On Sunday, ABC's This Week did a broadcast commemorating the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King's march on Washington for civil rights. Not surprisingly, the topic of voting restrictions being passed by many Republican-controlled state legislatures was discussed. One of the panelists, Cokie Roberts, referred to these laws as "downright evil."
It will come as a shock, I'm sure, to learn that far-right columnist George Will, also on the panel, had a very different idea on what it was that was an even bigger problem to the black community. It was not voting restrictions. It was not a lack of civil rights. It was not unemployment or low wages.
No, it's African-American children being born to unmarried women, he said. "That, not an absence of rights is surely the biggest impediment.”
Actually, I'm a little surprised by Mr. Will's qualifier. Somehow, I wouldn't be amazed to discover that American-American children being born, period, would be a concern to him. But maybe not.
What prompted his comments was a famous report headed by Daniel Patrick Moynihan and published less an a year after King's march 50 years ago which said it was a "crisis" that "24 percent of African-American children are being born to unmarried women.”
“Today, it’s tripled, 72 percent,” George Will commented with great, mock-concern for black people.
Forgetting for a moment whether the black community would agree with George Will that it's a bigger crisis to their community to have children born into a family without fathers or not being allowed to vote, be without job and not have living wages -- what George Will conveniently left out of his simplistic comment was the percentage of white children being born to unmarried women.
According to that same study, reported here, which he quoted, that number is -- 29%.
Keep in mind that the Moynihan report said that 24% was a crisis in the black community.
Now, it's possible that George Will would think it's 29% of single-parent white families was a crisis, as well. He probably does. But he just doesn't seem stressed about it, as far as crises goes.
None of this is to say that 72% is not a high number. It's very high. Whether a child raised in a single-parent family is not getting the nurturing, love and support it needs, is another matter. One would think that if there are two similar single-parent families, and one of those families has a a job, a living wage, civil rights and voting rights, and the other is discriminated against in almost every way, then that first household will have a more substantial grounding. And be a far-greater "impediment."
Of course, with an attitude like George Will's, it's not surprising that he doesn't think voting restrictions on the black community is as big an issue. Not only might he feel differently if he and his community were being restricted from voting, but -- I get the feeling that George Will is just fine with the black community not voting. period.
Who knows, maybe I'm wrong. Maybe George Will will surprise me. I look forward to that day.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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