|“Today is Thanksgiving. But who knows what will be on the table tomorrow.”
Thanksgiving is the nation’s most family-affirming holiday. Many people think it’s Christmas with its constant commercial advertising, incessant carols and the excitement of the exchange of gifts. How can staid Thanksgiving compete with such an attraction?
According to the National Household Travel Survey, data on long distance travel for the two holidays reveal that Thanksgiving wins by a landslide. Long distance travel of 50 miles or more increases by 54 percent over Thanksgiving but by only 23 percent during Yuletide. There is something in the genetic structure that alerts humans to the importance of an occasion that is exclusively a family gathering.
Much attention is given in the arts and humanities to the romantic moment that induces a man and woman to start on the path toward the creation of a family. Unfortunately, too little attention is given today to the economic aspects of the institution of family.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median family income of African Americans is only $39,900, but it is $63,353 for married-couple families. The median income for female headed households with no husband present is $25,417, just a bit more than the poverty level for a family of four.
Strengthening the black family should be a significant policy in the strategy to develop black wealth. Clearly, social policies to encourage female-headed households are not the way to go. Now, 72.3 percent of all black births are to unmarried women. This is true of only 28.7 percent of white births. This suggests that 72.3 percent of black babies are born into a situation of economic disadvantage.
According to the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who published a study entitled “The Negro Family” in 1965 when he was Assistant Secretary of Labor, the percentage of black births to unmarried women was only 23.6 in 1963. That was 5 percent less than the rate for white births today. What change in social values in only 48 years made an increase to 72.3 percent acceptable?
Sociologists will have different opinions. Moynihan warned that chronic unemployment and the denial of opportunities to black males was destroying black families. As a result, many women had little expectation of living in the normal family structure. He claimed that discrimination had imposed matriarchy on blacks, with women being overly dependent on government welfare.
Moynihan asserted, “It is clearly a disadvantage for a minority group to be operating on one principal, while the great majority of the population, and the one with the most advantages to begin with, is operating on another.” His objective was to motivate Congress to pass legislation to improve black employment and strengthen the male role in the black family.
Unfortunately, many black leaders misread Moynihan’s intentions. They fumed over the fact that Moynihan found the rate of out-of-wedlock births among blacks to be almost eight times the rate for whites. The so-called Moynihan Report then became a source of controversy rather than a prescription for social change.
Although families may at times be dysfunctional, the bond of consanguinity remains strong. It induces people to travel great distances to be with their relatives on Thanksgiving. Black leaders ought to encourage a family structure that gives black babies a better opportunity in life.