Gangs, God and the Great Society

By Teka Lark

You want to save poor Black boys in the “inner city” —save their mother’s first.

Support women and you support children. Equal pay, universal child-care— regardless of income— family leave and a society that doesn’t view sex outside of marriage as icky, is all part of that.

If marriage was the answer to cure child poverty then Sweden which has some of the lowest marriage rates in the developed world should have the highest child poverty rates and the US which has some of the highest marriage rates in the developed world should have some of the lowest child poverty, but the reality is— the opposite is true.

Sweden has a child poverty rate of 7.0%. The U.S. has a children poverty rate of 22%.

In 2009 according to the CDC unmarried children births were 66% in Sweden and in the US unmarried children births were 41%.

The War on Poverty was legislation that brought about the beginning of the modern era of respectability politics and the face of African-Americans as the symbol of poverty in the U.S. In 1965 the report “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action” was released. In this report and through various interpretations of this report Black women were demonized for not being good mothers owing to their “loose morals,” and the Black family was generalized and pathologized.

Lyndon B. Johnson was going to make “taxpayers out of tax eaters,” because the problem in the black community wasn’t the over 200 years of slavery or nearly 100 years of Jim Crow or the racially restrictive covenant laws or the lynchings.  The problem in the black community  was that it didn’t know how to pull up its own boot straps.

All the challenges of the black community according to the Great Society needed to be taken care of from inside the black community.

It’s where the conversation: “What about the ‘black on black’ crime and GANGS?!” comes from.

The War on Poverty had nothing to do with poverty. It had to do with puritanical morality and a sexist out of date purview.

Black women in the U.S. have always had higher than average unmarried childbirths. Black children in the U.S. have always been disproportionately poor.

Never married women poverty rate in the U.S. is 21%. Married women poverty rate in the U.S. is 6%.  You compare women without children the poverty rate for unmarried women in the U.S. is 18% and the poverty rate for married women without children is 4%.

That smells like sexism to me.

There is an idea is if we could just get women married then poverty would magically vanish. There is no need to address the pink collar ghetto, which forces women to have more education than a man for less pay. This pay gap is even more pronounced in the working class purple collar ghetto where a man with high school diploma can make more than a woman with an AA degree.

The  answer to childhood poverty is not more people getting married and god. Children poverty is not about values, not puritanical ones that paint scarlet letters on women for having sex.

The answer to children poverty is stopping systematic institutional oppression in all forms. The answer in ending childhood poverty is more feminist, family, labor and urban planning policies and passage of the ERA. The answer is also class and racially balanced feminist curriculum in K-12  and in universities, so that all of society is on the same page in regards to the fact that women are as valuable as men.

“The newly enacted Civil Rights Bill brings the American Negro to the threshold of becoming a first class participate in society. But until he can be released from economic privation he cannot be fully deemed liberated, ” Martin Luther King Jr. regarding the War on Poverty.

Poverty is caused by policies that aren’t just sexist, but downright misogynist and antagonistic towards women and their children.

Until working class women of all races are released from economic privation, the U.S. will continue to have the second highest child poverty rates in the developed world.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Megan Rivera says:

    This is such an amazing article, I had to bookmark it. Thank you so much. My Intersectional Feminist/Geek group on facebook appreciated this very much.


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