The Moynihan Report naturalized patriarchy and rationalized inequality
The Moynihan Report naturalized patriarchy and rationalized inequality. Fifty years later, it’s still doing damage.
by Daniel Geary
For half a century, the Moynihan Report has been used to justify racial and class inequality. Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s 1965 government report, “The Negro Family,” argued that the “unstable” family structure of many African Americans — as reflected in high rates of female-headed families and out-of-wedlock births — was the primary barrier to attaining racial equality.Today, on the report’s fiftieth anniversary, Moynihan’s conclusions have bipartisan support. Conservative think tanks celebrate their supposed prescience. Conservative pundits and politicians use the report’s logic to argue that the blatant injustices recently highlighted in Ferguson, Baltimore, and elsewhere result from family structure, not exploitation and oppression.
Liberals claim Moynihan for their camp, as well, correctly pointing out that he was a liberal who advocated expanded jobs measures. But in doing so, they avoid challenging his flawed understanding of racial inequality as rooted in family structure rather than in political economy and institutional racism. Contemporary liberals, concerned with fixing a “culture of poverty,” also forget that Moynihan’s assumptions were deeply embedded in mid-twentieth-century liberalism, which advocated a “family wage” for men that made women economically dependent on their husbands.
In the 1960s, many feminists recognized the flaws in Moynihan’s analysis. To African-American feminists in particular, Moynihan propagated a pernicious myth of black “matriarchy” that combined racism with sexism. They noted that many male Black Power radicals shared Moynihan’s idea that achieving racial equality required black men to be patriarchs. For instance, African-American activist Pauli Murray was outraged when she first read in Newsweek about the Moynihan Report and how it endorsed increasing economic opportunities for African-American men at the expense of jobs available to African-American women.
A Very Interesting Historical Read:
https://www.jacobinmag.com/2015/07/moynihans-report-fiftieth-anniversary-black-family/bemildred, Enthusiast like this
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