Cold Truth, Liberating Truth: How This System Has Always Oppressed Black People, and How All Oppression Can Finally Be Ended

The Black Family and The "Traditional Family"

One more "theory"--one more way of covering up for the system and blaming Black people for their own oppression--that we will cut into right here is the claim that the real problem is the breakdown of the Black family and the lack of "male role models" for Black male youth in particular. This "theory" has been put forward by all kinds of mouthpieces of the ruling class, including people like Senator Moynihan of New York, and this should give us a tip that it is bullshit.

There are two things wrong with this "theory." First, it mixes up cause and effect--it deals with certain effects, or symptoms, and covers up the deeper cause and the real problem. It is certainly true that over the past twenty years or so there has been a dramatic rise in the number of Black families headed by women and this has been connected with the high degree of poverty among Black people. But this "theory" doesn't explain why it is that the average (median) wealth of Black households headed by women is only $700, while for white households headed by women it is over $22,000--a difference of more than 30 to 1! Poverty among Black people is caused by the whole oppressive situation they are in. One-parent Black families is one symptom of this. And because of this overall situation, Black women who are raising children alone have much less to fall back on and much less opportunity to get a relatively decent-paying job.

The great increase of Black families headed by women is directly related to the great increase of unemployment among Black males, particularly young Black males. It has been in the last twenty years that there has been a great fall-off in the number of two-parent Black families. This has been a time when unemployment among Black men, especially young men, has become truly drastic. As the book Families in Peril points out, "the [falling] rate of marriage formation. . . among young black males" ran parallel with "the decline of employment prospects of young black males, which resulted in only 29.8 percent of black teens and 61 percent of black 20- to 24-year-old men being employed by 1978." (page 13) In other words, young Black men are not getting married nearly as much as they used to because huge numbers of them have no jobs--or only very low-paying jobs--to support a family.

And, despite the hype, not many Black youths can make--let alone hang onto--big-time money doing crime, although much Black youth do big time in jail or are killed on the streets. This, too, is an effect--an effect of not only lack of jobs but the whole stinking oppressive situation these youth have been cast into. It tells you everything you need to know about this system that the government doesn't spend funds to deal with the massive unemployment and rotting conditions in the inner cities, but it does spend funds to build more and more prisons!

Anyway, if the lack of a man in the family is the cause of poverty and all the other suffering of Black people, then what about the period between the Civil War and World War 2, when Black people were mainly poor farmers in the South? During that time, a very clear majority of Black families did have two parents, but would anybody say that Black people were not poor and oppressed then?! No, the real story is that the "traditional family" most corresponded to the economic, political, and social situation--that is, the particular forms of oppression--that Black people were bound up with at that time. But with all the changes Black people have gone through since then--first migrating in massive numbers into the cities and being segregated and discriminated against there, and finally being trapped in the inner cities as they rot and decay--with all those changes, there is no longer the same basis for this "traditional family."

This gets to the second thing that is wrong with this "theory" that the problem is the "breakdown of the traditional Black family." This "theory" covers up the fact that the "traditional family" is itself an institution of oppression. It is an expression of the fact that society is divided into masters and slaves, and that division into master and slave is built into the "traditional family" itself, where the man is to be the master, lording it over his wife (and children).

We can get a strong clue to this from the roots of the word "family," which comes from a Latin word used in ancient Rome, familia. "Among the Romans, in the beginning, it did not even refer to the married couple and their children, but to the slaves alone. Famulus means a household slave and familia signifies the totality of slaves belonging to one individual"; and the head of the family "had under him wife and children and a number of slaves, under Roman paternal power, with power of life and death over them all." (Quoted from Frederick Engels, in his book The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State.)

Along with all this has gone the idea that A MAN IS STRONG while a woman is weak. This is bullshit. It comes from the enemy--from those who run systems based on enslaving and exploiting. It should be put with the rest of the bullshit from systems like this.

And we cannot let our enemy tell us what "role models" we should follow. Youth of today, Black youth and youth in general, don't need male "role models." They need revolutionary "role models"--women and men. They need "brothers rising up with sisters--strong, proud, and with equality," as our Party says. They need a struggle to end all inequality, all relations of oppression, all divisions into masters and slaves, all ideas of treating other people as something to be dominated and exploited.

Summing Up and Pointing Forward

The whole history of Black people in this country has been a history of oppression as a people. But it is also a history that has brought Black people to the position of being able to play a powerful role in bringing down the whole system and moving to put an end to all oppression.

Black people are not simply a "racial minority." They are a nation. Black people suffer not just racism but national oppression--oppression as a people, a people whose roots are in Africa but who developed into a separate nation based on their historical experience in this country. This nation was welded together beginning in slave days but more particularly in the period that followed slavery, when Black people came to share the essential characteristics of a nation: a community of people formed on the basis of a common territory, a common language, a common economic life, and a common culture. The development of Black people in the USA is completely, qualitatively different from people of European descent in the USA.

Some Europeans have faced certain forms of discrimination in the U.S., and many have retained at least parts of their "ethnic identity," but Europeans in general have "melted into" the European-American nation. This is the dominant nation in the USA, it is the oppressor nation. Black people are an oppressed nation--held down and denied their rights as a people, including the right of self-determination.

The right of self-determination of nations means not only the right to determine their own affairs as a nation in general but more particularly the right to form a separate country of their own in their own homeland. The historic homeland of Black people in (what is now) the USA is the area known as the "Black-Belt South" (more or less the old plantation area, given the name "Black Belt" because of the rich, dark color of the soil). This is the same general area that has been demanded by a number of Black nationalist groups as the territory of a new and separate Black (or Afro-American, African-American, or New African) republic. And there are millions of Black people still living in that area, including several million in rural areas as well as millions more in the cities.

The right to self-determination is just that--a right. Recognizing the right of self-determination is not the same thing as insisting that the right be used to set up a separate country. And, of course, if such a separate country were set up--in this case, an Afro-American republic--it would not mean that all Afro-American people would have to live there! The right to do something doesn't mean that you have to do it. It just means that others--and especially those who have a whole history of oppressing you and denying your rights--must not be in the position of forcing the decision on you.

Whether or not a separate Black republic should actually be established is something that can only be decided in concrete terms in the course of the revolutionary struggle to overthrow the imperialist system here in the USA. Without overthrowing that system, self-determination for Black people will be impossible to achieve.

The standpoint of communists, representing the revolutionary proletarians of all nations, is to firmly uphold and fight for the right of self-determination in order to unite the ranks of the exploited and oppressed people and push forward the struggle for communism worldwide. In terms of the revolutionary struggle in this country, all other things being equal, the best situation would not be to see separate national republics established but to have one unified socialist state over the largest possible territory once the imperialist system is overthrown.

But that is just the point--things must be equal--there must be equality between peoples and nations, and that means the right of self-determination must be upheld for Black people. The masses of Black people must be relied on to resolve this question, free from force or intimidation, especially from people of the European-American nation. This is crucial in battering down inequality and forging the most powerful revolutionary unity of the proletariat of all nationalities.

The masses of Black people in this country suffer oppression two times--oppression as a nation and as proletarians, concentrated in the most exploited sectors of the proletariat. This is the result of the whole long experience living the "American Nightmare." But this also puts basic Black people in a strong position. A strong position in the fight to bring down the system that is the cause--the problem. A strong position to strike at the heart of the system, to help bring forward and unite the exploited and oppressed people of all nationalities and to help win the greatest number to the program that can deal with the problem--the program of all-the-way revolution--proletarian revolution.

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