there's no quarreling with the essence of the alarm sounded here last week by a gathering of Pentecostal clergy and the Seymour Institute for Advanced Christian Studies. What is happening to the black family in America is the sociological equivalent of global warming: easier to document than to reverse, inconsistent in its near-term effect -- and disastrous in the long run.
Father absence is the bane of the black community, predisposing its children (boys especially, but increasingly girls as well) to school failure, criminal behavior and economic hardship, and to an intergenerational repetition of the grim cycle. The culprit, the ministers (led by the Rev. Eugene Rivers III of Boston, president of the Seymour Institute) agreed, is the decline of marriage.
Kenneth B. Johnson, a Seymour senior fellow who has worked in youth programs, says he often sees teenagers "who've never seen a wedding."
. . .
The absence of fathers means, as well, that girls lack both a pattern against which to measure the boys who pursue them and an example of sacrificial love between a man and a woman. As the ministers were at pains to say last week, it isn't the incompetence of mothers that is at issue but the absence of half of the adult support needed for families to be most effective.
Interestingly, they blamed the black church for abetting the decline of the black family -- by moderating virtually out of existence its once stern sanctions against extramarital sex and childbirth and by accepting the present trends as more or less inevitable.
They didn't say -- but might have -- that black America's almost reflexive search for outside explanations for our internal problems delayed the introspective examination that might have slowed the trend.
Monday, July 25, 2005