Daniel Geary, the author of Beyond Civil Rights: The Moynihan Report and its Legacy, examines the relationship between the Moynihan Report and the civil rights movement. April, 2015.
>> Good afternoon, everyone. I'd like to welcome you to this afternoon's event in the Ford School Policy Talk Series- Beyond Civil Rights: The Moynihan Report and Its Legacy. I'm Sandra Danziger, Professor of Social Work, Research Professor of Public Policy, and Director of the Intern Steering Committee of the National Poverty Center. On behalf of our center and the Poverty Research Community here at U of M and Dean Susan Collins of the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, I want to welcome all of you here and all of you who are also participating via live web stream and Twitter and I've been asked to ask you to please turn the sound off your cell phones, if you haven't yet. So just about 50 years ago in March 1965, this internal memo of 78 pages in length, written from the Labor Department to the LBJ administration opened a Pandora's box and set off a firestorm that in some ways continues to this day. We'll learn a great deal this afternoon about how the Moynihan Report came about, what Moynihan's intentions were or might have been at the time, and what this report has meant for domestic social policy and the social science and social policy research community ever since. So first, I want to go briefly over our format and hope that you refer to your program for further details and speaker bios. I hope everyone got one of these. Our featured speaker, Daniel Geary, will go first and talk about his forthcoming book and then our discussants will follow and our moderator will facilitate a brief dialogue between the speakers. Then just after 5:00 p.m., we'll aim to open up for questions from the audience. I'd like to remind you that if you have a question for our discussants, please write it on one of the cards passed out at the entrance and Ford School volunteers will begin collecting question cards at around 4:40. Our students, Marin [phonetic], Alamu [phonetic], and Damar Lewis [phonetic], you want to stand up, will collect your questions and ask questions. And if you're watching online, you can submit via Twitter using the hashtag policytalks. So I'll now turn the podium over to Assistant Professor of Public Policy and historian, Joy Rohde, who will introduce the speakers.
>> Thank you, Sandy. Thank you, everyone, for coming. It gives me great pleasure to introduce Daniel Geary. He's the Mark Pigott Assistant Professor of US History at Trinity College, Dublin and his work focuses on the intellectual and political history of the 20th century United States, particularly the midcentury United States, and we're here to hear about his new book but I also want to recommend to you his first book, which is a wonderful biography of a very important sociologist and that book is called "Radical Ambition: C. Wright Mills, the Left, and American Social Thought" and today we're going to hear about his new book forthcoming in June from the University of Pennsylvania Press and you, as I already have, can order it ahead of time on Amazon. It's called "Beyond Civil Rights: The Moynihan Report and Its Legacy" and it's a very sophisticated and you'll see a very welcomed study of the report and its long and varied impacts on how we talk about race in American and particularly how we talk about race and inequality in policy context. Commenting after Professor Geary's talk will be Anthony Chen, a political and historical sociologist from Northwestern University and a former colleague here at the Ford School and we've very pleased to have Tony back with us today. He's the author of "The Fifth Freedom: Jobs, Politics, and Civil Rights in the United States," which is the history of affirmative action in employment and its won more awards than I have time to tell you about right now. He's currently working on a study of the emergence of affirmative action in colleges in the United States. Also commenting will be Matthew Alanu [phonetic] who's pursuing a joint PhD in sociology and public policy here at the University of Michigan and he's currently conducting very important and interesting research about how disadvantaged black men understand their lives in the face of stigma and social oppression. So, I'll turn it over to Professor Geary.
>> Thank you very much for that lovely introduction. It's a pleasure to be here today. At a time when liberals and conservatives can't seem to agree on anything, they have joined together to celebrate the Moynihan Report, written exactly 50 years ago today or not today but around this time, Daniel Patrick Moynihan's "The Negro Family" famously argued that the "unstable family structure of many African-Americans as reflected is female-headed families and out-of-wedlock births would damage efforts to achieve full racial equality. Just last month, liberal pundit Nicholas Kristof and conservative columnist George Will both wrote columns praising Moynihan's conclusion that bolstering two-parent homes is essential to fighting poverty. To be sure Kristof and Will draw opposite policy conclusions from the Moynihan Report, Kristof argues for programs to bolster two-parent families while Will argues that government programs can only damage family structure. Nevertheless, both offer strikingly similar narratives, the controversy that surrounded the Moynihan Report, that it was misunderstood and that Moynihan was unfairly attacked from the left as a racist. The title of Kristof's column, in fact, was "When Liberals Blew it." Kristof and Will, following in a tradition nearly as old as the report itself, misrepresent the history of report, misrepresent the controversy over the report, and perpetuate a misguided approach to understanding combating racial and class inequality. Remarkably, even 50 years after its publication, the Moynihan Report remains a Rorschach test inviting viewers to see in it what they want, as well as a litmus test reflecting deep ideological cleavages. In my talk today, I want to explain how a single document can be praised by Kristof and Will and indeed by President Obama and Paul Ryan while, nevertheless, remain anathema to many on the left. I will argue that the Moynihan Report controversy did not result from a misunderstanding of Moynihan's intentions, which is the most common current understanding of it, but rather it resulted from the report's own inconsistencies and its embodiment of a series of contentious assumptions about race, gender, and the role of government. These assumptions came under intense challenge in the late 1960s and the 1970s. The 1965 document officially titled "The Negro Family: The Case for National Action" is colloquially named after its author, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who was then an official in Lyndon Johnson's administration. Moynihan wrote at the dawn of a new era in American race relations. Key legislation in 1964 and 1965 had ended. Jim Crow segregation had given formal equality to African-Americans and had discredited overt arguments for white supremacy. Yet Moynihan's opening sentence warned, "The United States is approaching a new crisis in race relations. The crisis, Moynihan wrote, resulted from African-American demands that went beyond civil rights to include economic equality. Moynihan was responding to civil rights leaders who had long advocated economic reforms designed to ensure a basic standard of living for all Americans. The 1963 march on Washington after all was a march for jobs and freedom. Yet Moynihan worried that achieving full racial equality would be hindered by what he viewed as the "crumbling" and "deteriorating" structure of many African-American families. Family structure stood at the heart of what Moynihan notoriously labeled a tangle of pathology evident in high rates of juvenile delinquency, drug abuse, and poor educational achievement among African-Americans. Moynihan's thesis produced conflicting notions about how to combat racial inequality. Focus on male unemployment's destructive effects on families indicated the need for an activist state to surpass the limited anti-poverty measures enacted by Johnson during his war on poverty. In particular, Moynihan argued for full male employment and a guaranteed annual income. Moynihan later explained his strategy of appealing to family in order to win support from white Americans. This is a quote from Moynihan later on. He said, "By couching the issue in terms of family, white America could be brought to see the tired old issues of employment, housing, and discrimination in terms of much greater urgency than they evoke on their own." However, Moynihan undermined his case for national action by treating family pathology not simply as an effective economic inequality but as the primary cause of what he saw as the inability of African-Americans to compete with other groups. Moynihan asserted that family structure was the "fundamental source of the weakness of the negro community." He also speculated that poverty had become self perpetuating.
The situation, he wrote, may have begun to feed on itself. Well if that were true, then African-American inequality was an intractable problem that could not be effectively addressed by government action. The report's ambiguity proved useful for Moynihan, who sought acclaim across the political spectrum, and for the Johnson administration, which adopted the Civil Rights Movement's rhetoric about economic equality but failed to endorse the necessary measures such as the $100 billion freedom budget advocated by civil rights' leaders. The report's central [inaudible], whether family instability was a symptom of broader inequality or its primary cause, also explains why for five decades it has been cited by literals favoring national action as well as by conservatives promoting racial self-help alone. After the report was released in August 1965, it won defenders as ideologically diverse as Martin Luther King and William Buckley. The report's ambiguity suggests that the controversy over it cannot be understood as many scholars today argue as a simple case of "misunderstandings and misrepresentations," to quote historian James Patterson. Misrepresentations did feed the debate as they do in any significant controversy but they did not [inaudible] only on one side. If opponents sometimes missed Moynihan's liberal intentions, he and the supporters often ignored the substance of their criticisms by reducing them to assertions that Moynihan was a racist, a charge that few critics actually made. In fact, it is strange to make Moynihan out as a victim of the controversy, a claim he and his supporters have repeatedly put forth. For 50 years the report has received overwhelmingly positive media coverage. Far from damaging Moynihan's career, the report launched him to a prominent professorship at Harvard University, to a top post in Richard Nixon's administration, and to a long career as a senator for the state of New York. Moynihan's report received such diverse and heated reactions not only because of its own ambiguities, but also because it articulated assumptions widely shared among early 1960s liberals that came under intense challenge just around the time of the report's release. Most liberals in the early 1960s believed in the government's ability to alleviate economic inequality without reforming corporate capitalism in the cultural assimilation of ethno-racial minorities, in the desirability of male-headed families, in the efficacy of social engineering by experts and government officials, and in the superiority of middleclass American values and I'll go through a few of these. A document born of a liberal mindset that value the perspective of trained elites, the Moynihan Report generated challenges to establish experts' claims to understand African-American life. Black power advocates saw the Moynihan Report as a classic illustration of white domination of the study of African-Americans and representing the need for African-Americans to define themselves. The black sociology movement called for the "death" of white sociology and it contended that Moynihan's depiction of African-American culture as pathological, falsely presumed a superiority of middleclass white norms. In his 1968 book with the wonderful tile, "Look Out Whitey! Black Power's Gon' Get Your Mama!" Julius Lester took aim at Moynihan in a chapter entitled "Bang, Bang, Mr. Moynihan." To Lester, Moynihan's pretention to racial expertise proved that whites thought "they are greater authorities on blacks than blacks themselves." African-Americans could not trust whites, Lester maintained, "until they stopped going to the Daniel Moynihans to learn about black but come to the ghetto to learn for themselves." Moynihan assumed the natural superiority of two-parent nuclear families headed by a male breadwinner. He saw the "matriarchal structure" of African-American families as their chief weakness and he explicitly supported taking jobs away from black men or taking jobs away from black women in order to give those jobs to black men. Moynihan complained that a program in his own government department had hired African-American women instead of men. He observed "you can stand in front of the Department of Labor any morning at 8:30 and it is a sight. Spectacularly well-dressed, competent, beautiful young black women spending the day on the phone with the attorney general and seeing ambassadors, then coming home and asking the old man, what did you do today." And indeed, Moynihan was critical of government programs such as these. It's also critical of aid to families with dependent children or welfare because they saw these programs as inverting power dynamics between men and women in African-American families. Moynihan's support for the male breadwinner family norm fit with a broader midcentury liberal tradition that emphasized the need for men to be paid family wages so that women could focus on taking care of children. Moynihan's patriarchal assumptions were not widely contested on the report's release in 1965 but by the late 1960s, debate about the report became explicitly as much about gender as it was about race. Second-wave feminists challenged its patriarchal norms. Black feminists in particular were the report's most thoroughgoing critics. They charged that the report promoted racists stereotypes of black women as promiscuous and domineering. They targeted not only white liberals such as Moynihan, but also many male black para-radicals who even while contesting Moynihan's right to [inaudible] about African-American life, often agreed with Moynihan on the need to restore black male authority in the family. One black feminist compared "the brother nattering away about how he'd been lopping his balls off so long is time to stand aside with "people like Moynihan carrying on about our matriarchy and urging black women to confine ourselves to standing behind the men of our families." For black feminists pointing out that male black pararadicals gender ideology was no different from Moynihan's was a very effective argument. The combustibility of Moynihan's assumptions about race and gender was clearest in reactions to his report's most concrete policy for African-American advancement. The report actually had few direct policy suggestions. Its one main suggestion was this, recruiting more black men into the military. Moynihan's proposal fit a liberal strategy to provide jobs to male breadwinners to stabilize African-American families and communities. In fact, Moynihan understood that recruiting more black men to the military could be done without legislative action, which was another bonus. This proposal also reflected a belief that success in American society required middleclass values presumed to be lacking among African-Americans. And the Army, Moynihan alleged, black men would learn discipline. The proposal also reflected Moynihan's belief that African-American men suffered from a matriarchal culture. The military would provide them with a " utterly masculine world, a world away from women, a world run by strong men of unquestioned authority." Moynihan's suggestion advanced during the rapid escalation of the Vietnam War, met opposition from several fronts. Even though many black para-advocates agreed with Moynihan's patriarchal ideals, they rejected military service as participation in an American imperialism that targeted non-whites abroad just as it oppressed non-whites at home. Men involved in the anti-war and counter-cultural movements rejected Moynihan's equation of masculinity with submission to hierarchal discipline and feminists viewed the plan as a brief for patriarchy. One feminist mocked Moynihan for assuming "women are so terrible that it's a fantastic relief to get away from them. Never mind that the military service is experiencing explosive racial problems, it is still better than being around women." The Moynihan Report controversy proved especially significant for liberals. Attaining economic equality for African-Americans, unlike securing legal and political rights, exposed the limits of postwar liberalism, divided liberals, and enabled challenges to liberalism to surface with a renewed intensity. The Moynihan Report controversy is sometimes mistakenly viewed as emblematic of a postwar liberal consensus that some unraveled during the late 1960s. Yet far from a stable consensus, postwar liberalism itself contained diverse and conflicting stands. The report reflected these contradictions and typified a postwar liberal mindset that recognized structural economic barriers to African-American advancement and yet was committed to meritocratic notions that individuals and ethnic groups exceeded based on their ability to compete in an open marketplace. The race-based economic inequality that Moynihan identified was so entrenched in American society that readers of his report could include either the government needed to enact the kinds of radical reforms advocated by civil rights leaders or that government was simply incapable of addressing the problem. The report thus contained both the seeds of a left-wing challenge that deepened liberals more on poverty and a neoconservative attack on the welfare statement. One way to track the controversy's impact on liberalism is to examine the trajectory of the report's author. In the late 1960s, Moynihan became one of the most prominent neoconservatives, a set of postwar liberals who moved to the right. The report contained already a thread of neoconservatism and the suggestion that government might be unable to solve a problem rooted in family structure. Neoconservatives spun that into a blanket challenge to liberal social engineering.
The controversy itself played a key role in pushing Moynihan and other neoconservatives to the right. Ultimately, Moynihan concluded that those who most forcefully called for racial equality, that is radical African-Americans and their allies, were responsible for the racial discord of the era. In a notorious 1970 memo to President Richard Nixon that was then later leaked to the press, Moynihan advised Nixon to carry out a policy of "benign neglect" for discussing race. Nearly all interpretations in the Moynihan Report surfaced by the mid 1970s indicating the crucial long-term impact that this decade, the first decade after the 1964 Civil Rights Act, had on American racial discourse. Nevertheless, the Moynihan Report experienced scholarly immediate revival in the 1980s that has never fully dissipated. During the presidency of Ronald Reagan, the report was increasingly appropriated by conservatives. Drawing on neoconservative ideas but pushing them even further, Reaganite conservatives argued that liberal welfare policies, not racism, caused racial inequality. To William Bennett for example, the lesson of the report was that "the most serious problems afflicting our society today are manifestly moral, behavioral, and spiritual and, therefore, remarkably resistant to government cures." At the same time, the report continued to hold appeal for liberals. Mostly notably starting in the 1980s, the prominent sociologist, William Julius Wilson, [inaudible] the report's analysis a black social pathology to promote reforms to address race-based economic inequality. Wilson declared that he was "following in the footsteps of Moynihan" and Wilson has been one of the report's staunchest supporters for the past 25 years. In my view, Wilson and other liberals have erred in hitching themselves to the Moynihan Report, a document that embodies not only the ambitions of 1960s liberalism, but also all of its shortcomings. At its best, the report called for national action to ensure social and economic equality for African-Americans, not just the legal equality that had ostensibly granted during the Civil Rights Movement. But at its worst, the report conflated racial equality with patriarchy. It encouraged Americans to focus on African-Americans cultural traits rather than on political economy. Despite Moynihan's liberal intentions, it directed attention toward family structure as a primary cause of inequality instead of work, taxes, housing, and education. Racial and class inequality are again on the national agenda today, just as they were 50 years ago when Moynihan wrote "The Negro Family," yet an ambiguous and flaunt government report written a half century ago is hardly a good starting place for discussing these issues in our own time. The uncritical commemoration of the Moynihan Report by conservatives and many liberals threatens once again to distract from the real causes of inequities and injustices in American society. It is high time that we stop celebrating the Moynihan Report.
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>> Hi there. Thanks so much to Sandy for the invitation and [inaudible] for organizing everything and to Joy for the flattering introduction. It's a real treat to participate in today's conversation. Let me begin with a few words of praise for what Professor Geary has done. I think his work on the Moynihan Report is really important and well done. Yes, it's an incredibly nuance and textured account; yes, it's based on some incredible archival finds, but it's much more than that. At its core what stands out to me about Professor Geary spoke is that it's a corrective. It's a corrective in the sense that it fully historicizes intellectually and politically the Moynihan Report maybe for the first time despite all the writing that's been done it over the years. In his hands, the report comes across convincingly as a document, as he says in his epilogue, that embodies not only the ambitions of 1960s liberalism, but also all of its shortcomings. What's he done moreover enables us to understand what otherwise seemed like irresolvable puzzles or what other authors have had to sweep under the rug as inconvenient truths that in order to maintain a semblance of a coherent take on the book, on the report. For instance, how is it that both MLK and Michael Harrington could've praised a document that was lambasted by someone on the left is blaming the victim and why is it that the report comes across more like a litmus test or a Rorschach test of political ideology than anything else. Professor Geary has arrived at a parsimonious interpretation that readily survives Occam's razor. The reason why the Moynihan Report has elicited such a heterogeneous and contradictory set of reactions often among the same constituencies and the reason why experiences recurring bouts of controversy over time is that it is a fundamentally ambiguous document that reflects that "diverse and conflicting" strands of postwar liberalism. That's a compelling way to think about the report, I think, and one that helps us to make good sense of what otherwise seems incredibly confusing. So I'd also say that I think Professor Geary's book also makes an important and significant historiographical contribution and that is that it helps us to appreciate the significance of the 1970s for racial politics and racial discourse in the United States. There's a pretty big stream of work now that adds up to the argument that the world as we know it today, economically, socially, politically, intellectually is a world that the 1970s gave us in one way or the other. Here, I have in mind books like Niall Ferguson and Charles Maier's "Shock of the Global;" Bruce Schulman's "The 70s;" Jefferson Cowie's "Staying Alive;" and Judith Stein's "Pivotal Decade." But nobody's really made the point about political discourse around racial inequality as sharply and carefully as Professor Geary has, at least to my knowledge, which is fallible, but the book is fantastic in this regard and it appears in moments when he writes, for instance, that nearly all interpretations of the report surfaced by the mid 1970s indicating the crucial long-term impact of the decade after the 1964 Civil Rights Act on American racial discourse. So that's an argument I think he successfully pulls off. The third thing I'd like to do, in addition to saying thanks for inviting me out here and be sure to get Dan Geary's book when it's released on July 7th, is I'd like to try to connect what Professor Geary's done with my own work on the history of race, conscious affirmative action policies and college admissions, I do think there might be a connection. I would love to assess out what it is. So with the co-author, Lisa Stalberg [phonetic], I've been digging into the archival records of a number of colleges and universities, among them Michigan, Cornell, UCLA, Swarthmore, Wesleyan, and others to try to understand where affirmative action came from. Dominant narrative is as so far as there is one is that affirmative action is a product of campus unrest or the urban riots of the late 1960s. So what we found in the archival record in our research is evidence of a different story at schools like Michigan, Cornell, and UCLA. We find that college administrators are adopting affirmative action as early as 1963 and 1964. Men like Rogers Haynes and Harlan Hatcher of Michigan, James Perkins at Cornell, and Franklin Murphy at UCLA all led schools that observed an open-door policy at midcentury and yet their campuses were nearly as lily white as old mist. These men believed that their institutions could not stand apart from the tides of social change and they were inspired by events of the early 1960s, Birmingham, march on Washington to do something different and even before LBJ annunciated at Howard in 1965 freedom was not enough and so they launched experimental admissions programs targeted at "disadvantaged" students, which include mainly but not exclusively African-American students. So these programs usually recruited applicants from specially selected local urban high schools that were known to be heavily minority in their population and a light thumb was placed on the scale at the time of admission. So [inaudible] I call this the first wave of affirmative action and we've been sketching out the argument that the first wave is really a product of the racial liberalism of white elites in the early to mid 1960s and Professor Geary's work on the Moynihan Report offers a strong parallel and really helps us get a better feel for what we might mean. Moynihan's language reflected the conviction on the part of many racial liberals that a "new and special effort would be needed to address racial inequality," that "three centuries of sometimes unimaginable treatment" meant that African-Americans weren't simply "not equal" to other groups in their " ability to win out in the competitions of American life." Those are quotes from the Moynihan Report. And a different approach was required in public policy. So having now read your work, it occurs to me that maybe the same strand of racial liberalism may have been behind the first wave of affirmative action as even President Harlan Hatcher said to the U of M faculty in 1963, it was about an initiative that eventually become affirmative action at Michigan, it was vitally important for the university to begin examining its "practices with respects to students from deprived backgrounds. Their preparation does not permit them to be competitive initially but they do have the ability to work once the handicaps of poor training have been removed." So that's Harlan Hatcher in 1963. In much the same spirits, Jim Perkins of Cornell would say in later years in a speech to the United Negro College Fund, the Brown case as well as "rise of a visible concern for the equal treatment of minority groups at the beginning of this decade jolted college leaders out of their uneasy slumber." Our conscious stirred in its sleep.
We dreamt that we were not doing what we should and we woke to find that this was indeed so. A passive policy would only guarantee a continuation of de facto exclusion and we correctly included that in order to increase the black student population, we would have to encourage black students to apply and reexamine SAT scores as predictive of academic performance for the disadvantaged. So I guess I would want to know and I put to Dan the question of whether he agrees with our interpretive move to say that affirmative action policies in the first wave are sort of motivator or the impetus for this strand of racial liberalism that may be is the same strand that is behind the Moynihan Report. Our evidence suggests that college leaders were closely attuned to protests and demonstrations of the church-led southern-based Civil Rights Movement which helped catalyze their belief that freedom is not enough. Where did this strand of racial liberalism come from on Moynihan's part? How is it that Moynihan and other liberals who were part of the strand of racial liberalism became committed to the idea that it was the role of public policy to respond robustly for inequalities that had accumulated over the flow of time. Professor Geary's answer to this question I think holds great interest for anyone who wonders if a similar belief or conviction in the need for a robust approach to policy is anywhere in the cards for us today.
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>> Hi. Good afternoon. I want to first thank Cliff, Sandy, and Joy for inviting me to be part of such a, you know, accomplished panel. As a grad student, I don't often get a chance to speak in front of such nice decor, so it's nice to contribute to and participate in such an important conversation. I just want express my extreme gratitude for inviting me. But in terms of Dan's work, particularly, Dan highlights how the multiple interpretations of the Moynihan Report have offered conflicting ways to deal with the growing crisis of the black family. The report has served as a means to justify government supports to improve the welfare of [inaudible] black families and black men. It has also be encouragement to those who wish to ignore the precarious influence of race and the way it mediates the potential for ability of these families. In general, the Moynihan Report is contributed to or inspired several areas of sociology including first it extended from growing culture of poverty literature at the time beginning with Oscar Lewis who attempted to understand exactly how poverty, through what Moynihan call the tangled pathology, reproduces itself and the means to which that happens. Lewis explains culture among the poor is a result of an adaptation to social, economic, and political conditions of poverty. [Inaudible] culture poverty as an adaptation to one's material surroundings, we can understand the appeal to liberals that Dan mentions as his notion screams for government intervention to provide resources to improve the material conditions of the poor; however, some of the scholarship included in the Moynihan Report tends to overemphasize the role that norms and values play in the way individuals in poverty make sense of the world. Specifically, much work in this genre tends to presume an almost dysfunctional view of the world observed by children in poverty, which reduces their ability to take full advantage of opportunities for mobility as they become adults. Such a view assumes and lends itself to ideas that children and adults who grow or grew up in poverty don't espouse mainstream values, explaining its post-racial era appeal to conservatives as Dan also highlights. And in the time since the Moynihan Report, much work has sought [inaudible] challenge this idea. Another area that's also benefited from or challenged the Moynihan Report is issues related to the black community, so attempt to understand how the black community operates and the networks embedded in it mostly notably Carol Stack and her seminal piece, "All Our Kin" challenges a stereotype of black families as dysfunctional and self destructive. Stack presents a complex network and real and fictive kin working together with few resources to survive and so by fictive kin, she speaks how embedded in these communities are lots of symbolic familial relationships where, you know, everyone is someone's cousin, you know, folks have multiple mothers, uncles, things like that, and that among these networks exists complex rules about topics such as gifting and childbearing and overall, she shows how a single-parent household does not automatically equal social disorganization. Also, one of the most notable works complimenting the Moynihan Report was that of William Julius Wilson and his seminal pieces "Declining Significance of Race" and "The Truly Disadvantaged." Wilson reaffirms the class distinctions made by Moynihan argues that structural forces like deindustrialization and spatial mismatch from employment significantly reduce the opportunities for mobility among the urban poor and particularly many black families and especially black men. He argues that men's growing isolation from work decreases their opportunities to be stable providers and the emasculation from not working causes their eventual exit from the home and as Dan highlights, Wilson's work adds fuel to the ambiguous fire in that his idea of the declining significance of race appeal to conservatives and is focused on structural issues appeals to the public program inspired liberals. Overall, we see that the ambiguity of the report that Dan beautifully lays out in his work in many ways shape the landscape to which later sociological work would be understood and to whom it would appeal. Either a value-driven racially-blind right or structurally conscious public intervention [inaudible]. In regards to black men, which is my main topic of area or of interest, where I focus on black men in absent fatherhood, another piece that was greatly influenced and extended from the Moynihan Report was that of Elliott Liebow in his famous text "Tally's Corner" published soon after the Moynihan Report. It attempts to address and investigate the black men that Moynihan sees as succumbing to a matriarchal culture. In the text, Liebow seeks to elevate black men as a source of analysis and challenge the public perception of black men as well as the culture of poverty suggested by Moynihan by capturing how the societal disenfranchises them and systematically leads to their decline in the workplace and in the home. In the seminal piece, Liebow describes how men's presence on street corners is an outcome of the multiple sites of disenfranchisement in their day-to-day lives and not a desire to avoid work, as many thought at the time. Overall, these works stemming from and responding to the Moynihan Report have been helpful but another avenue of research that gets lost in the ambiguity of Moynihan's language is how do we understand absent fatherhood in and of itself. Moynihan links growing absence to growing unemployment and poverty which steers discussions of absent fatherhood and direction that encourages a solution specifically focused on putting men to work or alleviating their income poverty. Additionally, when talking about the tangle of pathology, Moynihan overlooks the possibility of the pathologic effects of absence itself or absence gets perpetuated through what I would call a tangle of absence that engulfs many across generations as current trends today would suggest. In the years since the Moynihan Report, rates of absent fatherhood in the black community have nearly tripled and far exceed that of other racial groups. This trend [inaudible] necessitates need to better [inaudible] with and understand exactly what absent fatherhood is for the people who experience it and specifically in a certain budding grad student, my work as how do men who grow up without fathers experience absence and make meaning of it and what impact does their experience with absent have on their current or future fatherhood status. In my ongoing work, I have begun interviewing [inaudible] black men in the Detroit area, many of which experienced some type of absence from their fathers, to capture their life stories growing up and to the present and what I'm finding so far in my preliminary analysis exhibits how the pain and experience of not having a father around both physically and emotionally can shape how men interpret their own potential as fathers, their understandings of what it means to be a good father, and how they make sense of their own status in their children's lives. Additionally embedded in the ambiguity of Moynihan's work isn't just a patriarchal assumption about the man's role in the home but also problematic assumption that full-time employment equates to fatherhood. In the preliminary work I've done so far interviewing [inaudible] fathers about their absent fathers, none correlated their father's absence to his employment status. Rather, they talked about the particular feeling stemming from the physical void left by their father in their lives, action of his working status and so by that I mean no man I've spoken with so far has suggested that if only my father had been employed, he would've been present or suggest that they can specifically cite his unemployment to their absence in his life. And so overall on revisiting the Moynihan Report, it is imperative that we also reexamine the assumptions that we make in terms of the presumed link between employment, present fatherhood, and the stability of the black family that in many ways remains in crisis 50 years later. Thank you.
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>> Thank you. I'm now going to turn it over for about 10 minutes. I think we'll let our panelists speak to each other. So Dan, if you'd like to begin by responding.
>> Yes, I just thank you for this, you know, very interesting and informative comments. I'll just briefly comment so that we can then get to further discussion but Tony, as far as affirmative action, you know, makes total sense to me that this would emerge out of the racial liberalism of the early 1960s, you know, of which Moynihan was a part. It's remarkable that this period of the early '60s is a period when many whites, even many white liberals are fully confronting in the weight of American racial history. Moynihan is a great example of that. I mean, Moynihan has no research background on African-Americans, you know, prior to writing the Moynihan Report, basically. I mean before 1963, he didn't think very much about African-Americans, you know, didn't think much about race as a problem. He did write this book, "Beyond the Melting Pot" with Nathan Glazer. That sort of clued him in to some of these issues but Glazer wrote the chapter in that book on African-Americans. So, you know, this is a period when many white elites are beginning to confront this as an issue for the first time, I think. You know, it's remarkable to remember this and this is even long after the Brown decision.
Now when they do that, however, there's a well-established tradition of what you and I will also call, it's a very awkward phrase but racial liberalism, you know, basically liberal views on race that emerge out of World War II that are associated, you know, perhaps most famously with Gunnar Myrdal's book "An American Dilemma" that really suggests that the main problem facing American society is how to extend equal citizenship to African-Americans but also has a number of assumptions, you know, he thinks African-American culture is a pathological variant of white culture, those were his terms. He thinks that, you know, there was not going to be a big problem assimilating African-American into American society doesn't require radical transformation, doesn't require radical economic transformation, and Myrdal and many like him including African-American intellectuals that in some ways contribute to racial liberalism [inaudible] having something different, people like E. Franklin Frazier and Kenneth Clark, you know, there's a well-established body there that's at least two decades old that Moynihan and I suppose your folks as well can turn to in the early '60s when they start to pay attention. Now Matthew, I'm just pointing out that you're exactly right that, you know, Moynihan has become this tradition that sort of equates, you know, male unemployment with absence, you know, that he sees as the same thing. You know, I had mentioned Moynihan's most specific policy suggestion in the report is military service, African-American men join the military, they're not going to actually be around as fathers, right, I mean, so that's not what Moynihan isn't thinking about fathers actually being around. You know, he's thinking about more than setting, providing for the family, allowing the mothers then to do the work, primary work of child rearing and the fathers to be setting a positive role model, but they don't actually have to be around that much but he's criticized by this by many. Many of his critics actually point to this and say, look, your model of family is impoverished because your model is the man's just off at the office, he's the breadwinner, he's not actually a part of the family. The other thing there is that Moynihan had a very statistical understanding of African-American families. I mean, basically he gathered the statistics. He was in the federal government, so he could gather a lot of statistics but, you know, he didn't do-- You know, I don't he had ever met an African-American family. He didn't do any ethnographic work. He just assumed, you know, oh my goodness, you know, 25% of families, there's no man in there, well this must be a female head of family and the father must be absent, you know, just based on these statistics and people like Carol Stack, you mentioned, criticized Moynihan and said, look, if you really want to understand African-American families, you need to do an ethnographic study. You need to go. You need to understand how people live. You need to understand the culture. You can't just infer it from these statistics. You know, so I would just, you know, I suppose highlight those two points in my research that fit with what you were saying.
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>> All right. I'll use my moderator's privilege to ask a question. So I have two questions actually and I'm not sure that either of them are particularly easy to answer. So one is, Dan, you closed with a really-- I mean you give a very powerful critique of this document and the way that it has been continually used. So as a historian, I'm sort of picturing revisionists 30 years from now coming back and saying, oh, they threw out the Moynihan Report. Is there anything at all that we shouldn't disregard, I think is the first question. And the second question is, I mean, I'm very compelled by your argument for why this rhetoric is bankrupt for dealing with the issues that we need to deal with today and so thinking about Matt's research, thinking about the research of many people in this room, what are the kinds of rhetoric that we can push to and that we can respond with when we have people like Nick Kristof bringing up the Moynihan Report again and again and that's for all of you, not just for Dan.
>> Yes, but as to whether there's any positive in the Moynihan Report, I think there is. I hope I suggested some of the positives. I mean, it's not exactly appropriate but Robert F. Kennedy had a great quote about Moynihan. He said, Moynihan, he knows all the problems and is against all the solutions. You know, so some degree Moynihan had his finger on a very real issue, you know, at a pivotal time. I mean, I think he was right to say, you know, Civil Rights Act, Voting Rights Act are not enough. You know, we need to look at economic equality and that's the, you know, he was absolutely right to do that. I think where things got derailed and possibly not necessarily through his own intentions, you know, I think to some degree at the time he honestly thought by talking about family that maybe this would be a way to talk about this inequality but, in fact, what he did was, you know, got people to focus on family rather than the other issues which are more important and I think that's probably the, you know, the lesson for today is that of course people should research African-American families. They should talk about how families are related in complicated way to economic and social inequality but if you're only talking about families and you're not talking about other important things like, you know, like taxes, like employment, you know, it seems like those are the places, you know, to start and to think that you, as William Julius Wilson and others think, you're going to start with family and get people to care about those other things, I think is a very dangerous idea that 50 years have shown it doesn't work. So, you know, that's how I would respond I suppose to your questions but I'd be interested to hear what the other panelists have to say.
>> Well, prior to reading Dan's work, I've never been so critical of the document itself, in terms of a political statement, but, you know, for me, the Moynihan Report was also always a jumping off point, you know, such that to me I don't believe the black family would've been of concern to many if Moynihan hadn't brought it to the foreground and I think that the work that it inspired has been very helpful to, you know, scholars like me trying to, [inaudible] I mentioned Elliott Liebow's, you know, piece, you know, who himself, you know, used the report to say, hey, we haven't really talked about black men before. We focused on women and children and the fact that this work inspires scholars to do things like that, I think is to me what this document makes the most--
>> I'll just jump in and say one of the people I interviewed was a guy by the name of Robert Staples who was one of Moynihan's most important critics and wrote a lot about the African-American families in the '60s and '70s and he said, you know, he was a severe critic of the Moynihan Report but he did say if Moynihan hadn't done this, you know, this whole field of research would not have come about, so he actually credited Moynihan in some way even though he entirely disagreed with the report.
>> I'm not sure I have anything to add. So--
>> Are you guys ready?
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[ Background Conversations ]
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>> Hi, everyone. Thank you. Sorry for the technological difficulties. My name is Mary Alimu [phonetic]. I'm a second year MPP student here at the Ford School of Public Policy with a particular interest in education policy, so this is a very, very important and relevant talk for me. So thank you all for being here. First question for you: Are there policy writers who help us move beyond fixing families versus fixing economic structures?
>> Could you repeat the question?
>> Yes, absolutely. Are there policy writers who help us move beyond fixing families versus fixing economic structures?
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>> I'm thinking of the work here by Kathryn Edin. It's a book called "Being the Best I Can" or is it "Doing the Best I Can?"
>> "Doing the Best I Can."
>> "Doing the Best I Can," that recently came out, where she looks at low-income fathers in Camden, New Jersey, many African-Americans but not all, and that's a book that I think successfully looks at some of the issues brought about the Moynihan Report but doesn't get caught in the issue of trying to tie family structure to larger, you know, inequalities and she has some very interesting findings there that counter, you know, what certainly what someone like Moynihan thought and she finds that many of these fathers are very involved in their children's lives, that they actually resent the fact that they're meant to be the primary breadwinners. Many of them say, well, you know, you think of me as just a paycheck, is something that may be in the report to her and they view that negatively and she suggests some interesting policy solutions as well as in terms of giving these fathers rights, fatherhood rights, you know, that the state treats them solely in terms of, you know, providing child support payments and doesn't actually give then, you know, the right to be with their children for a certain amount of time. So there're some interesting suggestions there. So I think in some ways though, you know, when we're talking about in the public way, you know, about families inevitably we'll be discussing social policies, you know. You know, if we're talking in the public arena, you know, it's the sort of question of what can we as a society, you know, do to help families out, you know, rather than say a private conversation.
So I think you can never leave that discussion behind when you're talking about families in the public arena.
>> I actually thought of Edin right away actually and what I think ties her most to the Moynihan Report in her work is that, you know, if Moynihan is encouraging us to help men become better providers, you know, her work is challenging this idea that, you know, men are redefining their role as fathers, that they're not solely providers and they're finding alternative means to be fatherly, that's being more emotionally connected to their children, finding other ways to provide in non-financial ways and I think in a way kind of undermines Moynihan's assumptions about this idea that fathers should be providers financially, whereas these men are finding alternative ways to be fathers in their children's eyes.
>> Good evening. My name is DeMarlo Lewis [phonetic]. I'm a first year MPP and I'm interested in issues relevant to economic justice, so looking at disparities within health education and how those affect socioeconomic mobility and so, you know, thank you all for coming here today and the first question that I'm going to read for you is this: If the Moynihan Report was embraced by the right and the left, where did the war on drugs come from as its thrust was to jail minority men? So effectively, I can repeat the question. If the Moynihan Report was embraced by the right and the left, where did the war on drugs come from as its thrust was to jail minority men?
>> I mean, I think the war on drugs is in many ways bipartisan although it's interesting I quoted William Bennett. I mean, he was the Reagan's drugs [inaudible] and if anyone's most responsible for the war on drugs, it's Bennett and it's this tremendous disassociation for him to say, oh, well these are problems that can't be solved by government cures and here he is, and I would agree with the person who asked that question, you know, here he is locking up a lot of, you know, men, women as well but mostly men, and so, you know, they can't be good fathers and participants in their families if they're in jail, you know, and that I think one of the problems with the way that the debate is framed, well can government do something, can it not do something. What it leaves out is what is government doing that's actually hurting, you know, and this, you know, the war on drugs I think could be one of the main things that you would have to say is damaging families.
>> You know, I don't-- I'm not sure I could put my finger on a fly on where the war on drugs came from but I do think that there's lots of really interesting work that can be consulted so that you begin to arrive at your own sense of where it came from and so I would recommend Naomi Murakawa's latest book. I think it's called "The First Civil Right." Vesla Weaver, who is a political science professor at Yale, has also written a number of important articles and I believe a book now on the topic. [Inaudible] has some work that kind of touches on the [inaudible] and then Michael Tonry, the author of "Malign Neglect," I think is a person you might consult as well for some answers that you could begin to put together for yourself, so--
>> All right. Thank you. We have another question from the audience and it is as follows and it starts with a question. Didn't liberals blow it twice with Moynihan? In fact, because of the Moynihan Report, they did not trust him when he got President Nixon to propose a guaranteed annual income in 1969, so they oppose the family assistance plan which would've greatly increased welfare benefits in the south. Can you comment?
>> It's true. When Moynihan is in the Nixon administration, he gets them to propose this family assistance plan. Now the reason why that plan fails is not because of opposition by liberals. It's because Nixon backs away from it silently. Nixon kills the plan, not liberals. It was opposed by welfare rights activists because they were hoping for something better. In my view, they did miscalculate but it wouldn't have raised benefits outside of the south, you know, at all. The other thing about the family assistance plan is Moynihan and Moynihan helps Nixon do this, they frame it in very conservative terms. You know, they frame it in terms of even though it did, in fact, guarantee income payment, they don't frame it in that way. You know, they frame it as kind of an anti-welfare measure of many kinds and, you know, they use it to sort of advance this view of the poor as lazy and, you know, this is a payment that's going to go to people who really work. So they're crafting-- The rhetoric that they're crafting, you know, is quite conservative as even as the measure itself, you know, would've been, you know, would've been a small liberal advance.
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>> Thank you. Next question from the audience: The universal declaration of human rights includes economic rights. The Moynihan Report seems to be a turning point for the American right denying basic economic rights. How did the left go wrong? Let me repeat the question. The universal declaration of human rights includes economic rights. The Moynihan report seems to be a turning point towards the American right in denying basic economic rights. How did the left go wrong?
>> Well for the right-- I'm not sure it's, I mean, the right would always oppose economic rights but there is a danger in the mid 1960s because of the growth of the Civil Rights Movement and had really pushed on the agenda, you know, the racial inequality on all its aspects. So people like William Buckley are very worried that, you know, either Buckley's main concern even though he did support southern segregation for a time but he's mainly concerned about, you know, economic issues but he's really worried that the Civil Rights Movement is going to generate, you know, some form of, you know, further form of liberal government or social democratic measures and so he actually effectively uses the Moynihan Report to argue against this by saying this is really a family issue. It's not about economics. You know, I think Moynihan and liberals went wrong-- Moynihan in any case, and some other liberals went wrong in how they conceived of economic inequality. I mean, it's a somewhat convoluted way, I mean, Moynihan thinks that economic inequality is mainly through, that there is fair competition in open marketplace and the reason why African-Americans aren't competing is because they're not well prepared. You know, so if they had better families, then they'd be better prepared and then they could compete equally but what he's overlooking is that the marketplace is not open and it's not a fair competition and that, you know, there are other ways of going about rectifying these inequalities that would be more direct.
>> I would only add that, you know, in response to the question where did the left go wrong part of, the answer partly depends on what you mean by left and what you mean by go wrong and so one way and, you know, since the question I think is motivated by a concern about what happened to the economic focus in public policy like, you know, and one way to answer the question might be to say, you know, whatever possibilities there might have been for more robust involvement of the government in economic activity, you know, may not have been eclipsed in the mid 1960s because they had already been eclipsed by the late 1940s if you believe the line of historians like Nelson Lichtenstein and the argument that he makes about the social democratic possibilities and the Truman administration and how some of the compromises and decisions by liberal leaders like Walter Reuther led, you know, the potential for some kind of corporatist arrangements, at least in the area of labor relations, to get kind of shunted aside and if you believe the argument of Alan Brinkley, then the left went wrong in 1937 just at the end of the second new deal on the hills of a big recession and Roosevelt's era of commission with trying to pack the court and overreaching and there was the moment according to Brinkley and his sympathizers when something very much more robust than what we eventually wound up with in the postwar period, there was the moment when we lost it for good. So part of the answer depends on what you mean by left and what do you mean by went wrong. So--
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>> Another question that we have from the audience: A dominant narrative in American society right now centers on inequality. Race is on the outskirts of this conversation but does not seem to be the focus of either major party. How can we shift the conversation on inequality to include race without repeating the mistakes of the Moynihan Report?
>> Yeah, that's an excellent question.
You know, I think let's make sure that the conversation, you know, doesn't get side tracked into family as the primary discussion that would be I suppose my, you know, my answer. Let's, you know, let's talk about the other things that are going on that are important. You know, I was sort of as things were developing last year and the protests movement for Ferguson was growing, you know, I was just waiting for people to refer to the Moynihan Report as a way to kind of take the discussion in another direction and, you know, it did occur in some cases. So I mean that would be, you know, my worry about people like Kristof and Will, you know, keeping up the Moynihan Report in this contemporary conversation is that they're sidetracking the discussion from where it needs to be.
>> Well I know in my own work, you know, on absent fatherhood and I would love to and believe that absent fatherhood is not a black problem but for me the focus on black men particularly as the fact that, you know, one can't deny that statistically black men, black homes suffer more from this issue than other families and not to negate that it's problematic to all but, you know, for me, my way of maintaining the racial aspect is to note that, you know, this population more often than not suffers from this, you know, issue and so I maintain that by, you know, focusing our research on this population which often gets kind of like negated for the larger issues, so we focus on absent fatherhood in general but I don't really ignore the fact that some people suffer from this more than others.
>> I'd just add to that that I think the Moynihan Report [inaudible] shows this that you can't actually discuss class inequality in the US without discussing race, that these issues are intertwined. They need to be discussed at the same time and I think the strategy of William Julius Wilson which to some extent Obama has paid heed to, you know, he had what he called a hidden agenda that, you know, essentially you'd have programs that would especially benefit African-Americans but you would present it in class terms because racial terms are so divisive but I think that's-- Well first of all, the [inaudible] of the hidden agenda is somewhat self defeating but secondly, you know, to think that that's effective is problematic because race will always enter the conversation in the US, so it needs to be addressed openly. I don't think you can see things as solely a racial issue. There's the class component to it as well but these are overlapping. Neither part of that can ever be forgotten.
>> Next question from the audience: What are your opinions on HR40, congress and Conyers' proposal to study reparations?
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>> I mean, it's something that personally, you know, I would favor. I mean, reparations certainly would be a more direct way of addressing some of the, you know, the inequalities that are present in American history. I mean, reparations were paid to Japanese-Americans who were [inaudible] during World War II, you know, so why shouldn't they be paid to the descendents of slaves and people who suffered from, you know, racial discrimination that is directly affected wealth creation today. On the other hand, you know, politically, it's obviously not, it's a nonstarter politically, so, you know, we should recognize that. It's, you know, a good idea in theory but one that perhaps not too much attention should be invested in because it's not one that's likely to prevail.
>> I do believe that more work should be done to better understand and tie the issues that plague black communities to slavery and some work I've done, you know, one can kind of locate a kind of a systematic removal of men from the home as early as the plantation, that in many cases men were removed and power was instilled in the slave owner and that is something that we can't particularly trace historically to the present. I think it is something that needs more research to better show the need for something like a reparation.
>> Next question from the audience for you, Matt, and it's for you because you mentioned that since the Moynihan Report has been issued that the rates of single-mother families have tripled in the black community and the question is to ask if you are aware of how it has influenced or impacted the white community during the same time span. So how has the Moynihan Report, you know, influenced the single-mother families, like what is the rate of single-mother families in the white community and how does that compare to the black community since Moynihan Report was issued and was is that due to?
>> Okay, that was like three questions and--
>> I mean, you know, so first, no one can deny that absent fatherhood or, you know, the growing rate of single-parent households has increased across the board, so that no way indicates that it's not a general issue and lots of research has shown that, you know, in general, the way we think about, you know, what a nuclear family is, you know, has changed, that it's okay now for a mother to be a single mother and that doesn't have the same stigma it did years ago and that those things are changing across the board. So I don't think that it's just a black issue and I think in some cases for whites it has increased over like 20% since the Moynihan era. But again, that rate compared to the way that blacks increased was just not as significant. And what was the second?
>> And what was that increase due to?
>> Due to?
>> That I'm not sure but, I mean, like at least in the black community that I've studies, I mean, one can trace it to issues around unemployment, issues around crime, adverse policies like child support enforcement that for men who didn't want to support their children could be jailed or in some way punished for not paying the supports. So lots of issues I think over time have definitely influenced the removal of the black man from the home.
>> Next question from the audience: How can you begin to reconcile the Moynihan Report's importance of families with the strong current emphasis on the importance of families in K through 12 educational success and achievement?
>> I mean, I'm not an expert on, you know, on current research. I do think there are questions about, you know, I suppose what the independent variables are there, I mean, because, you know, two-parent families also tend to correlate with more affluent families. You know, so I'm not sure of the exact research that's fitting there. I mean, I think it's a very good thing for a child to have, you know, a loving involved family. There are no questions about that. That doesn't necessarily need to be, you know, two parents in the way that Moynihan thought, you know, you need to take a closer look at what the individual families are, you know, but I certainly agree with that. I had to take a closer look at the research but I don't know that you can easily, you know, if you were just to go research and say two-parent families versus, you know, one-parent families, of course you would find the kids from two-parent families doing better but it is because they have two parents or is it because of other factors that correlate with that. I think it's a very tricky thing to tease out and I personally am not convinced that the two-parent family thing is the central factor that's being put forward by many [inaudible].
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>> Here is another question from the audience and this is for you, Dan. In your experience, what is the difference in perspective on US civil rights or the Moynihan Report, more specifically, in Ireland versus the United States?
>> That's a very interesting question. I mean, the-- Of course, there's strong support for, you know, US Civil Rights Movement in Ireland. There was at the time and there're still strong memories of that. I mean, it was correlated at the time with struggle for Catholic rights in Northern Ireland, which for a time had a movement that called itself the Civil Rights Movement after the US and [inaudible] iconography. I don't think the Moynihan Report is much known there. It's interesting to think though about Moynihan's Irishness as connecting the report because it did connect to the report. Moynihan thought that-- And actually he was from a family where the father had abandoned the family when he was a young boy and Moynihan thought because he was Irish and the Irish had been discriminated against and because he didn't have a father that he really understood African-American families. He drew that analogy. On the one hand, it did lead him to be I think more apathetic but on the other hand I think it led him to kind of confuse what his situation was with the situation of African-Americans in the 1960s. I don't think their situations were actually as parallel as he drew him and he made that parallel often. Even in a "Time Magazine" interview, he said, "Patty [phonetic] is just like Sambo, using the, you know, using the slurs for both Irish and African-Americans, so he often made that point and drew on his Irishness to say because I'm an ethnic American, I understand what it's like to be, you know, to be an African-American.
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>> Next question from the audience: Since the publication of the Moynihan Report and Bill Wilson's "The Truly Disadvantaged," there appears to have been a movement away from, at least within sociology, studying the structure of black families as it relates to poverty inequality. How can scholars better or more effectively study the black family on its own terms without falling into the same traps of racism, classism, and sexism?
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>> That's a very good question. It's a difficult question and, you know, and again I'm not a historian and not a sociologist. I mean, do think the Edin book is really great example and I think Matthew's work suggests some of the ways that we can be, you know, getting around this. I mean, we shouldn't-- You know, there shouldn't be, you know, just because I think there are political problems with the Moynihan Report doesn't mean people should stop researching, you know, African-American families or indeed all families. You know, that research should continue. I'm not sure that I agree that it's necessarily slowed down since the Moynihan Report. I mean, often and this is something Wilson repeated to people, well say after the Moynihan Report, you know, he was so attacked that people didn't study the African-American family for so long and that's just demonstrably false. I mean, in fact, as we're discussing, it's more the opposite is the case. There's a tremendous explosion of research of African-American families, much of it anti-Moynihan, you know, but still the research is being done throughout the '60s and '70s and into the '80s, and I think that research continues in many ways but I think the, you know, personally, I would think people who are doing work that is looking at structural issues, looking at statistics but also has a very strong ethnographic component, you know, I would find the most compelling.
>> I've been strongly resisting trying to rip your microphone away but now, just to sort of payback on that, Matt, would you talk a little bit about your methodology and your approach because I think that that offers maybe one way for us to see a very particular answer to this question.
>> Yeah, I think that, you know, and I agree that, you know, much work has been done since [inaudible] and that I think an important, you know, way that I like to approach my work and that I think differs sometimes is that I'm less concerned with, you know, why black folks or in this case, you know, black men aren't meeting a particular standard. I'm more interested in, you know, how does this phenomena work. So for my case is how does absent fatherhood work and I'm less concerned with asking, you know, how can black men be more like, you know, present middleclass white men, and I think that's a way or approach that, you know, new work has taken such as Kathryn Edin's work and I'm thinking of folks that have been there like David Harding where it's understanding better how the environment, you know, different environmental factors structures influence or plague these families and keep them from meeting standards versus just asking why they're not meeting it, better understanding from their context why and how they feel about these phenomenon, how it impacts the way they meaning of the world, of themselves, and how that cannot just affect them but also impact future generations to come. What hasn't been done for me [inaudible] absent, what the studies of absent fatherhood is that normally we kind of focus on it as just like an attribute in one's life. For me, it's more of a focus of how does this happen to carry over for so many generations such that it has tripled since the Moynihan Report. So that's the way that I tackle it.
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>> If you could recommend any research from African-American scholars that have done work on studying the black family post Moynihan Report, what would you suggest? Who would you reference?
>> Well, I mean, if we're looking immediately after the report, I mentioned Robert Staples before, the other person I mentioned is a woman by the name of Joyce Ladner who along with Carol Stack was the first to do research that was focusing on the experience of African-American women. It's a book called "Tomorrow's Tomorrow," a very interesting book that in some ways holds up quite well. The interesting thing about Ladner is that she was at Washington University in St. Louis. Her advisor was a guy by the name of Lee Rainwater and Rainwater was Moynihan's biggest defender. He actually wrote the first book on the Moynihan Report called "Politics of Controversy" with one of his graduate students and so Rainwater is one of Moynihan's biggest supporters and he did this big ethnographic study of [inaudible], a public housing estate in St. Louis and his student Joyce Ladner then comes to completely different conclusions than Rainwater had. Rainwater is very pro-Moynihan and used the research to back Moynihan, whereas Ladner was on the totally opposite side of things but I think she did some very interesting work in the 1970s and some ways still holds up.
>> Well, I'd first give a shout out to my advisor, who I think is here, Al Young, who's work I think really contributes to the cultural sociology that we've seen around understanding better how certain environmental factors, for him it's social proximity but also I'm thinking of more recent stuff like "Keeping It Real," understanding better how kind of another challenge to kind of like this oppositional culture idea that, you know, kids don't do well in school because they don't want to act white, so [inaudible] I think really gets at how like kind of schools devalue and/or don't allow children to use their kind of their own influences to develop themselves in school. Those are the two most that stand out to me that have been done.
>> And last question, as I understand we're running short on time, so we've talked a lot about what work can be done from a scholarly perspective, but, you know, we're here in the Policy School, and so you have people who are going to be going out into the policy world making decisions on programs and policies and so given what we've talked about today, what is one piece of advice that you would give to them and to those who are going to be making decisions on programs and policies pertaining to social welfare?
>> Well again, a very good and tough question. I mean, I think our discussion about-- I mean, you know, one of the first things would be to look at the situation with incarceration in prison. I mean, I think, you know, so the first do no harm, you know, and I think the, you know, sort of [inaudible] the way that conservatives have proffered this idea that it sort of welfare policies that have, you know, the government has been doing harm rather than things like, you know, mass incarceration. On the other hand, I think, you know, we should still look at some of the things that were connected to the Moynihan Report, I mean, that would strike then not just families but, you know, all individuals, I mean, things like employment, you know, higher wages, increased unitization, also policies that I think is problematic to look at policies that are directed only at men. I mean, William Julius Wilson does this too. I mean, he makes a eligible male, you know, statistic of marriageable males among African-Americans and it's based on their employability but, you know, another policy approach that many critics, Moynihan said at the time and is still relevant is well if you don't have, you know, two-parent families, then it's a real problem, you know, that if in most cases, you know, the main provider is a woman, it's a real problem that women aren't paid enough as men, it's a real problem that they're not getting extra support from the government for single-parent families. So if you really want to provide, you know, for children, maybe look at making those families that are there more viable, you know, rather than to try and to re-create some kind of ideal, you know, two-parent family. So that would be another thing I would suggest.
>> One thing I might say is, you know, as you march out into the real world from policy school and try to think about, you know, what to do with what you've learned here is I think it's important to bear in mind like, you know, or to be mindful of the quality of the evidence that people are basing their claims on and, you know, and then and, you know, to develop a taste for different kinds of evidence yourself as you take classes in policy school and begin to form some opinions about what is credible evidence, what is not credible evidence, when do I believe something, when do I not believe something because I think that having that sensibility will be a compass for you as you navigate the pretty turbulent real world when people are making lots of conflicting claims and citing evidence to try to back their point up and having a feel yourself for what credible evidence is I think is, you know, it's like a good skill to have and will serve you well and the returns on that are very high over the course of a career. So that's what I would say.
>> As a former MPP student who went into the real world and came back, you know, I like to remind people and I truly believe that I think it's important to remember that you're a person before you're a policymaker. I think that, you know, we all have the capacity to contribute with our biases and kind of like what experiences and like, you know, you mentioned with Moynihan himself coming from an absent-father home and all the ways in which he tried to assume an identification with black families, he's still in a lot of ways got it wrong.
And to remember I think the, you know, heighten our awareness that, you know, outside if like thinking we got the answer, we also contribute to the problem in some ways and I think constantly being aware of the ways in which we as people can [inaudible] policy is important to be aware of along the way.
[ Pause ]
>> Well, thank you very much. I want to thank our speakers and our moderators and the good questions that came from the audience and we want to welcome you to a reception outside in the grand hall.
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