Sunday, April 3, 2011

Marriage Is For White People*

As of 2008**:

  • 32% of Black adults were married (compared to 56% of Whites)

  • 72% of Black women giving birth were unmarried (29% of White women)

  • 52% of all Black children under the age of 18 were living in a single parent household (in comparison, 74% of white children live in a two-parent household)

  • 44% of Black adults feel that marriage is becoming obsolete

Sigh. Don't these statistics make you cringe, juuuust a little?? I'm particularly disturbed by the one about 72% of Black women giving birth being unmarried. But anywho, that's not what I came on here to discuss. What I want to write about today is what I think is going on with Black folks and marriage. However, I wouldn't be surprised if that statistic finds it's way into my impending argument.

Let me begin by saying that I fully believe in marriage. I grew up seeing positive, successful marriages; not only from my parents, but from many of my friend's parents as well. I've also seen marriages that were dysfunctional and broken and thus, I ironically also believe in divorce. Just because two people decide to get married, that doesn't mean they decided to get married to the right person. Sometimes things just don't work out. If the existence two people have created together is constantly bogged down with misery and marital counseling doesn't help, they may need to view divorce as an option.

I don't believe that these stats are saying that Black people don't want to get married anymore. I think Black people do want to get married, we just struggle with trying to figure out how to love one another in a healthy way. I've heard too many young people lamenting about how they don't trust men/women and I think there lies the source of our problem. How have we allowed ourselves to be so scarred by our prior experiences that we've lost all trust in one another?? And once you get to a point that you find it hard to trust the opposite sex, how do you come back from that and begin to trust again?

Another reason why marriage has become such a challenge for us is that men and women no longer see eye to eye on gender roles. As black women continue to attend college at a greater rate than black men and stake their place in corporate America, we no longer are satisfied with simply playing the role of wife and mother. That's not to say that black men haven't made strides as well, because they have, just not at the same rate as black women. So what happens when Ms. Independent meets Mr. Traditional? An epic clash of egos, that's what.

We are also products of our environment. According to the above statistic, 52% of all black children under the age of 18 are being reared in single family households. How can we be expected to know how to be in successful relationships that result in marriage if we didn't grow up seeing them? It really just becomes a vicious cycle.

Why else do I think marriage in the black community is on the decline? Black women and our tendency to accept whatever we're offered while we secretly hope to one day get what we actually desire from our partners. 72% of black women who gave birth were unmarried, not because we are oversexed and careless, but because too often we've gotten ourselves in deadend relationships that offer up babies as consolation prizes. Most of us really do want to get married and have nuclear families but when the men we're with ask for our patience while they get themselves together, we sit back and allow the years to pass and everntually get stuck in situations of complacency. That guy may not be giving you what you want but you'd still rather be with him than spend your nights and days alone.

All of the above are viable reasons why marriage may be on the decline for black people, but I can't end this post without acknowledging that marriage and what it means for our society is changing for everyone. No longer are we feeling like we HAVE to get married, have two and a half kids, a dog and the white picket fence to be considered successful at life.

Do YOU believe in marriage? Why or why not?