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God, Fertility, and Hope for the Future.

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Last week, The Upshot (New York Times) reported that women are having less children than they would like, mainly because of the worries illustrated below.

Despite the fact that we live in the biggest, most prosperous nation ever in history, our women are anxious and fearful about having children. Given their psychological and family experiences this is understandable: Most young women (and men) today come from broken families. They are afraid to take the risk of a “big exploration trip into the unknown” together. Unlike Columbus setting sail into unchartered waters, they stay onshore fearful of probable storms and occasional bad weather.

But those who worship God weekly see life differently. They are more likely to take the risk and to set sail. Though, unlike Columbus, they don’t discover new continents — they make them.

John Mueller of The Ethics and Public Policy Institute found that, globally, across religions and cultures, women who worship weekly have more than twice as many children as those who never worship.

Mueller reasons: “Personal gift of time and resources involved in worship is closely and systematically associated with the personal gift of having children for their own sake rather than for the pleasure and utility of the parents.”

MARRI graphs further illustrate the influence of belief in God on related issues: on the meaning and importance of having children, on happiness, and on fears and anxieties during intercourse.

Those who worship frequently value having children more those who do not practice.

National data shows intact married couples that worship frequently are happiest.

National data indicates that intact families who worship weekly are less anxious and worried during intercourse.

The Upshot team at the New York Times repeatedly does “almost-great” work . Had they included religious worship question and marital status question they would see a dramatically different picture. The national averages would be the same but who is afraid and who is ready to plunge forward would stand out.

 

 

With an eye to the hand that could rock the cradle and give us the world,

Pat Fagan, Ph.D.

Director of the MARRI Project

Catholic University of America

Black Income Mobility: Racism or Family Culture?*

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As a young psychologist in the early 1970s I learned that resolving the conflicts between the married parents led to “spontaneous” recovery for 90% of the children referred to me for treatment — without any direct treatment of the child. Restore order in the parent’s marriage and the children’s internal chaos and its resulting symptoms disappear.

One recent “progressive theme” in today’s discourse is racism targeted at Black Americans. A very good example from some of the best, brightest, and well-intentioned journalists can be seen in this New York Times Upshot article, entitled Extensive Data Shows Punishing Reach of Racism for Black Boys”.   A similar piece on income mobility by ethnic background, using the same data set appeared a week later.

Before I criticize the direction of the articles because it avoids the most compelling data, let me be loud in my praise of the journalists and the analysis they are doing. It is wonderful. The New York Times must be praised for giving them the resources to do this quality of work. I invite you to use the it, by playing around with variables they make available.

Now let’s look at their case for racism against Blacks

1)    Looking at those who start out in the bottom quintile (the poor) clear ethnic disparities become apparent when I ran the numbers on their site. Black children struggle the most at making it into the “rich” quintile in adulthood and while (37%) stay in poverty (though American Indians do worst at 45%).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2)    Looking at those who start out in the top quintile (the rich) clear ethnic disparities are also apparent: Black children do worst at staying rich in their adulthood.

Is this racism?

The NYT editors clearly think so, given their title for the article “Extensive Data Shows Punishing Reach of Racism for Black Boys” and by their quoting a professor who preaches this message:

“One of the most popular liberal post-racial ideas is the idea that the fundamental problem is class and not race, and clearly this study explodes that idea,” said Ibram Kendi, a professor and director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University. “But for whatever reason, we’re unwilling to stare racism in the face.”

I think the professor should study the articles and the data again: Some of the analysis and one of the charts points to the elephant in the room no one wants to name: marriage. It is politically very incorrect and flies in the face of the “progressive” interpretation of the data.

For instance, the article points out:

“The authors [of the underlying study from which the NYT data is drawn] including the Stanford economist Raj Chetty and two census researchers, Maggie R. Jones and Sonya R. Porter, tried to identify neighborhoods where poor black boys do well, and as well as whites. —The few neighborhoods that met this standard were in areas that showed less discrimination in surveys and tests of racial bias. They mostly had low poverty rates. And, intriguingly, these pockets — including parts of the Maryland suburbs of Washington, and corners of Queens and the Bronx — were the places where many lower-income black children had fathers at home. Poor black boys did well in such places, whether their own fathers were present or not. — The few areas in which black-white gaps are relatively small tend to be low-poverty neighborhoods with low levels of racial bias among whites and high rates of father presence among blacks [emphasis added]. Black males who move to such neighborhoods earlier in childhood earn more and are less likely to be incarcerated. However, fewer than 5% of black children grow up in such environments.”

These neighborhoods are found in parts of DC and Maryland… close enough to where Professor Kendi of American University works.

But not everyone is happy with the implication that marriage might have something to do with it:

“That is a pathbreaking finding,” said William Julius Wilson, a Harvard sociologist whose books have chronicled the economic struggles of black men. “They’re not talking about the direct effects of a boy’s own parents’ marital status. They’re talking about the presence of fathers in a given census tract.”

But here is the stark reality: Marriage is making the difference in virtually every case (for Blacks, Whites, Asian Americans, Hispanics and Whites). Marriage is non-racist: its benefits apply across all races and its absence hurts across all races. But its absence is greatest in the Black family. Add to this the compounding effects of intergenerational marriage-intactness or non-intactness and the power of marriage and the destructiveness of its absence is multiplied.

The huge differences in rates of family intactness are visible in this NYT chart.[1]

On rates of marriage the poorest whites do better than the richest blacks. Poor white boys have a much higher chance of having their father present than rich black boys do. Is this racism?

Here is the national data across ethnic groups, from the American Community Survey (annual mini-census).

    These ratios have remained relatively stable over the last decade, and it is worth noting that the rate of marriage among Black men in 1965 when Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote, The Moynihan Report: The Negro Family: The Case for National Action, was as high, if not higher than in the Asian family today (our most intact ethnic group). The following data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics illustrates the fall in marriage rates by level of education among black men aged 25-54 between 1070 and 2010.

From the analysis MARRI did in 2013 we know that marriage rates between the rich districts and the poverty tracts of the District of Columbia (North West vs. South East, DC) differ almost by 10 times (over 900%).  This chart above shows the increasing family disintegration (black men not marrying) that black children have experienced since 1970.

The NYT journalists are much more circumspect than their editors in drawing conclusions:

“African-Americans made up about 35 percent of all children raised in the bottom 1 percent of the income distribution. They made up less than 1 percent of the children at the very top. This picture captures both a source of racial inequality and a consequence of it. White children are more likely to start life with economic advantages. But we now know that even when they start with the same advantages as black children, white boys still fare better, only reinforcing the disparities seen here.”

But one aspect they left out: when you factor in marriage and family, Black children, on average, do not start life with the same advantages.

Here is what is really going on in large measure: Marital chaos has increased massively in the Black family over the last eighty years, and especially since the sexual revolution. Nobel Laureat Akerlof has published a study at Brookings Institute on this in 1996. Daniel Patrick Moynihan warned about it in 1965 The Negro Family: The Case For National Action, known as the Moynihan Report. (He was vilified for daring to do this report when he was Assistant Secretary of Labor).

The data is incontrovertible. Here is what has happened to Black children since 1940.

Worse still the weakening of human and social capital is compounded over the generations.

Who is to blame? If you want to find blame… One major culprit is the National Organization of Women who very deliberately and vociferously set out to remove men from their families. Nowhere have they succeeded as they have in the Black Family. Yet they and their allies reign supreme in one major political party (and have many friends in the other).

Though no ethnic group is in the “saints” category, Black men and women have the worst track record at getting married and staying married.

Public policy is no great help here: You don’t go to government for love, especially not the tough love that marriage requires.

The Black Church is no help here either. I have addressed Black pastors’ meetings and discussed this with them. They agree. If they speak about marriage teaching what Moses taught, what their grandfathers and great grandfathers taught, and especially what Christ taught (they are Christian pastors) — they would lose their income! Many in their congregations would seek an easier pastor who would not upset the apple cart.

Is this racism? When black adults embrace family chaos? Most people would say they don’t choose it to be so and given their upbringing and early childhood experience within their families there is a lot of truth in that. You cannot choose what you do not experience many would say. But in this discussion, this does not hold. Many people who have not experienced being rich choose to be so and put in the massive effort to pull it off. Are black children urged to make it to the top? In school, in college, at church, by politicians, by the media, by student groups?

Does the same urging and encouragement happen on marriage? Look again at the abysmal rates of marriage among rich Black parents…. It is lower that poor white parents at the bottom of in income scale!

It is not easy to work a way out of cultural weakness. Without a pathway, leadership, and support it is impossible.

It does not take long to go from order to chaos — in anything. It takes a lot longer to go from chaos to order— in everything.

Getting to good kids who turn into strong adults requires the tough, suffering of marriage. Why “the suffering of marriage” — because if marriage was nothing but the effervescence of romance everyone would stay married forever. Learning to live with another, year after year, decade after decade is tough work. It makes for tough character… the requirement for moving up the income scale, staying there and holding onto it.

I pray that Black leaders (in church, in public school education, in the media, in Hollywood, in politics, in student associations, in the academy) stand up together and help each other say what needs to be said and— even more — do the long hard work of rebuilding Black marriages one at a time, generation after generation.

I hope the New York Times team (who were very prudent in their conclusion[2]) will continue their analysis and give us another treat in Upshot, this time including the variables of always-intact-marriage to permit us to analyze the data that way. I bet it will yield much clarity.

Racism has some influence, no doubt, but it is nothing compared to the weakening of black children visited upon them by the absence of marriage, by the absence of their biological fathers.[3] Marriage was one of the great strengths that have not been passed down to them by their parents, pastors and teachers. It used to be there.

Remove the chaos in parent’s marriage and children thrive — no matter the racial group. Leave the marital conflict unattended and the children wilt. Compound it over generations and the situation only gets worse. This is not racism. This is human nature.

For the good of the child – and the black child, the future of America,

Pat Fagan

Director of MARRI

[1] The title and the red inserts in the chart are my own, they are not part of the NYT original chart.

[2] “The research makes clear that there is something unique about the obstacles black males face. The gap between Hispanics and whites is narrower, and their incomes will converge within a couple of generations if mobility stays the same. Asian-Americans earn more than whites raised at the same income level, or about the same when first-generation immigrants are excluded. Only Native Americans have an income gap comparable to African-Americans. But the disparities are widest for black boys.”

[3] Though stepfathers are great and needed even they cannot (on average) cannot have the same impact as the married biological father. Again this is not a racist finding: it holds across ethnic groups. It is a human thing.

*An earlier Faith and Family Findings has more material related to this issue.

 

Sex, Suicide, and STDs: The Good News and The Bad

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Recent national and international data hit home hard on matters connecting life, love, and death. Good news is, the way forward is clearer because the contrasts are sharper.

The Washington Post has mapped the changes: over the last decade the nation has shifted from lower (blue) to higher (red) rates of suicide.

There is a link between sexual intercourse, suicide and depression: Back in 2003 Robert Rector and colleagues at the Heritage Foundation illustrated the clear link between sexual activity, depression and suicide attempts, among teenagers. A few weeks ago, the California Surgeon General released a report on a very significant increase in serious sexually transmitted infections, and this week the CDC reported significant increases in suicide rates.

In the past, in Mapping America, we reported that enjoyment or fear are significantly influenced by the presence or absence of marriage and worship.

The two great loves triumph here: love of spouse and love of God make for the most enjoyable sexual experiences.

But the absence of spouse and God have their own correlates: fear and anxiety.

The other really bad news of late was California’s Surgeon General report on sexually transmitted diseases: significantly up!  On this issue the absence of spouse and God tell the same tale: increased sexually transmitted diseases and increased risk of contracting them.

  

So, on the disturbing news we can turn to solid ground: get the fundamentals right (marriage and worship) and much of the rest falls in place. Avoid the fundamentals and much of the rest falls apart.

The core strength of the nation in matters sexual and psychological is the intact married family that worships God weekly. All our children need to be so blessed.

With and eye to the child, the future of America,

Pat Fagan,

MARRI

Fathers Raising Sons to be Good Fathers

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Fathers give the gift of existence when their sperm penetrates the mother’s egg. While the mother begins nurturing her child immediately, whether the father does so depends on the couple’s “mode of living” up to that point: their own family-of-origin culture and beliefs, moral norms, and their guiding insights and beliefs on life, sexuality, family, the complementarity of the sexes and on marriage.

Let us jump forward fourteen years from this moment, when the baby has just come into existence to the time he has reached puberty and is now biologically capable of becoming a father. His father began to prepare him on matters sexual four years earlier when they had “the talk” introducing him to sex — a task the father denies to anyone else, for that is his and his alone —so that his boy knows how much he owes his existence to his father, and how and why.

Even though he was trained to honor the privacy of his mother and sister — “the talk” began the development of “awe” of females, the father made sure that his mother had her “talk” with him a few weeks ago— to introduce him to the wonders and changes of the female body once the egg accepts the sperm. Having this taught him by his mother changed his idea of girls forever.

His father then began to form his capacity for future marriage: to be an affirmer, a protector and a provider. He had earlier started the formation of affirmation of the women in his life: his mother, and especially his sisters. Now he begins to tutor him in observing and listening carefully so that he gets to know more about who the young women he meets at school and at play and to understand them as much as they permit him to. He teaches him how to be a recognizer of inner beauty. He tutors him in how to listen and how to evaluate — with kindness and understanding when facets become obvious that are not so beautiful or good. He reminds him constantly that every woman is to be honored. By teaching him how to affirm women his father is developing his criteria for selecting a wife.

Having protected him from pornography many years ago — another talk — the boy is used to battling internally with sexual temptation that images that arouse lust (making of a woman an object to be used). The boy has seen its effects on some of his classmates and how their attitude to girls changed mightily. He makes sure his sisters never associate with them. This all led him to a shocking conclusion — that in the adult world he is entering males can be quite predatory.

His father told him how he won this internal battle and still has to win it constantly (how to wipe images away from the mind immediately; what happens when a man does not and how to recover).

But his father also taught him that women too can grow dragons within —slayers of the innocent— and that he had to learn to differentiate between the young women he meets so that he could avoid the trap of a “slayer” in disguise. His son thought this a bit harsh but his father insisted that clear understanding is necessary if he is to be savvy on selecting a wife.

He further instructed him that forgiveness is possible and he tutored him in the need for it — even of the best woman in the world (the one he hoped his son would select) — for her faults and failings will emerge as his future marriage progresses out of the intense romance stage to the long phase of working close together in raising their own children. He will need a wife who will forgive him for his faults too.

He gently advised his son:

“Son, when you are ready we can talk about what your major weaknesses are likely to be so that you will be readier to ask your wife’s forgiveness.”

“When your girlfriend questions you — if she questions you — about your sexual restraint and how you pulled it off — tell her the truth – most of it comes from you and I being close – close enough to have had these conversations over the years. Most young men don’t have that experience so they don’t have the “strength of their father in this area”. You do! It is my gift to you — and to her —– and to your children — my grandchildren.”

“Find the girl who is as close to her mother and father as you are to me and your mother.”

“Choosing who will be your wife and the mother of your children is the most important decision of your life…it will shape the rest of your existence as nothing else will… except your relationship with God. But you know that already even though you are still early in learning about your relationship with Him. There is no severing the connection between sex, egg and sperm, new life and existence and God. Well there is severing but it is disastrous. Just look around and look at the data.”

“Though my guidance is always there for you it is even better that you learn the silence in your heart that is necessary to have conversations with Him so that you get His guidance instead. That will be your strength: Inner certainty arising from inner silence. Without that silence the only voice you hear will be your own —- a bad advisor compared with YOU AND HIM together. That is where I get my deepest affirmation.”

“The other capacity you need to have — being a provider—in some ways it is the easiest part, in others it is the toughest because of the long hours of work. But you have learned to study hard so you already know how to work hard. For hard workers there are loads of job opportunities. But you must learn to save from your very first paycheck… If you can learn to live on 90% of your take-home pay you are doing well. Better still if you learn to do it on 80%… you will never have to worry about money if you learn to live below your means… and you won’t be tempted by money if you do.”

“This will also give you time for conversation in the family that other families will not have. Money and time are interchangeable. As we conquer material nature we seem to have less time — so become rich enough to have the time you need to have many conversations in the family. Protect your wife and children by keeping out the robbers of time – of conversation – of affirmation and understanding of each other.”

“Figure out first what you want: more money or more time. And choose a wife accordingly. If you choose time your children

will thank you. If you choose money they may curse you. They definitely will wish you had chosen time.”

“If you are an Affirmer and a Protector being a Provider comes naturally.”

In turn his son will respond: “But father so few of my friends have families like this!”

How true—that is the great task that confronts the world.

How to change the environment so that every child has such a habitat (a home). Solve this problem and all the others fall in place easily. Solve the other problems first and we will destroy what is left of the environment.

It is time for men to lead where only they can… in being fathers to the full.

Parenting

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Recently, I led a group of young parents in a case study designed to teach them how to handle a three-year-old when he is throwing a temper tantrum.  The parents in the case study were dealing with their first child and made several typical mistakes: one parent spanked in anger and one parent denigrated the other in front of the child.

We dissected the case: what happened, what went wrong, what they needed to do in the future, and how to get there.  Towards the end of the session we gained a bird’s eye view when someone pointed out that the underlying issue was one of trust.  The whole episode came alive again with new energy as we analyzed the case from that perspective.

The case parents were trying to form a habit of restraint in their child so that they could trust him to practice restraint in the future.  When he demonstrates that he can restrain himself their trust in him will grow.  If he does not learn restraint, however, they will trust him less.

Ironically, to achieve this level of formation in their child, they need to be able to trust each other to “do the right thing” when disciplining their child.  Though they agree on what Johnny needs to do they do not yet agree on what each of them needs to do. In this situation they cannot trust each other yet.

This problem will be solved when they can agree: “You can rely on me to do this in this situation.  And I can rely on you to do that in this same situation.”  When they can both look each other in the eye and each say this to each other the ground beneath them has shifted. Not only has trust been restored, but the foundation of their marriage has grown and they have learned how to deepen it.  When they have solved a string of problems in this way they are well on their way to being great parents and a great couple because they have learned how to grow trust.

No matter what way they discipline their child he will turn out strong because they know it is all about trust. “Johnny, you can rely on me to do this for you.  Can I rely on you to do the same for me?”  Johnny learns many good habits but, more importantly, he learns the value of being trustworthy.

Given the massive disruption in trust that the US is experiencing in all its institutions (family, church, school, marketplace, and government) it seems that fellow citizens who are opponents on so many issues need to begin their discourse with: “You can rely on me to treat you with respect in our conversations.  Can I rely on the same from you?”   Without a “yes” there is no point in having the conversation. With a “yes” the ground has shifted— a brick has been laid in the infrastructure we need most: trust.

If we adopt this habit a lot will change. Is there anyone in your orbit with whom you need to practice this?  A spouse?  A child? A relative?  A co-worker? A neighbor?

 

With an eye to the child, the future of America,

Pat Fagan, Ph.D.
Director of the MARRI Project
Catholic University of America

Religion and Politics

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Every election cycle there is often an exploration of the religious affiliation of the candidates running for office. This election cycle is no exception. The New York Time published an article this week entitled, “Donald Trump Attacks Ben Carson, and Highlights His Religion”, illustrating how crucial religious affiliation has become in politics, especially to Republican voters. However, it is not an issue just for Republicans and Republican candidates.  This week the Washington Post delved into the ambiguity of Democratic Candidate Bernie Sanders’ religious beliefs.

Some argue that religion should not play a role in the election process, while others will not vote for a candidate who does not share at least some aspects of their religious beliefs. This interest in religious affiliation is well grounded, as much can be inferred about one’s worldview and policy decisions from their stated faith. But perhaps the American people aren’t asking the right question. The question we tend to ask is, “what is your belief?” Yet there is a more revealing question, one that social science brings to the forefront: “How often do you attend religious service?” 

From a social science investigation, there is not as much that can be known from a statement of faith as the frequency of religious worship or practice. For example, individuals who attend religious worship weekly, compared to those who never attend religious worship, are most likely to be better educated, have fewer sexual partners, and be compassionate. They are also the least likely to use hard drugs, marijuana or commit adultery. In every category measured in the U.S. data system the more people worship the more likely they are to do what is right. This is likely to hold for politicians too.

When looking at candidates in the coming election, it would be prudent to ask, not only, “Do you believe in God?”, or, “What faith do you ascribe to?” but also, “How often do you attend religious service?”  Actions speak louder than words — across all faiths and denominations.

God and Romance

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Frank Fincham, from Florida State University’s Family Institute, conducted research on the effect of prayer on college romances. He found that prayer caused a decline in premarital sex and an increase in a sense of belonging.  This was found to be the case not just with  typical “self-report” measures but in blind ratings by outsiders. Read about this wonderfully designed piece of research by an eminent Rhodes Scholar.

Obergefell and Non-Profits

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The American philanthropic community is in danger. The recent 5-4 Supreme Court ruling in support of same-sex marriages creates the potential for vast and encompassing regulations to take hold of the most foundational elements associated with 501 (c)(3) non-profits; namely their tax exempt status. Without the ability to maintain a conscientious objection right, Christian non-profits and individuals alike will become a jeopardized segment of the population at large. While “promises” have already been made, stating, “the IRS does not intend to change the standards that apply to section 501(c)(3) organizations by reason of the Obergefell decision,” the writing on the wall indicates that 501(c)(3)’s could be stripped of their tax exemptions.

Dr. Henry Potrykus, a Senior Fellow within the Marriage and Religion Research Institute (MARRI) at the Family Research Council, is currently conducting a study that will examine the impact of regulations on the Christian non-profit community. The study, which will characterize the non-profits tracked by the IRS, especially the more than 84,000 Christian non-profits listed by GuideStar, will inform and empower efforts that are already well underway both inside and outside the philanthropic community to ensure Christian non-profits are afforded their tax exempt status. 

The Black Family

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Only 17 percent of African American youth who reach age 18 have always lived with their married mother and father. In the District of Columbia, this number drops to 9 percent. Any policy initiative or social movement to ameliorate the plight of the black community must first address the deterioration of the black family. Contrary to popular public opinion, violent crime, drug abuse, and mass incarceration among African Americans is not a matter of race, and positing it as such fatally distracts from the root problem of family breakdown.
Across every race, the non-intact family poses significant challenges and development barriers to youth. The prevalence of non-intact families in the black community is especially high. As shown below, the black family is the least intact of all races/ethnicities. Almost four times as many Asian adolescents are raised by their married parents as black youths. Because black youths are least likely to come from intact families, the public frequently confounds the role of race and family intactness in shaping adolescents. 

As Kay Hymowitz pointed out in her Atlantic article this week, although racism has significantly decreased since the 1960s family brokenness has significantly increased. Between 1950 and 2012, the percentage of black youth raised by their married parents was cut in half. Rather than rejection stemming from race, black children now face rejection stemming from their parents’ relationship, and resulting in their family being broken. Put a lot of these families together and you get a broken community. As shown in the Violence in Baltimore report, non-intact families tend to foster frequently detrimental environments for children. According to the Fourth National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect:

Compared to the intact married-parent family, the rate of physical abuse is:
    • 3 times higher in the single parent family
    • 4 times higher if the biological parents are cohabiting
    • 5 times higher in a married stepfamily
    • 10 times higher if one biological parent is cohabiting with a partner

Compared to the intact married-parent family, the rate of sexual abuse is:
    • 4.8 times higher in the single-parent family
    • 5 times higher when the biological parents are cohabiting
    • 8.6 times higher in a married step-family
    • 19.8 times higher if one biological parent is cohabiting with a partner
Children frequently respond to this rejection in externalizing behaviors like aggression and crime. State-by-state analysis indicates that, in general, a 10 percent increase in the number of children living in single-parent homes (including divorces) accompanies a 17 percent increase in juvenile crime. Compared with children raised in intact married-parent families, the rate of youth incarceration is 2 times higher in mother-only families, 2.7 times higher in mother-stepfather families, and 3.7 times higher in father-stepmother families.

The link between family structure and crime and abuse rates is well-established, and downplaying its significance is detrimental to our youngest citizens. As Ms. Hymowitz states, “Waving all of this away as ‘respectability politics’ ignores this history; it ignores anthropology; and it ignores many decades of research. It also risks neglecting the real suffering of black children and their communities.”