The American Dream Is Deeply Rooted in the Natural Family

This is an op-ed that I did for the Philadelphia Inquirer which they chose not to publish.

In your recent front page article on Robert Patterson and the journal he edits, The Family in America, you missed a wonderful opportunity to reveal principles of sorely longed-for restoration to your readers. A research-based journal, The Family in America upholds the basic family values that my uncle, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and indeed all of my family have upheld throughout the ages.

As part of the King Family Legacy, I can assure you that the married-parent, natural family is a necessary component to achieve the American dream for African-Americans and for all of God’s people. I know firsthand the importance of a strong family in overcoming difficulties; as a child I was jailed, my house was bombed, and my daddy and uncle were killed in the Civil Rights Movement of this great nation. If it had not been for the safety and security provided by my father and mother, we, their children, would have been severely if not irreparably traumatized.

Just this week, The Howard Center for Family, Religion & Society (the organization that publishes The Family in America: A Journal of Public Policy) hosted me in Rockford, Ill., to celebrate my Uncle Martin’s life and to speak at a number of events to promote life, the natural family and civil rights. At the Booker Washington Center in Rockford, I also spoke about my Grandfather (MLK’s father), Daddy King, who always taught our family to have faith in God, and to value life, liberty and justice for all. There, I also cited editions of my Uncle M. L.’s Ebony Magazine Advice Column that was based upon the same values espoused by my family.

Empirical research studies in the social sciences point to family and marriage as the single most important factor in promoting economic justice, fighting poverty, and decreasing dependence on welfare. Perhaps President Obama has said it best. In his words, included in a letter that was published in Parade Magazine in June 2011: “We need families to raise our children. We need fathers to realize that responsibility does not end at conception. We need them to realize that what makes you a man is not the ability to have a child – it’s the courage to raise one.”

In fact, this is the one area where I agree with President Obama, especially when he has cited the same research that is used by The Family In America to highlight the importance of family. Candidate Obama said in a speech in June 2008: “Of all the rocks upon which we build our lives, we are reminded today that family is the most important…We know that more than half of all black children live in single-parent households, a number that has doubled – doubled – since we were children. We know the statistics – that children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime; nine times more likely to drop out of schools and twenty times more likely to end up in prison. They are more likely to have behavioral problems, or run away from home, or become teenage parents themselves. And the foundations of our community are weaker because of it.”

Instead of spending time ridiculing those who advocate for the “child-rich, married-parent” family and for criticizing mothers and fathers who choose to “stay at home” with their children, perhaps the Inquirer should spend more time highlighting the solutions to poverty, drop-out rates, and crime.

Countless empirical studies point to the importance of marriage and having a Mommy and Daddy at home for every child. This is the American dream that my uncle had and it is deeply rooted in the natural family; where children are allowed to be born and raised by parents who understand the value of our most cherished resources, our children. So let us remember his words: “And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.”

Dr. Alveda C. King
Director of African-American Outreach, Priests for Life
Founder, King for America

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