Hidden Gems: Netflix's Luke Cage and the Moynihan Report

10:00 AM

Every once in a while I will hear something that makes my ears perk and mind race, and in this case it was the mention of Benign Neglect in an episode of Netflix's Luke Cage. It was a very quick mention at the start of an episode by a nonessential character and easy to miss. So quick was the mention that I had to pause, rewind, and pause again to hit Google and do some research. If you know me then you know that I am very easily drawn into a rabbit hole of research when interested in a subject, and this time was no different. I tip my had to the writers of Luke Cage for hiding this little gem within the context of community organization and management because without it I would have never discovered Daniel P. Moynihan and his many musings on both the poor and what I will call the Negro Condition in the 1960's.

(Side Note: Though this post is not about the notion of benign neglect, I would like to take a moment to acknowledge its subliminal reference in Netflix's The Get Down. Netflix is in no way sponsoring this post, but there was something that struck me by two of its original shows giving nod to this man and his musings on the state of the Black community. Do your research, watch the shows and then come back here and let's start a convo! I might do a separate post on the idea of Benign Neglect in a Post-Obama era, but that will take a while to gather my thoughts on.) 

In 1968 Moynihan published what he titled The Negro Family: The Case for National Action (commonly referred to as "The Moynihan Report"). Written to President Nixon and now housed on the Department of Labor's website, the 5-chapter report is a call to action to revive, realize, and support a stronger Black community. It is arguably one of the most controversial writings this century on the Black condition and has received much analysis, praise, and its fair share of criticism. (Supporting Articles and Studies: Link 1, Link 2, Link 3, Link 4) My purpose for writing on it was for nothing other than to let you know it exists. Though I may throw my two cents in from time to time, for the most part I will be providing excerpts from the report that I most found interesting, and will break the posts up by chapters. Today we will start with the intro.

When reading Moynihan's words for the umpteenth time, I still feel as if they could be said today with just as much emphasis and concern. Moynihan opens the report with:
The United States is approaching a new crisis in race relations.
In the decade that began with the school desegregation decision of the Supreme Court, and ended with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the demand of Negro Americans for full recognition of their civil rights was finally met.
The effort, no matter how savage and brutal, of some State and local governments to thwart the exercise of those rights is doomed. The nation will not put up with it — least of all the Negroes. The present moment will pass. In the meantime, a new period is beginning.
In this new period the expectations of the Negro Americans will go beyond civil rights. Being Americans, they will now expect that in the near future equal opportunities for them as a group will produce roughly equal results, as compared with other groups. This is not going to happen. Nor will it happen for generations to come unless a new and special effort is made.
There are two reasons. First, the racist virus in the American blood stream still afflicts us: Negroes will encounter serious personal prejudice for at least another generation. Second, three centuries of sometimes unimaginable mistreatment have taken their toll on the Negro people. The harsh fact is that as a group, at the present time, in terms of ability to win out in the competitions of American life, they are not equal to most of those groups with which they will be competing. Individually, Negro Americans reach the highest peaks of achievement. But collectively, in the spectrum of American ethnic and religious and regional groups, where some get plenty and some get none, where some send eighty percent of their children to college and others pull them out of school at the 8th grade, Negroes are among the weakest.
Finish the rest of the introduction here. I would like to make note that we are that "second generation" that Moynihan spoke of. For many of us, our parents are the children referenced in this report whose future's where premonitioned by the statistics gathered from the study of the social patterns and financial statuses of our grand and great-grand parents. When we look at it this way, the Civil Rights Movement doesn't feel so far away, and yet the responsibility to the next generation feels much too close.Until next time where we will take a look at Chapter 1: The Negro American Revolution.

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