The following are notes taken from Heather Mac Donald’s talking points at the US Civil Rights Commission’s event “A New Era: Defining Civil Rights in the 21st Century.” Ms. Mac Donald is a fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a Contributing Editor to the City Journal.
Social Tension and Racial Disparity are Connected
Across the board the statistics are clear: Kids in married-couple families are more likely to graduate from high school, they get better grades, they’re less likely to have babies out of wedlock and far less likely to commit crimes. They even live longer.
When you control for parents’ education and income, the statistics remain significant.
The Strength in Numbers Theory
Married couples have twice the opportunity to deal with everything than single-parent households have. Two brains can wake up with the baby, two pairs of hands can tend to discipline and nurturing.
Yet this theory only takes us so far. Single-mother households have this disparity in achievement and criminality, but this has less to do with “strength in numbers” and more to do with pure normative anthropology.
Marriage is the Norm
Marriage is universal. Marriage is the way society provides a map of life and models of behavior.
This is particularly important for men. Women, who bear and nurse children, have a natural connection to their offspring and to the discipline of remaining connected. Marriage is particularly important for men because without it there is no connection announced, no discipline imposed.
The only way to cure the “natural unruliness of males” is to provide some goal towards which they can discipline themselves.
The Marriage Map
Growing up in a culture where marriage is the norm presents a set of expectations that structure young people’s lives, especially the lives of young men. “Joe #1” grew up with a Marriage Map. Joe #2 grew up without that map.
As Joe #1 interacts with people, he compares them to the map in his head, even subconsciously. He compares himself to the subconscious model he has of himself as a future role model. Of the people he knows, he asks himself: Can I work with this person? How will I support this person? Will my parents and friends like this person? When he dates someone that does not conform with his expectations, he ends the relationship and moves on.
Joe #2, absent the Marriage Map, lives in a state of social “drift.” He does not, even subconsciously, think of himself as a future role model. He has no sense of a social structure where the Man plays a particular role. Because he does not view himself as a provider, he is not ambitious. He has no expectations for relationships, so does not impose boundaries or break things off with women who would make unsuitable partners.
Marriageability Makes the Difference in the Future of Civil Rights
Expectations lay the foundation for culture. Communities nurture, but nurturing must begin at home. What will make the difference in the future of human rights is the integrity of the marriage model. We can begin with public campaigns — wherever a subway shows ads vilifying smoking, we should install an ad valorizing fatherhood. We should, as a culture, valorize the family role of males.
A society built on strong family units will thrive. Without strong family units, we are doomed to statistics like those already visible where the family model has already eroded.