that ultimately block the black male’s access to jobs and to accruing an income that would offset the cycle of poverty in the African American community. In her groundbreaking work, From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime: The Making of Mass Incarceration in America, Elizabeth Hinton makes the claim that in the twentieth century, liberalism failed to target the economic inequality wrought by decades of institutionalized racism. Instead, it blamed the personal moral failings of contemporary young people. Hinton demonstrates that with its “total attack” on youth delinquency, the Kennedy administration began pinning the scourges of poverty and racism on troubled kids. Kennedy’s social policies pathologized teenagers in the “inner city” and called for the creation of punitive juvenile detention centers – but none of that made any of those increasingly policed kids, or the communities they lived in, any physically or economically safer. His administration conjoined its social welfare objectives with social control objectives. Hinton then asserts that it was Kennedy’s successor, President Lyndon B. Johnson, whose Great Society cleared the path for mass incarceration. The Moynihan Report played a crucial role behind President Johnson’s federal programs and policies, as stated by Elizabeth Hinton: Four generations removed from slavery, Moynihan argued that poor African American families were trapped in a self- perpetuating “tangle of pathology” that could “be broken only if these distortions are set right” by federal policies that actively created jobs for
Ngo Dan 6 black men and, by extension, promoted stable families.54 Moynihan’s research went on to influence the federal government’s racial reforms in the post– Jim Crow era, grounding the legislative proposals that laid the basis for not only the War on Poverty but also, as special advisor to President Nixon for urban affairs, the War on Crime (Hinton 59). To understand how the Moynihan Report influenced president Johnson’s Great Society and postwar liberalism, one must be able to contextualize the report. Roughly a month after his remarks to the graduates of Howard’s class of 1965, and shortly after the Voting Rights Act became law, Watts residents rioted, highlighting the sense that the United States faced its gravest racial crossroads since the civil war, and made clear that the monumental federal actions of the first half of the 1960s did not resolve entrenched structural inequality and disadvantage. The Moynihan Report went public as journalists and policymakers looked for academic explanations for the outbreak. For President Johnson, the Watts riot confirmed Moynihan’s suggestion that his most viable political option lay in directing domestic social policy towards the restoration of stability and order within the black family. He, alongside with his mass of policymakers, federal administrators, and law enforcement officials believed that only intensified enforcement of the
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- Spring '14
- Brown v. Board of Education, Moynihan, Daniel P. Moynihan, Moynihan Report