[Congressional Record (Bound Edition), Volume 151 (2005), Part 13]
[Extensions of Remarks]
[Pages 17351-17352]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office, www.gpo.gov]



                         HON. CHARLES B. RANGEL

                              of new york

                    in the house of representatives

                         Monday, July 25, 2005

  Mr. RANGEL. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to alert my colleagues of a 
dangerous condition that threatens the health of our society--the 
destruction of the black family.
  The black family has yet to recover from the destructive effects of 
slavery. In 1712, British slave owner, Willie Lynch was invited to the 
colony of Virginia to teach his methods of keeping slaves under control 
to American slave owners. Almost three hundred years later, the 
techniques that he prescribed seem to have not only been successful in 

[[Page 17352]]

slaves, but lasting as a means of weakening and destroying the black 
family. In slavery families were purposely divided with husband and 
wives separated from each other and their children. Black males were 
humiliated and whipped in front of their wives and children. Stripped 
of their power and pride, black men were seen as weak and black women 
had to be the strength of the household, distorting the traditional 
family structure.
  Despite civil rights victories and the apparent improvement in 
socioeconomic status, the black community is suffering from the lack of 
families. Marriage has become virtually impossible as black men are 
disproportionately incarcerated, unemployed and victims of early death. 
Black women on the other hand, have a higher probability of graduating 
from high school and attending college. This disparity in 
qualifications renders the two highly incompatible. As a result, an 
alarming two-thirds of black children are born out of wedlock and a 
disturbing proportion of them grow up fatherless. Without a father in 
the home, where do girls find their model for a future husband? Where 
do boys find their model for being a father? Without such an example, 
children of fatherless homes are doomed to continue the cycle.
  Fatherless children are more vulnerable to suffer from societal ills. 
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human services, children 
who are raised without a father are more likely to be poor, have higher 
drop-out rates, are at a dramatically greater risk of drug and alcohol 
abuse, are more likely to commit criminal acts and are more likely to 
get pregnant as teenagers than those raised in two-parent homes.
  Members of the Congressional Black Caucus have taken it upon 
themselves to address this problem. Representative Danny K. Davis has 
sponsored National Dialogues on the State of the African American Male, 
discussing such topics as black male incarceration, drug addiction and 
community building. While efforts such as these are a step in the right 
direction, more has to be done. It is going to take more than a few 
members of Congress to save black families.
  While it is easy to identify the reason for the decline of black 
families, finding solutions is not so simple. However, not knowing the 
remedy for a situation should not be an excuse to ignore it. 
Acknowledging that the black community is suffering from the 
destruction of the black family is a necessary step to confront the 
issue and begin the process to reverse the effects of this devastating 
  The following Washington Post article by William Raspberry discusses 
the state of the black family.

                   Why Our Black Families Are Failing

       ``There is a crisis of unprecedented magnitude in the black 
     community, one that goes to the very heart of its survival. 
     The black family is failing.''
       Quibble if you will about the ``unprecedented magnitude''--
     slavery wasn't exactly a high point of African American well-
     being. But there's no quarreling with the essence of the 
     alarm sounded here last week by a gathering of Pentecostal 
     clergy and the Seymour Institute for Advanced Christian 
     Studies. What is happening to the black family in America is 
     the sociological equivalent of global warming: easier to 
     document than to reverse, inconsistent in its near-term 
     effect--and disastrous in the long run.
       Father absence is the bane of the black community, 
     predisposing its children (boys especially, but increasingly 
     girls as well) to school failure, criminal behavior and 
     economic hardship, and to an intergenerational repetition of 
     the grim cycle. The culprit, the ministers (led by the Rev. 
     Eugene Rivers III of Boston, president of the Seymour 
     Institute) agreed, is the decline of marriage.
       Kenneth B. Johnson, a Seymour senior fellow who has worked 
     in youth programs, says he often sees teenagers ``who've 
     never seen a wedding.''
       The concern is not new. As Rivers noted at last week's 
     National Press Club news conference, the late Daniel Patrick 
     Moynihan sounded the alarm 40 years ago, only to be 
     ``condemned and pilloried as misinformed, malevolent and even 
       What is new is the understanding of how deep and wide is 
     the reach of declining marriage--and the still-forming 
     determination to do something about it.
       When Moynihan issued his controversial study, roughly a 
     quarter of black babies were born out of wedlock; moreover, 
     it was largely a low-income phenomenon. The proportion now 
     tops two-thirds, with little prospect of significant decline, 
     and has moved up the socioeconomic scale.
       There have been two main explanations. At the low-income 
     end, the disproportionate incarceration, unemployment and 
     early death of black men make them unavailable for marriage. 
     At the upper-income level, it is the fact that black women 
     are far likelier than black men to complete high school, 
     attend college and earn the professional credentials that 
     would render them ``eligible'' for marriage.
       Both explanations are true. But black men aren't born 
     incarcerated, crime-prone dropouts. What principally renders 
     them vulnerable to such a plight is the absence of fathers 
     and their stabilizing influence.
       Fatherless boys (as a general rule) become ineligible to be 
     husbands--though no less likely to become fathers--and their 
     children fall into the patterns that render them ineligible 
     to be husbands.
       The absence of fathers means, as well, that girls lack both 
     a pattern against which to measure the boys who pursue them 
     and an example of sacrificial love between a man and a woman. 
     As the ministers were at pains to say last week, it isn't the 
     incompetence of mothers that is at issue but the absence of 
     half of the adult support needed for families to be most 
       Interestingly, they blamed the black church for abetting 
     the decline of the black family--by moderating virtually out 
     of existence its once stern sanctions against extramarital 
     sex and childbirth and by accepting the present trends as 
     more or less inevitable.
       They didn't say--but might have--that black America's 
     almost reflexive search for outside explanations for our 
     internal problems delayed the introspective examination that 
     might have slowed the trend. What we have now is a changed 
     culture--a culture whose worst aspects are reinforced by 
     oversexualized popular entertainment and that places a 
     reduced value on the things that produced nearly a century of 
     socioeconomic improvement. For the first time since slavery, 
     it is no longer possible to say with assurance that things 
     are getting better.
       As the Rev. Jesse Jackson said in a slightly different 
     context, ``What began as a problem has deteriorated into a 
     condition. Problems require solving; conditions require 
       How to start the healing? Rivers and his colleagues hope to 
     use their personal influence, a series of marriage forums and 
     their well-produced booklet, ``God's Gift: A Christian Vision 
     of Marriage and the Black Family,'' to launch a serious, 
     national discussion and action program.
       In truth, though, the situation is so critical--and its 
     elements so interconnected and self-perpetuating--that there 
     is no wrong place to begin. When you find yourself in this 
     sort of a hole, someone once said, the first thing to do is 
     stop digging.