The Moynihan Report
The Moynihan Report, written by Daniel Patrick Moynihan, is a research study and analysis on the social problems of Black society. It claims that if not remedied the problems will reoccur until the destruction of the black race as a whole. The report was written in 1965 while Moynihan served as the Assistant Secretary of Labor. He later served as a U.S. Senator.
This report is significant because it gives raw statistics and sheds light on the conditions that plagued the Black community during that time. The Moynihan report pointed out that the roots causes of the isssues that Black people endure come from slavery, then evolved in to the systematic barriers of “The Reconstruction Period.” The report also addressed other systemic issues such as urbanization, unemployment and poverty, the inequality of the United States’ wage system, Black women as the heads of Black families, and the lack of positive male influence which leads to the failure of Black youth. These factors, Moynihan reported, are the causes of why Black families continue to stay broken and why Black society is on the brink of desecration. These same issues remain in this present day.
Although Moynihan offered these reasons for the conditions of the Black race, the report gave no real solutions to these issues. Some have said that Moynihan’s subtle remarks about joining the military was a propsed solution. Although he did make favorable comments about the American military, its structure, and its ability to produce productive members of American society, the purpose of the report was not intended to find solutions. In fact, Moynihan’s purpose was to identify the problems so the solutions can be discussed by Black people themselves. The goal was never to provide the specific solution. “The object of this study has been to define a problem, rather than propose solutions to it.” (Moynihan) He also stated in the report “In a word, a national effort towards the problems of Negro Americans must be directed towards the question of family structure. The object should be to strengthen the Negro family so as to enable it to raise and support its members as do other families. After that, how this group of Americans chooses to run its affairs, take advantage of its opportunities, or fail to do so, is none of the nation’s business.” (Moynihan)
The Moynihan Report of 1965 gave the American public a Eurocentric perspective on black issues and what Blacks of that time faced. Depending on who is reading it and for what purpose the report has been heavily critiqued. From what I’ve seen, the common response by the Black community is overwhelmingly negative, which is understandable. Daniel Moynihan is not Black, so how could he understand the evolving psychological effects the Blacks have taken from the torments of the slave system? What credibility does Moynihan have on the subject? Who is he to comment on our problems and misfortune? How can one offer a Eurocentric diagnosis on a people, implying that Blacks are basically dysfunctional or destroying ourselves? All of these are valid questions. But at the same time we should understand that the report IS valid. The report HAS value. And despite the data being gathered, analyzed, and filtered through the conceptions of a European, The Moynihan Report CAN be used as a tool for Black people to produce solutions to repair a lost people.
I disagree with Daniel Moynihan when he reported that it will take a national effort on the part of the government to strengthen the “Negro family structure.” It isn’t the responsibility of anyone but us to strengthen our own family units. We, as Black people, need to unify , redefine, and set a universally recognized standard for what the Black family needs and The Moynihan Report can be a vital tool to accomplish this. Instead of criticizing the report, Blacks should be using it as well as other works to educate our people on these revolving conditions and to understand what has formulated public opinion of what the Black family structure looks like in the eyes of the European. While we point fingers at the report and the credibility of Daniel P. Moynihan, it’s not understood that what he predicted the outcome of the black society would be is in fact true to this day, nearly 50 years later. Just as he stated in the report, the plagues of the Black race will continue and will exponentially worsen if the roots of the reported isdues are not addressed.
I liken The Moynihan Report to The Prince written by Machiavelli. Yes, its teachings and analysis can be used by people of authority to govern or control the masses of a nation. But in the hands of the nation, it can be used against the evils that control that nation. Its imperative that Black society analyze this report and use it to our advantage. Take the data and infuse our own knowledge of self and psychological understanding and find a solution for our future. If we sit back and wait for a government mandated definition of the Black family, we’ll not only be waiting till the end of time, but we will never fit that European mold that the definition will be derived from. It’s up to us to create the mold and implement it and The Moynihan Report among other great works can be a starting place for that discussion.