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Black families need fathers — not reparations for slavery

Rather than demand reparations, black Americans should seek legal damages from left-wing institutions — along with their allies in the media and academia — who’ve helped destroy the black family while producing a culture of pervasive victimhood. 

By Kendall Qualls


Progressive activists insist that government pay-outs will compensate for centuries of forced African-American labor. A far better solution is encouraging black parents to care for their kids together.

Leave it to Elon Musk to tweet a message that perfectly encapsulates the truth about reparations for slavery. At a time when the push for reparations is gaining steam nationwide, Musk’s mid-December missive — “It is easy to fool people, but it is almost impossible to convince people that they have been fooled” — has never felt more relevant. 

Over the past 50 years, progressives and self-appointed black leaders have fooled many Americans. They’ve fooled them into believing that the economic, health, and educational disparities plaguing our community are the result of racial injustices, white privilege and systemic racism. For this foolish crowd, the reparations movement — which this week gained traction with the formation of a Reparations Commission in my hometown of St. Paul, Minn. — is yet another effort to obscure the real ailments impacting blacks while siphoning off billions of dollars toward themselves and an never-ending class of government dependent families. 

Rather than demand reparations, black Americans should seek legal damages from left-wing institutions — along with their allies in the media and academia — who’ve helped destroy the black family while producing a culture of pervasive victimhood. 

Because despite their very real consequences, the biggest cause of black inequality isn’t slavery or red-lining or Jim Crow — it’s our community’s dependency on social welfare programs and the fatherless families they continue to subsidize. Established as part of Pres. Johnson’s “Great Society,” these programs paved the way for the dissolution of the traditional black family. 

In 1965, the late New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan called the then 24% unmarried birth rate in the black community a “crisis.” Moynihan wrote at the time that “a national effort towards the problems of Negro Americans must be directed towards the question of family structure . . . the object should be to strengthen the Negro family so as to enable it to raise and support its members as do other families.” 

Today, approximately 80% of black families are led by a single parent — almost always a mother without a husband. Enabled by welfare and other “Great Society” handouts, the resulting low academic scores, high incarceration rates and rampant unemployment confirm the massive negative impact progressive policies have had on black America. They’re policies that reparations — yet another form of hand-out — will not fix until fathers once again lead black homes. 

Indeed, we can no longer ignore the results of generations upon generations of fatherless families. It’s a reality I identify with all too well as the son of a divorced mother who lived in a Harlem public housing in the early 1970s. As a child, I knew the taste of powdered eggs and government cheese; I witnessed the inhumane treatment of women and children at the hands of drug addicts, criminals, and gangs. This is a grim reality, one conveniently denied by old-school progressives and young liberals intoxicated by the quick-fix reparations so easily offer. 

Reparations for slavery will not undo the damage fatherlessness has wrought. If anything, a conditions-free financial payout will only exacerbate this intractable crisis. And, as Moynihan pointed out decades ago, this is a crisis — made worse by a “woke” black leadership lacking in vision and accountability

Today, while their leaders are busy acquiring multi-million property portfolios, black youth in urban areas are failing and falling behind. In 2019, for instance, only 14% of black students in Chicago Public Schools were proficient in reading. In Baltimore Public Schools, 37% of black seniors read at grade level. High-performing private and charter schools are a well-known solution to these challenges, but school-choice continues to be restricted by, you guessed it, progressive groups and teachers unions

And so school systems, propelled by left-leaning policies, turn out semi-literate, under-employable, angry young people trapped at the lowest levels of society and unsure whom to blame for putting them there. No wonder reparations sound so tempting. 

But no matter how great these challenges may seem, the way forward is not through reparations. Instead, African-Americans must return to their cultural roots of faith, family, and better education for our children. Regardless of how neat a bow progressives try to tie around it, reparations for slavery cannot undo the generational rot caused by decades of hand-outs and fatherlessness. It will only further tether African-Americans to the culture of dependency that can and must be dismantled. 

Progressives, both black and white, often like to lie to themselves — fathers don’t matter, whites want to keep blacks down, reparations for slavery can fix every black ill. But when it comes to fooling folks, it’s not just Elon Musk dishing out words of wisdom. As Booker T. Washington wrote in his 1901 autobiography: “A lie doesn’t become truth, wrong doesn’t become right, and evil doesn’t become good, just because it’s accepted by a majority.” 


This article was first published in NYP 

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