chapter  6
18 Pages

The Disposition of Illegitimate Babies II: A Taxpayer's Issue

In postwar America there was only one public intention for white unwed mothers and their babies: separate them. Toward black single mothers and their babies, however, there were three broadly different public attitudes. One attitude, often held by middle-of-the-road politicians, social service administrators, and practitioners, contended that blacks had babies out of wedlock because they were Negro, because they were ex-Africans and ex-slaves. Blacks were perceived by this group as irresponsible and amoral, but baby loving. According to this attitude, the state and its institutions and agencies could essentially ignore black breeding patterns since blackswould take care oftheir children themselves. But if they didn't, they were responsible for their own mess. Adopting Daniel Moynihan's famous phrase from this period, this public attitude toward black illegitimacy will be called "benign neglect" here.