If you watched the second presidential debate last night, then you're probably aware that Governor Mitt Romney blamed unwed parents as the cause of gun violence in America. For many, that analogy is just as preposterous as saying Big Bird is at the root of the national deficit - but wait, Mitt Romney said that, too. (Gosh darn it, Mitt!)
We all know that politicians say the darnest things, but Mitt Romney takes the cake when it comes to saying the most outlandish, out-of-touch and insensitive statements this generation can recall. Whether his blunders are forthright or more subtle, they always reveal how disconnected he is from real people with middle or working class problems.
That's what happened last night when the presidential candidates were asked to speak on the topic of gun laws. In Obama's response, he spoke about comforting and praying for the victims of the Colorado theater shooting. He stated that we need to enforce the laws that we already have and that war weapons don't belong on our streets. He also talked about reducing combative street violence through education and comprehensive gun laws.
But when Romney addressed the problem, he talked about changing the culture of violence by advising people to get married before they have children:
"We need moms and dads helping raise kids. Wherever possible, the — the benefit of having two parents in the home — and that's not always possible. A lot of great single moms, single dads. But gosh, to tell our kids that before they have babies, they ought to think about getting married to someone — that's a great idea because if there's a two-parent family, the prospect of living in poverty goes down dramatically. The opportunities that the child will — will be able to achieve increase dramatically. So we can make changes in the way our culture works to help bring people away from violence and give them opportunity and bring them in the American system."
That struck a nerve with many Americans for a number of reasons.
For one, it implies that single parents can't sufficiently raise children to grow up to be nonviolent productive members of society. Two, it insinuates that people should fight poverty by getting hitched, instead of fighting for a higher living wage. Three, it ignores the fact that whether children growing up in poverty or disenfranchised by the color of their skin have one or two parents, overwhelmingly, they will struggle with obstacles relating to classicism, poorly funded school systems, and racism. Four, evidence shows that a number of violent gun crimes have been committed by people raised in two parents homes, like the shooter involved in the Colorado theater massacre, the gun owner who shot Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, and the Columbine High School shooters. Now, the fifth reason is what resonated and infuriated me the most as a Black woman.
Nearly half of Black Americans have never married, which is the highest percentage for all racial groups. And 72 percent of Black children grow up in single parent homes, compared to the only 25 percent of children that are raised with one parent across the nation. The statistic is alarming, but a very sad reality in African-American communities. With an overwhelming statistic like this and stereotypical images of the "Black Welfare Queen" ingrained in our society, Mitt Romney was undoubtedly attacking single, hard working Black mothers when he said that.
Now, I’m not excusing absentee fathers that refuse to take responsibility for their seeds, but we cannot ignore the systematic ills that contribute to the destruction of Black families either. For one, the Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates that one in three black men will be imprisoned during their lifetime due to biased drug laws and institutionalized police programs that target Black men like "stop and frisk," and disproportionately jail them for minor offenses. In addition, the fact that boys are being raised without the example of how to be a father or seeing a strong male figure also plagues Black communities and perpetuates this cycle.
Mitt Romney continues to make offensive and condescending remarks. He's proven once again that he's not here to try to solve problems, but rather, he is a big part of the problem.
An earlier version of this article stated that "there's double the amount of Black men in jail as there is in college." That is untrue. Recent studies show over 1.4 million African American men are enrolled in college while the Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that 841,000 Black men are in prision.