Kinship In The Black Community Essay

Submitted By Livefive5
Words: 898
Pages: 4

The tradition of kinship in the black community
Although the characteristics of black family life have changed dramatically from its roots in West Africa to the present day in the United States, it still retains many of the same values. Whether genuine or fictive, kinship and community have always been an important part of black life. Early European explorers of Africa noted the hospitality with which they were invited into African homes and communities. Hospitality, charity, and mutual aid in the black community are not only a matter of morals, but are a matter of survival. Slavery stripped away the traditional model of family for slaves, but never managed to destroy the strong feelings that slaves held about family. During slavery, families could be ripped apart at any time. Slaves created new families through marriage and adoption to augment the loss of family “split up by slavery’s misfortunes”1. The bonds that that slaves held with their families were so precious that even when they found freedom they would spend years searching for lost family. Some slaves gave up the possibility of freedom in order to remain with their families. Fictive kinship played a large role in the lives of slaves. “The obligations to a brother or a niece were transformed into the obligations toward a fellow slave or a fellow slave’s child, and behavior first determined by familial or kin obligation became an enlarged social obligation. This tradition continued when slaves found freedom. During Reconstruction2 blacks “were filled with a sense of mission to free their own brothers and sisters from wretchedness, disease, and ignorance”3. The survival of the black family in the oppressive and hostile American society depended on the extended family. By the 1930s this tradition declined to a large extent but still remains important today. In The Helping Tradition of the Black Family and Community, its authors argue that without the extended family tradition that the “prisons, nursing homes, soup kitchens, and shelters for the poor in urban areas would be more crowded with blacks then they are now.”
The beginnings of a breakdown
The beginning of the history of the black family in the United States it has been a struggle to retain the bonds of kinship. Many historians point to the 1960s as the beginning of the breakdown of the black family. In 1965 Assistant Secretary of Labor Daniel Patrick Moynihan produced a report entitled, “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action.” Moynihan noted in his report that the rate of illegitimate births in the black community was no longer parallel with the unemployment rate, but even as unemployment fell, illegitimacy continued to rise. This became known as Moynihan’s scissors, in reference to the divergence of the two trends. Moynihan wrote, “A community that allows a large number of men to grow up in broken families, dominated by women, never acquiring any stable relationship to male authority, never acquiring rational expectations about the future — that community asks for and gets chaos.” His report caught the attention of the President Lyndon Johnson, who in his 1965 Howard University speech vowed to augment the collapse of the black family with government programs. Moynihan’s report was accused of underlying racism and blaming the victim, which led the Johnson administration to withdraw their support for the report and abandon their stance on supporting the black family. By 1970 the rate of illegitimacy had risen to thirty-eight percent and in 2008 it rose to seventy-two