by Amy Wax
A book review by John McWhorter
What this means, Wax points out, is that scrupulous recountings of the historical reasons for black problems are of no significant use in finding solutions. She notes:The black family was far more stable 50 years ago, when conditions for blacks were far worse than they are today. Black out-of-wedlock births started to climb and marriage rates to fall around 1960, long after slavery was abolished and just as the civil rights movement gained momentum. Perhaps a more nuanced explanation for the recent deterioration is that the legacy of slavery made the black family more vulnerable to the cultural subversions of the 1960s. But what does this tell us that is useful today? The answer is: nothing.
One of the most sobering observations made by Wax comes in the form of a disarmingly simple calculus presented first by Isabel Sawhill and Christopher Jencks. If you finish high school and keep a job without having children before marriage, you will almost certainly not be poor. Period. I have repeatedly felt the air go out of the room upon putting this to black audiences. No one of any political stripe can deny it. It is human truth on view. In 2004, the poverty rate among blacks who followed that formula was less than 6 percent, as opposed to the overall rate of 24.7 percent. Even after hearing the earnest musings about employers who are less interested in people with names like Tomika, no one can gainsay the simple truth of that advice. Crucially, neither bigotry nor even structural racism can explain why an individual does not live up to it.
This data should be taught in every public school. Everyone can choose not be poor, you simply have to follow life's little guidelines. Graduate high school. Everyone can do that if they apply themselves. Don't have kids before you get married. Get a job and keep it. These are not impossible things for any American to do. It isn't that hard when you play by the rules. Sphere: Related Content