Riverwest, flash mobs and our children: Moynihan’s alarm continues to ring
by Taka S. Raton
But it may be too late!
And according to Bryce Christensen in her October 2004 writing “Time for a new ‘Moynihan Report’? – Confronting the National Family Crisis,” in the online edition of “The Family in America,” it was even “tragically too late” as of 1986 with the much-acclaimed television documentary “The Vanishing Black Family – Crisis in Black American” as reported by Bill Moyers.
Now, 25 years following 1986, we find four (4) parents who actually contacted police to turn their children in as suspects in the Sunday, July 3 robbery and ransacking of the BP gas and convenience store at 1030 East North Avenue.
According to the July 7 report by Journal Sentinel writer Jessie Garza, three girls – aged 13, 14, 16, and one 15-year-old boy were cited Wednesday, July 6, with disorderly conduct, theft and curfew violations after their mothers notified authorities when they were viewed on the store video cameras.
At least 22 additional suspects, all African American, are being sought by police as of the Garza report. Seven have been identified.
Minutes later after the BP rampage, about 60 youths robbed and beat up people who were attending the fireworks display at the Kilbourn Reservoir Park late Sunday. The injured were White; the attackers were African American.
Shaina Perry, 22 was among several who were injured as reported by Meg Jones in the July 6 Journal Sentinel.
“I heard laughing as they were beating everybody up. They were eating chips like it was a picnic,” she says.
Perry adds that: “All I remember was seeing bright lights (after being punched), then my backpack was gone and blood was spurting out of my head.”
According to published reports, a crowd of 200 people gathered at the Gordon Park Pavilion Wednesday, July 6 to hear Chief Edward Flynn discuss the police response to the Kilbourn Reservoir attacks.
Flynn said that the police response to the beatings and robbery of individuals attending the fireworks event “may not have been our finest hour,” and called the actions of the perpetrators “barbaric”.
A July 6 MCJ editorial on the assaults described the chief’s adjective as “correct,” adding that what took place in Milwaukee on July 3 “only reinforces negative, racist beliefs that Black people – particularly our youth – are nothing more than ‘savages.’”
Alderwoman Milele A. Coggs and Alderman Nick Novak, as published in the Saturday, July 9 issue of the Milwaukee Courier, issued a plea asking for anyone with information about the incident “of senseless violence in this unique and public place” to call the Milwaukee Police Department and report what they saw.”
The Riverwest incident caps a long line of Black youth violence and flash mob disorder in Milwaukee and around the country.
Thirteen people were arrested after a fight broke out July 6 at the Summerfest grounds during the Wiz Khalifa concert. Five flash mob robberies occurred all within one hour in Chicago’s downtown area Saturday, June 4. All the perpetrators were Black.
In separate incidents in Chicago, the victims were two Caucasian males, a 42-year-old Japanese doctor, a 22-year-old Thai man whose backpack was snatched, and a 20-year-old Filipino nursing student who was surrounded by teens who punched him and stole his phone, his wallet, and his bike.
A flash mob in this context is a quickly forming group of young people using technology to organize and converge at one predetermined spot.
And there is more! In his June 28 edition of the Chicago-based Black Star Project newsletter, founder Phillip Jackson shares reports on a February 26 incident in which a 50 youth flash mob pilfered the Holiday Store in St. Paul, Minnesota; on April 9, a flash mob of between 700 to 900 African Americans at the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City; the April 25 flash mob robbery by 20 to 25 Black youth at the Dupont men’s store in Washington, D.C.; the robbery on April 29 of a convenience store by 35 Black youth in Las Vegas, and the June 27 roving mob of 30-40 African American youth in downtown Philadelphia.
Terms like “barbaric” and “savages” have been tossed around as labels for our children. But at the end of the day as the sun sets and in the dawn of the morning sunrise, they are still our children reflective of who we are – or who we are not – as a people, as a community, as a culture, and as a race.
Serving as Assistant Secretary of Labor for Policy Planning under the then 36th President of the United States – Lyndon B. Johnson – Daniel Patrick Moynihan, according to Rich Lowery in his May 11, 2010 National Review Online article “The Moynihan Report and Ongoing Family Breakdown,” the future U.S. Senator from New York wrote his 1965 report, “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action” in only a few weeks and had the publication office in the basement of the Labor Department print only 100 copies of the report marked “For Official Use Only.”
In his findings, Moynihan blamed, as described by Christensen, the growing economic, educational, and social problems evident among Blacks on a “family structure that had become highly unstable, and in many urban centers was approaching complete breakdown.”
Anchoring the challenges of Black family stability on the unresolved yet still present consequences of the enslavement era, Moynihan warned of even worse social conditions in the years ahead indicating that the then present social conditions 46 years ago is creating what he termed “The Tangle of Pathology” which may indeed have begun to feed upon itself and had become self-perpetuating.
This “tangle of pathology” in the Black community would include increased crime, school delinquency, school dropouts, poor academic performance, increased out-of-wedlock births, rising unemployment amongst Black males, and growing single parent fatherless homes. And these predictions were evident in his report as of 1965. At the center of this pathology was the weakness of the Black family structure.
Additionally in Chapter IV of “The Black Family” entitled “The Tangle of Pathology,” Moynihan underscores the point that as a result of the enslavement experience, the “Negro community has been forced into a matriarchal structure” which is “out of line with the rest of the American society” thereby seriously retarding the Black community as a whole. He writes:
“There is, presumably, no special reason why a society in which males are dominant in family relationships is to be preferred to a matriarchal arrangement. However, it is clearly a disadvantage for a minority group to be operating on one principle, while the great majority of the population…is operating on another. This is the present situation of the Negro.”
He adds that America “is a society which presumes male leadership in private and public affairs,” and that the arrangement of society “facilitates such leadership and rewards it.” A subculture “such as that of the Negro American in which this is not the pattern is placed at a distinct disadvantage.”
Moynihan, whose father abandoned his family, believed that “the richest inheritance any child can have is a stable, loving disciplined family life.”
Lowery writes that Moynihan—in his report—wanted to create a “sense of urgency” about Black children being disproportionately denied this inheritance.
Moynihan revealed in his account that Black out-of-wedlock births had increased from 18 percent in 1950 to 23.6 percent in 1963. He recorded at the time that illegitimate births had stopped tracking with the unemployment rate. Instead, as unemployment fell and more Black men were working, the out-of-wedlock births continued to rise. He concluded that “illegitimacy had developed a dynamic all its own.”
An unmistakable lesson in American history, says Moynihan, is that “a community that allows a large number of men to grow up in broken families, dominated by women, never acquiring any stable relationship to male authority, never acquiring rational experiences about the future – that community asks for and gets chaos.”
Again, the emphasis is on the fact this was written in 1965. Is there any wonder that 46 years later in the 2011 present we are now experiencing – as a result of this seemingly predicted self-perpetuating Moynihan labeled “Tangle of Pathology” – a Riverwest mob attack by Black youth, the rampaging of an East North Avenue BP convenience store and African American flash mob assaults and robberies around the country?
Shortly after the release of the report and following a landmark 1965 Howard University speech by President Johnson, the liberal left and leading Black civil rights leadership viciously attacked Moynihan and his conclusions.
As documented by Kay S. Hymowitz in her Summer 2003 City Journal essay ‘The Black Family: 40 Years of Lies – Rejecting the Moynihan report caused untold, needless misery,” attacks came from the department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) and the Children’s Bureau charging “subtle racism”. Black leaders such as the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) director Floyd McKissick argued, as noted by Hymowitz, that it is not the Black family that is the problem but the “damn system that needs changing.”
CORE activist William Ryan accused Moynihan of “blaming the victim” and civil rights notable James Farmer accused Moynihan, according to Christensen, of “laying the blame for the roots of poverty in the Negro community upon Negroes themselves,” as opposed to the issue of racism and the defect of oppression in the nature of American society.
In the autumn of that year, a White House conference on civil rights was scheduled. The Moynihan report, which was to be the centerpiece for the gathering, disappeared in the heat of controversy and was not at all mentioned.
Hymowitz cites that this was the one moment that, according to Moynihan, “When the nation had the resources, the leadership and the will to make a total commitment to the cause of Negro equality” and move on to the “next and more profound stage in the battle for civil rights. But the issue of the Negro family was now dead.”
Herein lay the dynamic which from that point forward altered the whole course of history for African Americans thus creating, in part, the conditions which today befall the Black community and thereby negatively impacting on the larger society locally and nationally.
Once the position of the liberal left and Black civil right leadership prevailed, the issue of self-responsibility, self-reliance; the cultivation of ethnic self-esteem, self-identity, and self-ideals that would normally evolve out of a strong culture producing a viable family structure was additionally destroyed. Do understand the sequence. The culture of a people must be first compromised before the family unity is affected.
Further, the preparation of children for the common societal values of humane interaction, civil cooperation, a responsible work ethic, acquisition of competency skills, and the development of competitive mastery was taken out of the Black family, the Black community and Black institutions – as such attributes are prepared and groomed in all other American multicultural pluralistic ethnic environs – would not occur in the Black community.
Our children, therefore, had nothing of their “Higher Order” Black mastery “own” to grow into, to become, and to carry forth, thus advancing the ideals of the race. In fact, due to the traditional “We-Shall-Overcome”/“Black and White Together,” there were no race ideals to reflect. All was abandoned to “Be with White”.
Integration as we practiced it, fostered weak social, moral, and spiritual ideals based upon a false and mythical premise of White Supremacy and Black Inferiority.
From that point onward well into the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and into the 2011 Riverwest flash mob’s incident, the responsibility for the Black community was taken out of the Black folk’s hands (and particularly and specifically out of the hands of the Black man) and placed under the control and influence of the “system.”
The only people, group or entities that attempted to counter this posture and return self-respect, responsibility and accountability back to the Black community were your nationalist and “race conscious” movement membership formerly as represented by Marcus Garvey, and Booker T. Washington; in the then current time era, Malcolm X, and Elijah Muhammad and perhaps even the Black Panther Party, and at present the Hon. Minister Louis Farrakhan.
But Black people and the larger society were “bamboozled” by the liberal left and the Black civil rights leadership labeling such race conscious individuals as “militant,” “radical,” and “separatist” not allowing for the non-contestable fact that in a multicultural pluralistic society such as America (indeed the world), each and every and all ethno-cultural groupings live amongst their own, build for their own, cultivate their own, maintain their own, advance their own, protect their own, perpetuate their own, and eternalize their own – except for integrationist Black people.
It would be Joel Kotkin in his work, “Tribes – How Race, Religion and Identity Determine Success in the New Global Economy,” who speaks to five cultures that are and have been at the center of the world’s economy and who are in modern times “dominating global commerce in this, the 21st century.”
These five cultures, or what Kotkin refers to as “tribes” are the Jews, the British, the Japanese, the Chinese, and the Indians.
The author cites that for centuries, such attributes as a strong ethnic identity; a sense of unity, self determination and mutual dependence; strong family bonds that reach locally, regionally, nationally and globally; a passion for knowledge and emerging technology acquired from experiences, education and contact external to the group which is brought back to their own collective infrastructure fostering “rapid cultural development critical for successful competition in today’s regional, national and global competitive market.
And finally (to this writer’s heart), the creation of their own schools and cultural institutions “wherever they appear outside of their home boarders to ensure that their unique culture and ‘Way’ of life is retained, safeguarded, protected and perpetuated for their community, for their children, for their families, and for their future.”
Kotkin adds that the only examples in African American leadership – again – that has ever come close to how such cultures function regionally, nationally and globally are the select views and vision of Marcus Garvey, Booker T. Washington, Malcolm X, Elijah Muhammad, and Minister Louis Farrakhan.
Even Nathan Glazer and co-author Moynihan in their text “Beyond the Melting Pot – the Negroes, Puerto Ricans, Jews, Italians, and Irish of New York City” cite that family, heritage, culture, and mutual values and interest drive the growth of all other ethnic groups in American society – except the Negro – who is dependent more on an “outside” system based assistance for its development as opposed to its own ethnically unique talents, skills, gifts and genius as do all other groups in America and in the world.
Eventually elected to the Senate from New York, Moynihan on the issue of the Negro family writes Lowey “became a voice in the wilderness on the most important social trend of our time.” But by 1970, the out-of-wedlock birth rate had climbed to 38 percent among Blacks.
In the words of Hymowitz, over the next 15 years into the 1980’s, “the Black family continued to self-destruct” and, notes Christensen, had long since “begun to feed on itself” as Moynihan had earlier predicted. Between 1960 and 1987, the percentage of Black out-of-wedlock births rose from 23 percent to 62 percent while during this same period, “the percentage of Black women ages 25 to 29 who were married plummeted from 60 percent to 32 percent.
Such findings were echoed in the Moyers’ report. Thus by the late Eighties, writes Christensen, “… it was actually respectable for mainstream media commentators and even politically credentialed liberals to affirm (Moynihan’s) central arguments.”
However, in 2011, the Black out-of-wedlock birthrate is at 72.3 percent. Black folk, and particularly Black youth, are not only at the bottom of most if not all known social indicators (which this writer has covered for over 10 years in this paper) but we now can ashamedly claim the following select stats which underscore again Moynihan’s findings:
• A Black child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent “family” unit than an African American child born today in 2011 (cited in a current political post but originally quoted years ago in Black research annals).
• According to a 2010 Black Star Project report, over the past nine-and-a-half years nationwide from 2001 through 2010, 67,000 Black Americans have been murdered by Black hands.
That would be 60,246 more than the total number of soldiers who died in Afghanistan and in Iraq combined with 6,755 war related deaths from 2001 through 2010 and 64,068 more Black folk killed by Black folk than were murdered by the Ku Klux Klan during the 29 years between 1889 and 1918 (Molefi K. Asante & Mark T. Mattson – Historical and Cultural Atlas of African Americans).
• And just recently in the June 2011 “Milwaukee Today: An Occasional Report of the NAACP” by R.L. McNeely, David Pate and Lisa Ann Johnson, it is listed in the Executive Summary that “More African American men in the nation are in prison, in jail, on parole, or on probation than were enslaved in 1850.
Finally, and regrettably speaking, all this writer can say is that if we stopped putting our heads in the sand acting like we as a Black people do not have problems and issues unique to us and if we just knew our history, then such disgraceful and outrageous occurrences like Riverwest, the BP swarm, flash mobs all over the place and Black-on-Black killings, just to mention just a few negative trends, could be both predicted, avoided and healed.
And since our problems are unique to us as African Americans and to our yet unresolved historical circumstance in this country, it will probably only respond favorably and successfully to a unique African/African American Higher Order culturally specific solution.
But until that time unfortunately, we may continue to bear witness to this ominous “Tangle of Pathology” which is still today sounding the Moynihan alarm.
Taki S. Raton is a school consultant in the African Centered curriculum paradigm and creator of the Milwaukee Blyden Delany Academy model. He is a writer and lecturer on the national stage detailing African World historiography, urban community issues with emphasis on education, the social development of Black youth and African American male concerns. He can be reached for presentations and consultant arrangements at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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