Republican congressional candidate Kendall Qualls said the “chief barrier to the advancement of the African-American community is the rise of single-parent households,” not “racism, police brutality or white privilege.”
Qualls is running against Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN-03), a first-term Democrat who unseated former Republican Congressman Erik Paulsen in 2018.
In a statement released last week, Qualls said the country will not meaningfully resolve the significant disparities between African Americans and other groups “until we address the single-parent household crisis plaguing the African-American community.”
“Children born to unmarried couples are less likely to succeed educationally, emotionally, and financially. Children born in single-parent homes are more likely to have contact with the criminal justice system, resent authority, join a gang, and have substance abuse issues,” said Qualls.
“They are also more likely to suffer from mental health issues, obesity, poverty, homelessness, and child abuse. The effects are multigenerational: less-educated parents are less likely to marry and it begins a cycle of entrapment in the underclass. I don’t need the data to tell me this. I’ve seen it firsthand in my own family,” he continued.
As a five-year-old, Qualls moved with his mother and four siblings to live with his grandparents in an apartment in Harlem. His parents divorced in 1968 after his father returned home from the Vietnam War.
“There was a common theme in the public-housing project that we lived in and the school I attended: there were mothers and children, but an absence of fathers. The only men in the neighborhood were drunks, drug addicts, or drug-dealers,” said Qualls.
Of his four siblings, three went to prison and all four used drugs, including one who became addicted to heroin and died after contracting HIV/AIDS from intravenous drug use.
As the youngest in the family, Qualls said he was able to watch his sibling and cousins “over the decades and see how their fatherless existence and personal decisions impacted their lives.”
“The outcomes were similar to what is emblematic in the African-American community: poverty, crime, drug addiction, and joblessness. Most did not marry and they had kids outside of marriage. If they did marry, the marriages were short-lived and ended in divorce,” he said.
The Republican said his nieces and nephews followed a similar path, revealing that his 42-year-old niece died from a drug overdose last year.
“The story of my extended family is emblematic of the crisis plaguing the African-American community. America has made significant strides in combating racism. However, the African-American community is mired in self-inflicted wounds and a mindset of victimization. The Democratic policies of the last fifty years have only exacerbated the issue,” Qualls continued.
He said the crisis can be addressed through community engagement and legislation, such as a federal bill to “remove the marriage penalty in government programs and provide a tax deduction for those who complete marriage preparation.”
Qualls encouraged Minnesotans to support and promote non-profits that “include education on the value of marriage and the negative impact father absence has on children and the community.”
He also called for partnering with “schools, community leaders, and Black churches to extol the values of marriage for children and for married couples.”
“The flashpoint of the last several weeks does not have to be a repeat of the flameout in 1968, 1992, or 2014. Instead, we should turn George Floyd’s tragic death to a re-examination of the single-parent crisis in the African-American community and the government policies enabling men to abandon their responsibilities,” Qualls concluded. “As Barack Obama rightly declared, the ‘hole a man leaves when he abandons his responsibility to his children is one that no government can fill.’ Let us remember this lesson as we seek to rise up from the ashes of Lake Street, pursue policing reform, and rebuild our community.”
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