Pew Research Center: 72% of Black Children Raised By Single Mothers

WASHINGTON – The Pew Research Center just provided fresh data about the American family. Well, we sort of knew that the classic “nuclear family” is no longer the dominant model.

Stunning facts

But here are some almost incredible facts about the growing number of children raised by unwed mothers. The national average is now 41%. Among Black women the ratio is 72%. This is truly stunning.

Let’s leave aside any moral considerations about the vanishing of “traditional families”, about the loss of once “sacred values”, and so on. Let’s focus, however, on the socio-economic impact of the rising number of children raised by single mothers.

Well educated mothers would have no problems raising kids

In principle, if we could assume that all or most single mothers were well-educated, with good jobs and therefore able to pay for quality day care for their kids, there should be no major problems.

If we could assume that these children are indeed taken care of, if we could stipulate that they will have access to good health care and later on a good education, then their future prospects should be at least within the national average.

Poverty delivers more poverty

But unfortunately it is not so. In most cases, single mothers, and especially young Black mothers, are poor and uneducated. Sure enough, there are social programs that provide some support. But never enough to make a real difference.

And therefore the most common reality is that the majority of Black children are raised in poverty or semi-poverty. As they grow up, they can expect to get only a mediocre or bad education.

Most of them will not finish high school. Many will become involved in petty crime, or worse, ending up in jail. Overall, this means that the majority will have only very limited jobs or career opportunities as adults. In other words, they will be poor and marginalized. And this means that poverty is carried from one generation to the next without any real chance of breaking the cycle.

No chances

While some of the 72% of Black women who have children alone may be resourceful and able to escape poverty, therefore giving real chances to their children, most of them will not.

Of course, poverty has many causes. However, a growing number of poor young mothers, with little or no education, trying to raise babies on their own, do not help to improve the picture.

They are poor and their poor children most likely will be poor adults.




Almost Impossible To Discuss Poverty and Race In America

WASHINGTON – Old and encrusted socio-economic problems related to race issues have become intractable in America. In large part this is because they cannot be discussed in an objective way.

No honest conversation about race and poverty

This is what columnist Juan Williams (he is black) stated in a WSJ op-ed piece, (Getting Past Name-Calling to Talk About Poverty, April 30, 2014). He is right. Essentially, America is still prisoner of ideological oversimplifications –on the left and on the right– that make a productive conversation on the roots of black poverty and how to overcome it essentially impossible.

Everybody has a chance

Conservatives are inclined to think that in (color blind, totally fair) America the only obstacle between any individual, no matter their race, gender or background, and material success is lack of a “hard work ethic” and perseverance. Here is the simple recipe: if you study hard, then work hard and do your best, you are bound to get results.

After all, this is America, universally known as “The Land of Opportunity”. Here everybody gets a fair chance, not matter what. From this vantage point, the inability to “make it” in America is a sign of a weak character, a personal failure that has nothing to do with the broader social context.

The game is fixed

Liberals would tell you instead that there is no real opportunity for black people who have been discriminated against for centuries. While open discrimination is illegal, the game is still fixed against them. Most blacks do not have a fair shot at the “American Dream”, because they have no real access.

The system does not give them a chance.

Therefore, the only way out of this is to create, via enlightened social policies, new paths for the perennially underprivileged. And, if some programs do not work as they should, it is simply because they are underfunded. Add money, and you’ll get better results.

Truth in the middle

Of course, the truth is in the middle. While racial discrimination is illegal, racism does exist. There is still a negative bias against black people. And this is obviously unfair.

However, it is also true that many black communities have yet to embrace a culture of committment and hard work. There is a lot of dysfunction, ranging from teen pregnancy to absent fathers and no interest in education that conspire to create new generations of black young people adrift and poor. They drop out of school, or do poorly in school. Many get involved in gangs or petty crime. And it is obvious that there are not many doors open for young people who have a criminal record but no education. The notion that the only way to help them is through more social programs is wishful thinking.

Change the culture

Realistically, not much will change unless the culture and psychology are changed. People need to feel motivated in order to engage. If the prevailing culture is that it is no use to get an education and find a job, while there are more easy money prospects through crime, then the vicious cycle of poverty-ignorance-crime-jail-poverty will continue.

Finding new common ground?

Given all this, it should be noted, as Williams writes in his piece, that some, like Representative Paul Ryan, Chairman of the House Budget Committee, are trying to break these stereotypes by engaging black leaders in an attempt to find a new common ground that hopefully will lead to more productive policies.

The facts are clear. However noble the intentions, a variety of federal and state anti-poverty social programs have not worked well, or have not worked at all. Notwithstanding billions and billions of dollars spent over decades, the black-white divide is still there and all sorts of statistics confirm this grim reality.

Clearly all this is very complicated. How do you fix education, families and bad neighborhoods? How much is society supposed to do? And how much is really the responsibility of the people living in these communities? Who knows really.

But, at the very least, we should welcome any honest attempt to have an honest conversation about all this. However, it appears that this may not happen.

The liberal establishment does not want a new conversation

The liberal establishment does not like any dialogue outside the orthodox official doctrine whereby black poverty is the direct result of discrimination and racism. From this perspective, any talk about “personal responsibility”, “work ethic” and “effort” as  integral components of the problem is immediately labeled as disguised or open racism, yet another example of “blaming the victim”.

Well, if this is the attitude, then Paul Ryan will not accomplish much. No black leader will engage in any dialogue with a white racist, let alone take any advice from him.




President Obama Picked The Zimmerman Case To Talk About Racial Bias In America. A Bad Idea

By Paolo von Schirach

July 20, 2013

WASHINGTON – President Obama felt the need to inject his own presidential and personal perspective as an African American male into the Zimmerman trial not guilty verdict. While on the surface this may appear a nuanced, thoughtful interjection, in reality it was most unhelpful. On the face of it, Obama’s impromptu speech appears  politically motivated. An African American President felt the need to speak to his own audience in terms they would like, even though doing so required a willful distortions. Please remember that Obama is a lawyer.

Willful misrepresentation of the case

While speaking calmly, President Obama essentially endorsed the totally wrong and misleading narrative whereby a grown up white male with a gun killed an innocent Black teen-ager out of racial spite. Adding insult to injury, the wicked White-dominated justice system let him get away with it, endorsing the fanciful defense thesis whereby Zimmerman acted in self-defense. “Well, come on. How can this be? A grown up White person with a gun feared for his life in a street confrontation with an unarmed Black kid?”

It is “obvious” that Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, was on a hunt. Because of his racial prejudice, he was looking for Black suspects. When he saw young Trayvon Martin, he pursued him, triggered a confrontation and then killed him. The absurd Florida “stand your ground” law that permits people who feel endangered to react forcefully, and that includes shooting, provides an ugly cover to yet another case of  White on Black violence.

Presidential endorsement

Yes, this is the narrative adopted by most African American leaders. And President Obama, even though he did not openly say that he believes Zimmerman acted out of racial bias, essentially endorsed this totally false version of the story.

Let me back track a moment. To be absolutely clear, I did say well before the trial and after the verdict that this tragedy occurred because the system allows armed amateur detectives like Zimmerman to roam around looking for suspects. I did say and I repeat now that Zimmerman did not belong there. He should not have been patrolling the streets armed with a gun. This is police work. Amateurs not allowed. So, in my judgement this is a real issue; and an issue worth discussing. There is something profoundly wrong with a system that allows almost anybody to act as if they were competent enough to do police work.

The killing was not racially motivated

That said, the long investigation and lengthy trial did not come up with the slightest shred of evidence that Zimmerman, himself half  Hispanic, would fit the “red-neck-racist” profile. There is no evidence that he pursued young Trayvon Martin because he was Black. These are the facts of the case. This was a horrible tragedy. A tragedy that could have been avoided, had Zimmerman, a private citizen, stayed at home instead of venturing out looking for suspects. But this killing in no way fits the narrative now endorsed by President Obama.

This was not a racially motivated killing.

There is racial prejudice in America

President Obama is right in reminding America that racial prejudice is still alive and well. And this is an issue that all people of good will should face and focus on. Racial prejudice is still with us; and it is wrong. However, President Obama did not help the needed national reflection on such weighty matters by using the wrong example, the Zimmerman trial  and not guilty verdict, to stress this point.

The killing of young Trayvon Martin was and is a tragedy. And the state of Florida, along with all the others that have adopted “stay your ground laws” while allowing amateurs to behave like the police, should take notice.

Zimmerman trial is not illustrative of lingering racism

But President Obama should not have endorsed the wrong narrative that describes this sad event as a racially motivated killing. Nobody denies that racist feelings are alive and well across America. However, linking the Trayvon Martin killing with the long but distant past of segregation and White on Black violence is not at all helpful.

Mercifully, Jim Crow laws and lynchings occurring on a daily basis are way behind us. The President should know this. And instead he used the Trayvon Martin killing as evidence that the entire Black community is still a victim of prejudice and violence, and therefore well within its rights to protest against this unending injustice. This is a self-serving narrative pushed by self-appointed “civil rights leaders“. But it is just not true.  To cite just the most obvious fact that contradicts this convenient interpretation of the conditions of Blacks and other minorities in the US, in today’s America most young Black males are killed by other young Black males. Who’s protesting against that? President Obama knows all this. And yet he never properly discussed this sad truth of Black on Black violence.

In addressing the Zimmerman not guilty verdict Obama, himself a lawyer, decided to misrepresent what happened. Regrettably, he willfully manipulated the facts of a real tragedy to say something that would please his political supporters. Perhaps a politically astute move; but not at all presidential.




Will America Ever Become A Truly Color Blind Society?

By Paolo von Schirach

June 25, 2013

WASHINGTON – The only way to finally “resolve” the painfully complicated race  issue in America is to finally become a truly color blind society. The day in which anybody’s race becomes totally irrelevant on economic, social, cultural and moral issues, then and only then we shall be able to say that America managed to overcome this horribly divisive race problem. 

The problem with affirmative action

That said, some of the key remedial actions devised long ago to give a fighting chance to Blacks, (beyond land mark federal legislation of the 1960s that finally prohibited ant type of open discrimination on the basis of race or color), seem to have had the unintended  consequence of encouraging people –Blacks and Whites– to keep regarding race as a critical matter in adjudicating all sort of issues: from college admission to hiring staff.

If we look back at the policy goals, affirmative action legislation was intended as a tool that would give a chance to those who had been historically discriminated against. Quotas were aimed at insuring that at least some Blacks and other minorities could make it. Fair enough.

When it is good to be a minority

Still, the awareness that, for instance, a number of places in universities are reserved for African-Americans and other minorities has had the unintended consequence of encouraging Blacks to keep thinking of themselves as a previously oppressed minority now entitled to special treatment.

In other words, even today, a reasonably well-educated Black person has every interest in preserving his/her “Black identity” in order to benefit from a system that, in the name of overcoming past injustice, allows him or her to have an extra advantage in the competition for limited places in a university. In a truly color blind selection process, a process in which there is no goal to secure a “diverse” student body, this person would lose the extra advantage, and he or she may not make the cut.

Which is to say that, paradoxically, in an affirmative action context, being Black in many instances is in fact an asset rather than a liability. But this realization of the advantages of racial minority status also justifies the self-perpetuation of the old assumptions: “I deserve special treatment today. This is a totally legitimate way to redress past and present discrimination. Affirmative action is only a remedial tool to counter the effects of lingering racial prejudice”. 

Reinforcing racial identity

Which is to say that remedies such as affirmative action legislation, even if sincerely aimed at kick starting the creation of a level playing field, in reality encourage “minorities” to think of themselves not as citizens like everybody else but as a perpetually aggrieved group. And this because it is this status and only this status of minority entitled to redress that allows them to claim special treatment when it comes to going to college, getting a job or being awarded certain types of government contracts.

Quotas fuel prejudice

That said, it would be totally unfair to deny that racial prejudice is still alive and well in America. Unfortunately, even today, people are denied jobs, credit and a lot more simply because they are Black, and therefore assumed to be “untrustworthy, lazy, unproductive”, and what not. None of this is done overtly, because it would be illegal to do so. But it is done.

However, it is also true that affirmative action provisions aimed at overcoming the consequences of groundless prejudice tend to reinforce the racial divide. Blacks see them as necessary redress for past discrimination and present bias. But in so doing they keep thinking of themselves as a “Black minority” rather than citizens, as everybody else.

Whites see affirmative action as favors bestowed for political reasons on otherwise undeserving people. To the extent that Whites believe that Blacks get jobs they do not really deserve only because of quotas this helps reinforce rather than dilute racial prejudice.

“I am an American”

In a recent talk show featuring several conservative Blacks, (a small minority within the larger minority), it was refreshing to hear that most of them rejected the “African-American” label for themselves. “I am an American”, they said. “I happen to be Black. But I am an American”. Interesting. 

I call this rejection of (perpetually) aggrieved group identity an important step forward. When both Blacks and Whites will finally reject race as an issue likely to influence any type of judgement call America will have truly progressed.




With a Bad Economy Obama Should Lose in 2012, But He May Win As Democrats Have a Much Broader Appeal Among Minorities Likely To Decide The Next Elections – And They Do Not Vote Republican

[the-subtitle ]

By Paolo von Schirach

June 13, 2011

WASHINGTON – Obama is supposed to lose the 2012 elections. The economy is still in bad shape, with dismal growth. Unemployment around 9% is horrendously high by any historic standard; while we have yet to emerge from the catastrophic housing slump. Any incumbent president going into an election with this record should be very vulnerable. Right? Wrong. Obama may be vulnerable; but the Republican party is more vulnerable, because its “natural” constituency is much too narrow, and so is its message.

Republicans are white and middle class

Let’s take a step back. Looking at the assembled Republican delegates during the 2008 Convention leading to the nomination of septuagenarian John McCain as candidate was rather worrisome for anybody hoping to have a vibrant two party system in America. Very simply, the cameras gave you a view of an almost entirely white, mostly male and somewhat elderly middle class crowd. If this was and still is the “base” of the Republican Party, then, whatever else may happen, it will never have a chance of becoming a majority party.

And, unless miraculously the Republicans nominate a candidate for 2012 who can credibly appeal way beyond the narrow constituency represented by those delegates at the 2008 convention, they have slim chances of beating Obama, however weak he may be next year, given the bad state of the economy.

Democrats appeal to minorities now growing fast

Very simply, the Democratic Party has the significant political advantage of appealing to “diverse America”, even though mostly for the wrong reasons, in as much as it is the party that promises to “give things”: assistance, aid, welfare. But precisely because it gives things to them, the Democratic Party has solid support among Latinos, Blacks, women, senior citizesn and single mothers, typically the weaker and more vulnerable segments of society.

The Republicans have essentially zero appeal among most of these constituencies. And the problem for them is that these groups are growing fast, whereas the white, male, middle class voters are shrinking as a percentage of the total. As Mike Murphy noted in TIME Magazine, (Numbers Matters. But Which Ones?, June 20, 2011), a bad economy certainly plays to the strengths of the pro-business Republicans; but the significant demographic shifts already occurred and still underway strongly support Democrats. And demographics may very well trump the economy unless another disaster occurs before November 2012.

Republicans cannot run just on spending cuts

Of course the fact that when the Democrats rule they feel an obligation to provide more and more for their aggrieved constituencies is in large part the reason why our debt grows and we are now are in this fiscal mess. But, from a stand point of political appeal, the Republicans cannot credibly run on an austerity message and nothing else. A platform about major spending cuts and tax cuts alone, as the magic mix that will re-energize America and make everybody rich, will not sell in the inner cities. In case you did not notice, there has not been much trickle-down there in the poor neighborhoods lately.

Republican inclusiveness: America as ”Opportunity Society”

If they want to win, the Republicans need to credibly broaden their base. And therefore they need to have a positive, constructive message of inclusiveness, something that gives genuine hope to minorities and others who feel left out. If the Republicans do not want to go the route of welfare, aid and subsidies, then they should be able to re-cast themselves as the party that will recreate a genuine ”Opportunity Society” in America. There is no contradiction between sound economic and fiscal policies and providing a real ladder to all those willing to climb it.

Education is step one

And the very first rung of this opportunity ladder has got to be quality public education. Opportunity is not real without access. And education is the prerequisite for access. Yes, one can be fiscally responsible and also socially inclusive by making sure that most Americans will have good education and thus the tools to participate and engage in their own version of the American Dream.

Blacks and women as delegates at 2012 GOP Convention?

It would be nice to see Blacks and women and Latinos as delegates at the next Republican Convention. And not because they have been “bought” with welfare promises; but because they do feel that they are building a real “Opportunity Society” in which all Americans will have a chance. It would be nice; but I doubt that we shall see it.

And thus expect Barack Obama to be re-elected, as the Republicans stay prisoners of their own narrow world –a world overwhelmed, for better or worse, by a radically transformed America.




At the Heart of The Obama “Birth Certificate Issue” There is Racist Prejudice

[the-subtitle ]

by Paolo von Schirach

April 27, 2011

WASHINGTON– So, in the end Donald Trump’s well orchestrated inquisition, including private investigators sent to Hawaii, forced President Barack Obama to produce in public the original document that, indeed, certifies that he was actually born in Hawaii, US soil. Therefore he was and is eligible to be President. So little Barack was not born in a Kenyan hut in the middle of the savanna, delivered by a witch doctor, with lions roaring outside. No, folks, it really was Hawaii. Disappointed? Well, I am sure some really are. However, I bet that for many “birthers” the release of this document will not make a bit of difference. Prejudice is notoriously impervious to facts.

Unhappy day

But this is an unhappy day for America. We have reached a new low in the time honored practice of political smear. Donald Trump, who thinks with some reason that practicing to be a candidate for national political office is really no different that being a TV celebrity, whereby theatrics are just as relevant as policy, even said that he is proud of himself. He “forced” the birth issue out. And so now, if it will be settled because Obama finally produced the document, it is all thanks to him. A real hero, America.

Real story: disguised racism

But, beyond the theatrics, let’s not kid ourselves. The real story here is that the whole campaign alleging that Obama was not born in the US and thus, according to the US Constitution, would not be eligible to be President, is only thinly disguised racism. The totally bogus birth certificate issue was just a convenient peg to “demonstrate” that this man should not be President. And –let’s make this absolutely clear– they do not want him as President because he is Black. This is the unspoken, undisclosed real story.

The “birthers” will not be convinced

If the birth certificate issue had been raised in good faith by people who had at least some reasonable ground to be uncertain, then there should be a collective sigh of relief and all the good people would say: “Alright. This is now settled. Now we can move on”. But I doubt it. How many “birthers” will be reassured, now that the original document of Obama’s birth on US soil has been produced? I bet that many will say that the document is a forgery; that it is all a conspiracy, that the Hawaii state government has been bought, etc. In fact, the publisher of a book entirely devoted to the birth issue just stated that the documemt release by Obama changes nothing and that he expect to sell at least 500,000 copies.

Obama Muslim?

And then, of course, there is the other parallel story of those who believe that Obama is morally ineligible to be President because “he is a Muslim”. For them, the subtext runs like this: “America, you see, is a Christian nation, and so it is an abomination to have a Muslim President”. And this belief shows that the supposedly cardinal American principle of a clear separation between Church and State for many Americans applies if we postulate that Christians only may have a seat at the table. So, we cannot have a Muslim President and, as Obama is a Muslim, he is in place he does not deserve, as it is reserved “for one of us”.

Obama is not a Muslim. But, as in the birth issue, facts do not matter. In order to make the point that he should not be President, we simply claim that he is. And so we can make our point.

Fabrications allow people to claim Obama should not be President

So, two fabrications, the birth issue and the Muslim faith, provide “factual” basis for claiming that Obama should not be President. So, we can be racist without even mentioning race. We can disguise a basic prejudice without even admitting it, because ostensibly what we claim diqualifies Obama is not race.

Fate had it that Obama’s unusual background, the African father, the American mother’s international development work, his years in Indonesia and more, on top of his racial features, created the deep conviction among many Americans that “he is not one of us”.

Audience willing to believe

So, for a sizable minority of Americans it is possible to say that “he is not one us” on account of his unusual background. But the truth is that –for them–he is not one of us because he is Black. However, the problem is that they cannot say this publicly, as open profession of racism is now unacceptable. So, the easy fall back was to dig into Obama’s unusual background and “discover” damning evidence.

And so they did, finding a large audience willing to believe anything that would confirm their prejudice. But all of this reveals just one simple fact. The people who bought the whole foreign birth and Muslim faith story are not “unserious”. On the contrary, they are very seriously racist.

We thought the 2008 elections were a mile stone

For a brief moment it appeared that the 2008 election of Barack Obama, with a really large number of white voters supporting him, signaled the end of racism in America. Well, if not the end of racism, at least the beginning of a promising new chapter in which race would no longer be a lingering but unspoken divide. A divide that we would rather not talk about; but that nonetheless is still an open wound showing no sign of healing. We really thought that the 2008 elections represented a new mile stone in the American spiritual and political journey that led from slavery to the Civil War to segregation to civil rights legislation, now to Obama and who knows what else in the future.

For some Whites Blacks are not legitimate

It is clear that at least some Whites do not look at Blacks as really legitimate participants in this society. This obsession about Obama’s birth certificate and the parallel belief held by millions that he is a (dangerous?) Muslim, taken together, are evidence that a big chunk of our chequered racist past is still very much with us. Obama producing a piece of paper will not change these negative emotions held by so many. There is no additional “certificate” that President Obama can produce attesting that he is a truly legitimate American. For some he is not. Period.

This unfortunate story tells us that the day in which we shall all be able to judge a person not by race but by “the content of their character” is still quite far. Let’s hope not too far.