Reason's Steve Chapman reflects on fifty years of the Moynihan Report, Model Cities, and the work still to be done.
The concentration of poverty in inner cities means many black children are exposed daily to crime and violence. Their turbulent environment makes it harder for them to acquire habits of discipline and self-restraint.

It's tempting to blame African-American social ills on the modern welfare state, which allegedly breeds idleness. But most poor black households are poor despite having at least one adult who works. The welfare reform of the 1990s, which induced many recipients to take jobs, didn't reverse the decline of marriage.

Poor black neighborhoods are not the unassisted creation of poor black people, but largely the malignant result of factors beyond their control. These places generate a vicious cycle of poverty and dysfunction that mires children in desperate conditions. Then we wonder why many of these kids end up unemployed, addicted to drugs, behind bars or murdered.

Moynihan's report contained a passage that conservatives rarely quote: "Three centuries of injustice have brought about deep-seated structural distortions in the life of the Negro American. ... The cycle can be broken only if these distortions are set right." He would be sorry to learn that we have yet to set them right, and that his insights are used to rationalize our failure.
After you've tried everything else, perhaps abandon the foolish notions of "alienation" or "authenticity" that only enable the dysfunctional and destructive in their behaviors.

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