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Obama’s Chicago and the Results of Black Family Disintegration

John on January 25, 2010 at 1:04 pm

City Journal’s Heather MacDonald has a long but worthwhile piece on the disintegration of the black family and how it has affected life in Chicago:

Barack Obama has exploited his youthful stint as a Chicago community organizer at every stage of his political career. As someone who had worked for grassroots “change,” he said, he was a different kind of politician, one who could translate people’s hopes into reality. The media lapped up this conceit, presenting Obama’s organizing experience as a meaningful qualification for the Oval Office.

This past September, a cell-phone video of Chicago students beating a fellow teen to death coursed over the airwaves and across the Internet. None of the news outlets that had admiringly reported on Obama’s community-organizing efforts mentioned that the beating involved students from the very South Side neighborhoods where the president had once worked. Obama’s connection to the area was suddenly lost in the mists of time.

Yet a critical blindness links Obama’s activities on the South Side during the 1980s and the murder of Derrion Albert in 2009. Throughout his four years working for “change” in Chicago’s Roseland and Altgeld Gardens neighborhoods, Obama ignored the primary cause of their escalating dysfunction: the disappearance of the black two-parent family. Obama wasn’t the only activist to turn away from the problem of absent fathers, of course; decades of failed social policy, both before and after his time in Chicago, were just as blind. And that myopia continues today, guaranteeing that the current response to Chicago’s youth violence will prove as useless as Obama’s activities were 25 years ago.


In Chicago, blacks, at least 35 percent of the population, commit 76 percent of all homicides; whites, about 28 percent of the population, commit 4 percent, and Hispanics, 30 percent of the population, commit 19 percent. The most significant difference between these demographic groups is family structure. In Cook County—which includes both Chicago and some of its suburbs and probably therefore contains a higher proportion of middle-class black families than the city proper—79 percent of all black children were born out of wedlock in 2003, compared with 15 percent of white children. Until that gap closes, the crime gap won’t close, either.

The piece gives credit where due to Obama for a speech he gave last Father’s Day. A speech I also praised at the time. However, MacDonald is right that this is only a start. The President is in a unique position by virtue of his history and, yes, his race to be hammering this issue from the bully pulpit. For the sake of the kids in these neighborhoods, I wish that he would do so more often.

[HT: Doug Ross]

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Category: Crime & the Law |

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