In August 2020, more than 600 Jewish organizations signed an open letter in The New York Times endorsing the radical political movement Black Lives Matter (BLM). This is cause for serious concern. BLM’s stance is that Israel is an occupying/colonizing force that oppresses the Palestinian people. That was recently reaffirmed during the latest round of Hamas’s ongoing war against Israel.
Also reprehensible is BLM being openly proud of its rejection of the traditional structure of the family. The “what we believe” section of the BLM website read, in part:
We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and “villages” that collectively care for one another, especially our children, to the degree that mothers, parents, and children are comfortable.
Although this section of the website has since been removed, the same statements can still be found in the movement’s founding documents.
As a Jew and an American, I take it as a point of pride that I have prioritized what BLM pejoratively calls “the Western-prescribed nuclear family.” I am married to the father of my four children. My husband and I teach our children that the best life they can lead is to marry and have children together within the bond of marriage. Indeed, we make it a point to let our kids know that we hope they prioritize the decision to marry and have kids for selfish reasons — namely that we want to be as young as possible when we become grandparents so we can be as involved in their lives as they will allow.
Now this “transformative” political movement in America comes to demand that it would be preferable for me to live by a different set of values. Not only should I radically change my way of life, but to remain in my intact married, two-parent family is to perpetuate cultural norms that are essentially racist. BLM is committed to the proposition that American norms have to change because by design, the traditional structures of our society perpetuate economic, racial and ethnic inequality, along with discrimination and hate.
Reality is exactly the opposite. There is a heavily-researched, evidenced-based and data-driven path for children to grow to adulthood with better health outcomes, better economic outcomes, and better social outcomes. That path is the one where children are raised in two-parent, married families. Based on statistics from the 2020 U.S. Census Bureau, the National Fatherhood Initiative reports that 18.3 million children in America, one in four, are growing up without a father in their home, and that when a child is raised in a father-absent home, he or she is affected in the following ways:
4x greater risk of poverty;
more likely to have behavioral problems;
2x greater risk of infant mortality;
more likely to go to prison;
more likely to commit crime;
7x more likely to become pregnant as a teen;
more likely to face abuse and neglect;
more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol;
2x more likely to suffer obesity;
2x more likely to drop out of high school.
Family structure matters not just as an idea or value but also in practical terms. Children who are raised in two-parent, married homes have a great deal of wind at their backs to thrive in contemporary America. Harvard economist Raj Chetty has argued that family structure is the “single strongest correlate of upward mobility” for poor children. Brown University economist Glenn Lowry has been making similar arguments for years. Indeed, as the University of Virginia’s National Marriage Project reported in 2012:
Researchers are finding that the disappearance of marriage in Middle America is tracking with the disappearance of the middle class in the same communities, a change that strikes at the heart of the American Dream.
It is exactly the wrong direction for all children — especially poor and working-class children — to suggest that structures other than the two-parent, married family is as good or better in which to grow up. Perhaps it should come as no surprise that an organization founded by three “trained Marxist” women would urge our society away from traditional American norms of family structure. That would be disastrous if successful. There is some recent data that shows people are coming to their senses as support for BLM has plummeted, however.
But will the wheel turn away from the disaster that is the single-parent family, as well? The evidence is not so rosy. According to the Institute for Family Studies, 40% of all US births are to single mothers and the rate of poverty for those households is nearly the same (36.5%).
In contrast, our society has spent decades successfully expanding the definition of the American family. Today, women working outside the home is a value as well as an economic necessity. Same-sex marriage has been accepted both legally and culturally. Inter-racial, interfaith and inter-ethnic families are an equal part of the American fabric. But as much as the model of the two-parent family has been expanded to include a more varied model, there has been no synchronous effort to consistently emphasize or effectively defend the importance of the two-married-parents-model as the most basic building block of our society.
We have neglected to emphasize to our children that the greatest value of our lives is in having and raising the next generation for a responsible, healthy and successful adulthood. Our nation is founded on ideas and if we do not reinforce their fundamental underpinnings , even as we redefine them, we lose an ability to defend ourselves from those who would radically change what we are as a nation.
Now is the time to celebrate the importance of the American family and its special purpose and place in our nation. We must develop a philosophy of the 21st-century American family that draws on traditional sources of inspiration and information. We need to combat the effort to reduce the value of marrying and having children, while vigorously promoting their benefits for individuals and the American fabric as a whole.
There is some evidence that just such a turn is taking place. One example is the new anti-BLM organization called Take Charge. This organization is singing a new song:
Restoring the two-parent Black family should be a priority both locally and nationally. The nuclear family is the bedrock of any society and it has been decimated and ignored in the Black community for five decades.
Along with rejecting the calls for decimating the traditional American family as BLM urges, Americans of all faiths must commit to supporting and collaborating with organizations like Take Charge, in order to restore the family as the center of our priorities and our lives.