Jason Riley, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, claims that "family structure offers a much more plausible explanation of these outcomes than does residual white racism." Fox News host Bill O'Reilly is more blunt. "The reason there is so much violence and chaos in the black precincts is the disintegration of the African-American family," he said last year. "White people don't force black people to have babies out of wedlock."
They're right, up to a point. It's far from optimal for 72 percent of black children to be born out of wedlock. Social ills would diminish if there were more stable, two-parent black households.
The problem with this line of thinking is that it's incomplete. Worse, it's often used to gloss over intractable realities that continue to hinder black progress.
It's true that whites don't force blacks to have children out of wedlock. But it's wrong to suggest that whites bear no responsibility. Poverty is often the result of lack of access to good jobs or any jobs, and discrimination by employers didn't stop in 1965—and hasn't stopped yet.
The impact of drug laws, and the harsher treatment black men get from the criminal justice system, means that many have records that scare employers away. But research indicates that white applicants with criminal records are more likely to get interviews than blacks without criminal records.