Saturday, April 12, 2008

"The Deindustrialization of the North Caused Black Families To Erode" Really???

In a debate regarding the Black family a content contributor argued that the loss of manufacturing jobs in what is now known as "the rust belt" triggered the erosion of the Black family. He pointed to the year 1965 in which the crisis - as documented by the Kerner Commission as well as the alarm raised by Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

I will deploy my new found tactic for analyzing one's theories by playing them in reverse. Thus in order for this theory to be proven true we must be able to conclude that the rate of marriage for Black people INCREASED as they moved North into these factory jobs. Instead there is the reverse effect that is the case.

If I had to guess - and I am no sociologist - but the lack of mobility in the Southern towns that we came from meant that those African Americans who engaged in heterosexual relationships were bound by the local traditions of marriage, not 'shacking' and also were in range of the admonishment of the local preacher to stay in line as such. Upon moving to the "big city" in the North many of these social networks of cohesion were shredded and needed to be rebuilt. In fact the migration from the small town into the big city was an enabler for many of the 'players' who would otherwise be constrained by the existing framework in their towns of origin.

The mobility afforded by the big cities and the nightlife that they offered made it much easier for a broad cross section of men and women to be paired up and have more casual sexual relationships. In a few decades after the migration the real consequences of this new culture was registered.

What are my sources for this? Some excellent documentaries and books on the subject of the great migration Northward by Blacks. Chicago provides ample content of a city that was transformed by migration - mostly from Mississippi. The housing projects that are now the scorn of the city were once first rate residences that were built to address the need for housing in the rapidly expanding metropolis. Originally it was working class families in place - teachers, police men, laborers filled the corridors of these newly constructed tenements. Once housing policy changed - the fate of these places were sealed. Where as originally they were temporary until people got back on their feet - they became storerooms for the poor and dispossessed. In addition the backlash from the White residents seeking to prevent the racial tipping point of their own communities forced the policy makers to build the new projects upward - packing more people into one confined space. The new culture that was crafted began to feed on itself.

I do agree that there is a parallel between the relocation of the manufacturing sector out of the city limits, the exodus of the White population and the resulting erosion of the economic standing of the Blacks who were left behind. It is no sign of genius to make note that prior to this time the African American had no grounds to create wealth building entities in a large scale and thus the key engine components that caused this cities to roar forward - having moved away - also meant that the city deflated in proportion to the loss of its vital propulsion system.

In the wake of all of this, however, is the growing Black political and activist class. If indeed the "intact Black family" was a central goal of their agenda - you could have fooled me. In most cases a "Bronx Cheer" was given to the exiting White folks. Their departure meant that "THEIR PEOPLE" would now assume the reigns of power in the city. "Things were going to be different now that WE ARE IN CHARGE!!".

In the "Strategic Failure 101" that was committed the Black political activism machine went for POLITICAL POWER as a means of achieving ECONOMIC POWER. If we are to be intellectually honest - we would have to conclude that this was a tragic mistake and that we are living through it right now.

To be clear - the Black experience in America has been that of "Labor" and not "Ownership/Management". Thus it stands to reason that the newly crafted Black political class at the time were more "pro-labor" than they were "pro-owner" or even neutral - attempting to achieve a balance. As the environments became more hostile to business - the exodus of these businesses increased.

So what does this have to do with the conditions of "the Black family"? EASY! We can talk to nearly anyone who has grown up in an old Northern inner city and make note of the dramatic changes that have taken place within them over the past 40 years. I recall seeing a picture of my grandfather standing on a street in Philadelphia. He had a "57 Chevy" type car. The most interesting portion of the picture, however, was the cleanliness of the street and how well the gardens and houses were maintained in the backdrop. I had to ask my mom "Is this how the street used to look?" Indeed the block of 61st and Jefferson in Philly, despite being rental duplexes where also full of BLACK FAMILIES at the time. These "renters" had an "ownership" mentality when it came to the upkeep of their residences.

As you return to these areas today you will note that many of them are undercapitalized. The owners don't have the money to do a wholesale renovation of the property, improving the 'curb appeal' in the process. Much of this is from the fact that the tenants lack the financial resources to bear the increase in rent that would fund this capital expenditure. All of this is a cycle and flow. All of it stems from the availability of good paying jobs that initiate the 'dollar velocity' WITHIN our community.

So more to the point of the original question - yes the change in industrialization of the cities had an impact on the economic standing of the people living within. We can't conclude, however, that the Black family unit was eroded due to the degraded financial impact that job loss had created. Clearly there is a larger cultural basis for this change.

Beyond all of this - IF indeed we see the COST of low marriage rates within our community - the forward leaning question is "What are we going to do about it TODAY so that tomorrow is DIFFERENT"? Pointing to the past alone is not going to prove to be a fix.

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