Salvo 05.29.2024 6 minutes

The Black Point of View

Father and son play a ukulele on the sofa.

What the evidence shows about the attitudes and beliefs of the most scrutinized Americans.

Pundits love to talk about what is happening to black Americans and what they purportedly think about it. The bottom line of the mainstream analysis—especially on the Left, but also on much of the mainstream Right as well—is that things are really, really bad for African Americans, and they are unhappy about it and seeking large-scale change in American society to better address the problems they face.

Most of that punditry proceeds in the absence of actual evidence about the beliefs of black Americans. This is both because much of what exists in the public political discussion is intellectually lazy and unconcerned about minor affairs like backing up arguments with facts, but also because the facts do not well support the desired, predetermined position.

Pew recently published data on the attitudes of black Americans, and there are some intriguing results to be found there. Of course, Pew passes quickly over much of the most interesting and useful information in their own results, owing to the druthers of that organization.

Perhaps the most telling, standout fact to be found here is the small percentage—less than one-quarter—of African Americans who view marriage as an essential ingredient in success. More than 75 percent of black Americans do not consider this an important part of a successful life. They have, that is, accepted the elite narrative that individuals, and especially women, should be more focused on their own self-cultivation and independence than on the building and maintaining of a long-term marital partnership.

The amount of evidence demonstrating the positive effect of marriage on the financial stability of individuals is vast. The radical Left mourns the fact that marriage enhances financial security, but even they cannot avoid noticing the relationship, if they can be bothered to look.

This is very bad news about the state of black America. This lack of interest in marriage would be fine if humans didn’t reproduce in pairs. But single parenthood has grown massively throughout American society over the past several decades, and nowhere has it exploded so much as among black Americans. The results of this phenomenon are obvious. Black children are much more likely than their white and Asian peers to be raised in single parenthood, with all the economic and parental labor deficits associated with it. The attainment levels of those children are handicapped by that familial fact, and it certainly contributes to lowered educational and employment achievement and higher levels of engagement with the criminal justice system among blacks.

This fact cannot be overstated: The black family is in free fall, with single parenthood rates by far the highest of any racial group in the country, and this is thanks in large part to the cultural relativism preached by our elites on marriage and family structure (“Do whatever you want, it’s all good! Who are we to tell anybody how to do family?”).

These Pew figures would, in a sane culture, be an alert for the need for a national conversation about this topic. Instead, our elite class will continue to talk about racial inequalities solely through the lens of “structural racism” and the question of the status of the black family and black beliefs about the importance of marriage will remain occluded from the public eye.

The Pew data also show that less than half of black people define financial success as being able to pass resources down to the next generation. This is a basic aspect of “generational wealth” and prosperity. You intend and you plan to leave something for your kids. Even if you don’t have much, you desire to give your kids what you can in the way of a head start. If more than half of black Americans are sufficiently averse to future orientation that they are not even thinking along these lines, this is a problem for black advancement. Inevitably, there will exist differences in prosperity levels for different groups if they have different attitudes about how important it is to be sufficiently oriented to the future that they desire to leave some material resources for their children.

Of course, the Left will claim that this is not about black attitudes so much as it is about the objective hopelessness with which they are left in an American society that mercilessly crushes them. But then they will have to explain another point of the Pew data that does not at all fit with that interpretation. Even given the objective existence of significant racial inequalities of achievement in the U.S., it is of interest to note how black people themselves think about their own achievement. The Pew data show that nearly 70 percent of black Americans consider themselves successful, even after being endlessly told by our elite classes that America has always despised them and still does. The academic “experts” go on and on about how badly black people are doing, and how much will have to change to make it possible for some significant percentage of them to avoid the crushing oppression destined to them in racist America, and yet a large majority of them seem not to have gotten that memo. This data point offers a real challenge to the Left’s interpretation of how black Americans feel about their situation and where they must inevitably sit on the political spectrum.

If we go beyond the Pew survey, we find still more evidence to suggest that things are more complicated with respect to where black Americans are as a group in their political beliefs than the mainstream media would have it. It turns out that blacks are more likely than any other racial group to believe sex is assigned at birth, that is, they are more likely to reject the woke logic on the whole trans phenomenon. They are also among the racial groups least likely to believe another woke mantra, that diversity makes the country better. And even on affirmative action, significant percentages of black Americans are opposed to the “progressive” perspective. Though they are more supportive of it than whites, one-third of blacks reject it in higher education, and more than half say “No” to affirmative action in hiring and promotions.

The take home value, then, from a look at the attitudes of black Americans is that there is evidence of beliefs that are almost certainly contributing to their disadvantage, and as a society we should be more committed to trying to alter those beliefs if we are interested in improving the position of black Americans. But there is also evidence that black Americans both think positively about their existing position in American society—despite the endless mantra of oppression and racism they hear from elites—and that they tend to hold some political beliefs that put them in direct opposition to the agenda of our woke elites. Conservatives would do well to reckon with these facts and formulate specific ways in which they can be put into conservative policy positions with a real chance at cutting into racial inequality in the country.

The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.

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