Stop Lying About Black Women and Families

Claims of an out-of-wedlock birth crisis and “babies having babies” are racist myths. It’s time to tell the truth.

Tim Wise
7 min readFeb 12


Photo by Zach Vessels on Unsplash

Surely you’ve heard it before.

The problem facing Black people isn’t racism; it’s girls and women having babies out of wedlock.

Whenever someone mentions the issue of ongoing racial discrimination in America, the answer from conservatives always sounds like this.

Bill O’Reilly said it in the early days of the Black Lives Matter movement. Black people, he insisted, should remove T-shirts with slogans like “I Can’t Breathe” (a reference to the chokehold killing of Eric Garner at the hands of a New York cop) and replace them with shirts imploring 14-year-olds to stop having babies.

Because that, not racist mistreatment in the justice system, is what’s hurting the community.

Bashing Black folks for their unmarried fecundity is the default response for conservatives whenever confronted with evidence of racism. If they would just stop making all these “illegitimate” children, the problems of the Black community would disappear, or so the story goes.

But none of this is accurate. Not even close.

Statistically, very few Black girls younger than 15 have babies, and the rates of teen pregnancies and births to unmarried Black girls and women have plummeted over the past fifty years.

Those indicators haven’t gotten worse but infinitely better. So, to whatever extent out-of-wedlock births and teen pregnancy are signs of cultural dysfunction, Black culture must actually be getting healthier over time.

The truth about teen pregnancy

Despite the impression one might get from certain reality TV shows, teen pregnancy for all racial and ethnic groups has been falling for decades.

According to the most recent data, the teen birth rate is down two-thirds since 2007 and more than three-fourths since 1991. In fact, the teen birth rate is currently at a record low.

Breaking things down by race, and starting with the youngest girls in the data — those 10 to 14 (whom…



Tim Wise

Anti-racism educator and author of 9 books, including White Like Me and, most recently, Dispatches from the Race War (City Lights, December 2020)