The Moynihan Report (1965) – No One Listened


Daniel Patrick Moynihan was a liberal democrat who was appointed by President Kennedy to be Assistant Secretary of Labor and stayed on during the Johnson Administration. In 1965, he produced a report  on the then current state of the Negro family in America.  The primary purpose of the report  was to inform America that the Negro family was in major crisis, due – as Moynihan saw it – to the cycle of poverty bred by an unstable family unit (specifically in urban America).   In addition to the family crisis, Moynihan also decided to use his report to proffer a reason for why white people appeared to have such a vastly higher standard of living than the black race.  He chose the most non-divisive reason possible to advance his theory:  the legacy of slavery.   However, Moynihan then decided to deviate from this safe ground and speculate that perhaps nature, particularly in the area of innate intelligence,  could also be a key factor in the economic differences that existed between the two races.  This, of course,  infuriated black leaders. It also contradicted the premise of his report, and, by contradicting its premise, he was clearly undermining the legitimacy of the ideology he inferred the gov’t (i.e. the Democratic Party) was now committing itself to with regard to the plight of the black race (the legacy of slavery was the sole cause for the economic differences between the two races).

The report ended up costing Moynihan his job. 1


End of the Beginning : The Report began with a declaration that America was now in a new state of affairs, that there had been a “Negro American revolution”. Negroes had achieved their integration (with the help of the Johnson and Kennedy Administrations). Now there was an “End of the Beginning”. They (blacks) had won something no other male group had ever won:: the “right” to be integrated into another race’s social stratification system – though, it need also be mentioned that no other male group ever demanded such a thing in human history. The next step for blacks (actually the federal government’s next step) was “equality.” But equality for the blacks was to have a different meaning. According to the Moynihan Report:

“The demand for Equality of Opportunity has been generally perceived by white Americans as a demand for liberty, a demand not to be excluded from the competitions of life – at the polling place, in the scholarship examinations, at the personnel office, on the housing market. Liberty does, of course, demand that everyone be free to try his luck, or test his skill in such matters. But these opportunities do not necessarily produce equality: on the contrary, to the extent that winners imply losers, equality of opportunity almost insures inequality of results.”

“The point of semantics is that equality of opportunity now has a different meaning for Negroes than it has for whites. It is not (or at least no longer) a demand for liberty alone, but also for equality – in terms of group results.”

In other words, blacks must be equal in all things with white people as a “group.” And how was this new definition of equality to be achieved for the whole American Negro people? By integration , taxation and new government programs.

Monyihan then points out the true crux of the failings (as the white liberals saw it) of the black race in America: the disintegration of the black family unit.

“The evidence — not final, but powerfully persuasive — is that the Negro family in the urban ghettos is crumbling. A middle-class group has managed to save itself, but for vast numbers of the unskilled, poorly educated city working class the fabric of conventional social relationships has all but disintegrated. There are indications that the situation may have been arrested in the past few years, but the general post-war trend is unmistakable. So long as this situation persists, the cycle of poverty and disadvantage will continue to repeat itself.”


“The white family has achieved a high degree of stability and is
maintaining that stability. By contrast, the family structure of lower class Negroes is highly unstable, and in many urban centers is
approaching complete breakdown.”

And what caused this family breakdown? Well, Moynihan (and the Johnson Administration) couldn’t very well blame the black males (or their cultural constraints – their non-Occupational Ranking nature), so he cites:

“…three centuries of exploitation [slavery and, after 1865, the white man‘s failure to commit to race-nullification] …” “Here the consequences of the historic injustices done to Negro Americans are silent and hidden from view. But here is where the true injury has occurred: unless this damage is repaired, all the effort to end discrimination and poverty and injustice will come to little.”

But how is the Negro family going to be repaired so they could achieve “equality as a group” with the white population?

In Moynihan’s summation he makes it clear that his report is only about “defining a problem” (all related to slavery) and not to “propose solutions to [fix] it.” However, the solution is obvious: massive government intervention into urban black life. What else could possibly be the reason to produce such a report?

Then Moynihan decided to bring up two issues, undoubtedly in an effort to be fair-minded.

The first issue concerned “competence”.

“The ultimate mark of inadequate preparation for life is the failure rate on the Armed Forces mental test. The Armed Forces Qualification Test is not quite a mental test, nor yet an education test. It is a test of ability to perform at an acceptable level of competence. It roughly measures ability that ought to be found in an average 7th or 8th grade student. A grown young man who cannot pass this test is in trouble. Fifty-six percent of Negroes fail it. This is a rate almost four times that of the whites.”

The second issue concerned the Negro male’s abandonment of his children.

“It may be noted, for example, that for most of the post-war period male Negro unemployment and the number of new AFDC cases rose and fell together as if connected by a chain from 1948 to 1962. The correlation between the two series of data was astonishing. (This would mean that 83 percent of the rise and fall in AFDC cases can be statistically ascribed to the rise and fall in the unemployment rate.) In 1960, however, for the first time, unemployment declined, but the number of new AFDC cases rose [black males had more jobs but black females with children were filing for more government assistance]. In 1963 this happened a second time. In 1964 a third. The possible implications of these and other data are serious enough that they, too, should be understood before program proposals are made.”

The inference in these final two observations here are important as they are ominous. (1) How can the educational system be the suggestive rout to opportunity and advancement for the black race if less than half of the black males – for whatever reasons – are only able to reach performance levels more indicative of a child than an adult? (2) How can the government expect to “fix” the Negro urban family – by employing black males and forcing integration into white male created work groups – if the monies from these jobs are not going to be used to support the families of the Negro males ?

Time would tell…

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