Ferguson And Baltimore Race Riots Vindicate Pat Moynihan


It is always bittersweet to realize that a prediction made fifty years before was prescient.  Last week, after the fourth massively publicized death of a black man either at the hands of police or while in police custody in the United States in nine months, the city of Baltimore erupted with what can only be described as race riots.  The mob that assembled in the streets, aided by city government leaders, sought the destruction of their home all because a career criminal, who it turns out may well have been a police informant, died as a result of injuries sustained in a police van.  The one uniting factor of all the people who rose up against authority – in this revolt, the police – was race.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.

What is more than a little sad about this, is five decades ago, a very smart, very caring, honest, and truly well meaning man, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, an undersecretary of labor at the time and later a U.S. Senator from the state of New York, published a report in 1965 in which he said that the greatest danger to blacks in the United States was the breakdown of the black family via the absence of fathers.  His premise was that because of the absence of the upstanding male authority figure in the household, black men did not learn to be moral leaders.  For this observation, Pat Moynihan was labelled racist, and called every insulting name in the book.

What the last year in the United States has proven is that he was right.  Brilliantly, and very sadly correct.

  • Michael Brown of Ferguson, Missouri was a child born out of wedlock to teenage parents and was being raised by his paternal grandmother.  He obviously had no respect for any sort of authority.
  • Eric Garner in New York was an adult, but continued to sell black market cigarettes and smart mouth the police rather than finding a legitimate way to make a living.
  • Freddie Gray was a drug dealer.  He came from a broken home.  No one who is a drug dealer has respect for authority and the society that puts those people in charge.  He stayed out of jail because he was a snitch.

And, even more damning, the most compelling image of the Baltimore episode, Toya Graham pulling her son out of the rock throwing circus and chasing him home all while slapping him upside the head, demonstrated Moynihan’s thesis more thoroughly than the report ever could.  Graham’s son lives in matriarchal house.  Yes, she was correct and demonstrated to the world that she would not tolerate that behavior, but it was the child’s mother doing it, not the father.  Mothers are vital, but so are fathers.

From the wild Irish slums of the 19th century Eastern seaboard, to the riot-torn suburbs of Los Angeles, there is one unmistakable lesson in American history; a community that allows a large number of men to grow up in broken families, dominated by women, never acquiring any stable relationship to male authority, never acquiring any set of rational expectations about the future — that community asks for and gets chaos. Crime, violence, unrest, disorder — most particularly the furious, unrestrained lashing out at the whole social structure — that is not only to be expected; it is very near to inevitable. And it is richly deserved.  ~ From The Negro Family: The Case for National Action (1965) by Daniel Patrick Moynihan

And the national social system that does not require men to be men, and seeks to tell women “just be strong, you don’t need a man” which has taken hold in the United States, has nowhere to hide.  Yes, the social breakdown began in the black community much longer ago than 1965, but whites are catching up – all because the government is taking the natural place of a man in a woman’s life in the form of the welfare state.

It is very easy to pin the blame for all of this lawlessness and the breakdown of the black family on the Great Society and fifty years of liberal policies, but the truth is it started much earlier than that.  Jason Riley pointed out on Special Report Friday night, during the Watts Riots in 1965, the societal “pathologies” described by Moynihan already existed, and the black middle class fled the underclass that still has little education, job skills, and thus opportunities despite the billions spent to reverse the process.

It is also easy to blame the Jesse Jacksons and the Al Sharptons for the constant drone of rhetoric blaming every ill that befalls a black person on racism.  That certainly added fuel to the fires of the riots and was taken as gospel among those who are willingly led.  But that is not the complete story, either.

There does not seem to be, at least at the lower end of the socio-economic scale for either blacks in the cities and whites in certain boondocks, any sort of respect for authority that counters the intimate male bonding that comes with gangs and illicit behavior.  Young men, then, have for their male role model not a father, but criminals.  Mothers, no matter how good their intentions, cannot counter that.

Daniel Patrick Moynihan was correct.  It is society’s purpose to civilize its young males, and the greatest obstacle to doing that is the absence of a father in the home.  We are seeing that played out on the streets fifty years after he said it.  And that it happened during the decline of living Judeo-Christian religion as opposed to being spiritual and only going to church on Christmas and Easter cannot go without a mention.

How to fix that is the challenge that will take more than the 30 years of social policy that Moynihan claims it takes to effect change.  We in the United States are faced with rebuilding the social structure itself against the constant drone of “if it feels good do it.”  And without the wisdom of Pat Moynihan to point out the distilled truth whether we want to hear it or not.

About the Author

Cultural Limits
A resident of Flyover Country, Cultural Limits is a rare creature in American Conservatism - committed to not just small government, Christianity and traditional social roles, but non-profits and high arts and culture. Watching politics, observing human behavior and writing are all long-time interests. In her other life, CL writes romance novels under her nom de plume, Patricia Holden (@PatriciaHoldenAuthor on Facebook), and crochets like a mad woman (designs can be found on Facebook @BohemianFlairCrochet and on Pinterest on the Bohemian Flair Crochet board). In religion, CL is Catholic; in work, the jill of all trades when it comes to fundraising software manipulation and event planning; in play, a classically trained soprano and proud citizen of Cardinal Nation, although, during hockey season, Bleeds Blue. She lives in the Mid-Mississippi River Valley with family and two cute and charming tyrants...make that toy dogs.