How the Country of “Family Values” is Failing Black Families

Featured image: Photo by Monkey Business Images on Shutterstock . Edited in Affinity Designer. Audio: recorded with Voice Recorder by quality apps, edited in Audacity.

4 for Now

The US has been destroying Black families almost since we first stole land from Natives. Little effort was made to document the folks kidnapped from their homeland or to keep families together. As Jeffery Robinson wrote for the ACLU, “Separating enslaved families was done for profit, for punishment, or simply because a seller or buyer wanted it that way.”

“Slave patrols” were established to further control enslaved people, paving the way for modern-day policing. Black folks are targeted by racially motivated laws and are disproportionately sentenced. Once someone’s been incarcerated, discrimination in employment, housing, and support services increase, as does recidivism.

The 1965 Moynihan Report sparked more stereotypes and myths that resulted in focusing on the “faults” of Black families, rather than what President Johnson referred to as white responsibility.

While the War on Black People (AKA the War on Drugs) is older than Nixon would have you believe, his and later administrations put into place regulations that inherently target Black folks or are used to target them.

Even public assistance doesn’t always help. Under the welfare-to-work model, single moms can get access to myriad services while dads usually only get attention when it’s time to collect that child support check. Because of the focus on economic ability over engagement in the children’s lives, it can be more beneficial to downplay the father’s role, which would strain any family relationship.

Positive Outcomes for Black Families

We’re holding Black folks back through racist policies and practices, and it’s important not to forget that. But that doesn’t mean every Black person is struggling in the stereotypical ways we portray them in media. For example:

  • Before the pandemic, 94% of the Black labor force was employed.
  • In 2016: only 18% of Medicaid recipients were Black, 26% of food stamp recipients were Black, and 29% of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (or TANF, the program most often referred to as “welfare”) recipients were Black.
  • In 2017, 88% of Black adults had high school diplomas or GEDs, and college graduation rates nearly doubled since 1990.
  • 67% of Black men won’t be incarcerated in their lifetime, and the incarceration rate for all Black Americans fell by 31% between 2007 and 2017.
  • In 2018, 93% of African Americans didn’t have a substance use disorder, and 96% of African Americans didn’t have alcohol use disorders.

Remember, the US still purposely sets up Black folks to fail. While some of these numbers are great, they’re often not as great as the same stats for white folks.

It’s hard not to believe something you’ve heard from mainstream media, but the US has become one of the biggest (if not the biggest) propaganda machines in the world. With people sharing from questionable sources, misquoting, misinterpreting, and doctoring images, we can’t take anything at face value. (Including this post! I leave a lot out to keep it under four minutes, so check my sources or google to make sure you’re getting the whole picture.)

Critical thinking is more important than ever, if we’re going to break the stereotypes—and ultimately, the system—holding Black families back.


4 for Later

  1. The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration by Ta-Nehisi Coates (2 to 2 1/2-hour read) For those of you who saw my outburst on Twitter, this is the article that set me off.
  2. America Was in the Business of Separating Families Long Before Trump by Jeffery Robinson (8-minute read). This one talks a little bit more about Carter himself.
  3. Welfare, Fathers and Those Persistent Myths by Cynthia Gordy (10-minute read)
  4. The racist roots of American policing: From slave patrols to traffic stops by Connie Hassett-Walker (8-9 minute read)

Bonus Resources