undeserving of empathy and respect. The harm to the Black/African-American community has become indelible. For instance, a report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation revealed that Black/African-American and white families experience challenges and domestic issues at the same rates. However, social service workers are more apt to disrupt Black/African-American families by placing Black/African children in foster care while white families receive the necessary assistance and counseling.
Taking all of the above under advisement, it is time that public officials and government leaders such as Commissioner Bratton gain a better, and updated, understanding of the communities that they serve. Otherwise, hurt, pain, and damage to the most innocent will persist.