The Benign Neglect Policy: When The Government Decided To Ignore Black Issues (Video)

The 1960s brought about many changes to the black community. With the assassination of prominent black leaders combined with the mobilization and rebellious spirit of groups like the Black Panthers, the racial tension in this country was at an all-time high. Not to mention, the amount of civil unrest that took place was unprecedented.

In 1965, Daniel P. Moynihan, a close adviser to then-president Lyndon B. Johnson wrote his now-famous “Moynihan Report”. This was basically a case study on the black family structure. Author S. Craig Watkins said it best in his book Representing: Hip Hop Culture and the Production of Black Cinema (1998) by stating “The Moynihan report concluded that the black community suffered from a tangle of pathology…capable of perpetuating itself without assistance from the white world”.

Moynihan came to this conclusion by looking at black single-mother families, welfare enrollment, and the rates of black male unemployment increasing, as his course of assessment but didn’t include the government’s part in creating such realities. In 1970, Mr. Moynihan presented a memo to President Nixon suggesting that the country could benefit from a period of “Benign Neglect”.

Which meant taking a break from talking about race issues as it pertains to black people. He felt focusing on other ethnic groups was the solution. Moynihan stated, “Greater attention to the Indians, Mexican Americans, and Puerto Ricans would be useful”. He felt speaking about race too much was the main problem causing all the uprisings around the country.

Not fully understanding that the black community was simply responding to promises that were never kept. This type of thinking played a large role in how the country perceived black people in general. So even today, when the subject of Black America is brought to the forefront, it is replaced with a more all-inclusive narrative that includes Mexican Americans, Asian Americans, Indians, and the LGBTQ community.

The problem with that is this, the circumstances that Melanated people have had to endure since arriving on U.S soil is unique and needs to be treated as such. Until this country decides to address these issues independent from any other group, our systematic disadvantages will continue.

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