It’s hard to get 96 percent of people to agree on anything, but last month’s Wall Street Journal/NBC poll found that 96 percent of those surveyed believe we are in for a summer of racial unrest. In the wake of Ferguson and Baltimore, it’s time for some reflection on how we got here.
This year marks two significant anniversaries. In August 1965, the Watts riots broke out in Los Angeles, leading to 34 deaths and $300 million in property damage. Coming after the passage of well-intentioned Great Society welfare programs, the riots made clear that government spending wasn’t going to solve all the problems of urban America.
Indeed, another 50th anniversary we mark this year is that of a seminal work that helped explain why government would be no panacea: Assistant Secretary of Labor Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s “The Negro Family: A Call for National Action.” Published in 1965 and known as “the Moynihan Report,” it burst many bubbles of liberal thinking.
After analyzing reams of relevant social-science research, Moynihan concluded that the decline of the two-parent family was fueling the growth of poverty and unemployment, and leading to rising crime rates in black neighborhoods and schools without discipline.