Marriage: A Social Justice Issue

"“Social justice” is often a moniker for government-sponsored redistribution of wealth. And race is often the hidden or not-so-hidden rationale for social justice.

Blacks are poorer than whites. Justice demands income equality, especially across the races. Therefore, government must transfer income and benefits from whites to blacks. End of story. The moral charge on racial income inequality is so great that anyone can apply this formula to just about any policy, even proposals that don’t ultimately help blacks.

Oddly enough, the one great cultural issue that has tremendous impact on black America’s wealth is hardly ever approached in this way. This one policy area has the potential to increase black wealth, education and power. This major cultural course correction could reduce drug use, delinquency and violence, especially black on black crime. I am speaking of course, of marriage as a social justice issue. Yet, liberal elite opinion is strangely silent on the potentially revolutionary importance of marriage to the black community.

Marriage is a protective factor against social pathologies. Marriage generates and preserves wealth, unlike other family forms which dissipate wealth. A recent publication by the Boston-based Seymour Institute, “God’s Gift: A Christian Vision of Marriage and the Black Family”, spells out the case for marriage as the most important next step for the future of black America. The report cites the fact that married families in the black community have twice as much income as unmarried black families.

The founder of the Seymour Institute for Advanced Christian Studies is the Rev. Eugene F. Rivers, III, the black Pentecostal minister whose work with poor urban youth has been widely celebrated. In the introduction to God’s Gift, Rev. Rivers states his case. “The impact of the decay of marriage among black people has been enormous, resulting in higher poverty rates among black families, school failure among children, and the intergenerational transmission of high teen pregnancy rates and female-headed households. Sociological research has implicated fatherlessness in violence, drug use and criminal behavior, especially among young black males.”

To those who might argue that marriage is somehow alien to the black experience, linguist John McWhorter has an answer in the most recent issue of The American Enterprise. McWhorter observes that the high proportion of single parent families among blacks is a relatively new development, and not something that can be attributed to some amorphous “legacy of slavery.”

“In poor black areas of Chicago during the 1920s, it was considered a problem that 15 percent of births were out of wedlock. Once the Depression hit, that number went down to under 10 percent. Women who had several children by different men were marginal types. And men at that time worked at jobs that immigrants have since filled.”


“Bureaucrats went courting recipients, unconcerned with when, or even whether, they became independent again. The nation’s welfare rolls exploded, jumping from 4.7 million to 9.7 million between 1966 and 1970 alone. .... Between 1964 and 1976, the number of black children born to single mothers doubled. By 1995, more than three quarters of black youngsters were born out of wedlock. ... And that badly injured the next generation. Among black children living with two parents, poverty rates plunged from 61% in 1959 to just 13% in 1995, marking incredible progress. By that time, most black families were no longer living below the poverty line. Yet that same year, the poverty rate among black kids being raised by single women was fully 62%.”"


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