Monday, April 7, 2008

Black Marriage Day?

There is a problem in the black community, no it is not a problem, it is an epidemic that receives little if any coverage in the media and very little discussion in the community. The problem is the significant decrease of marriage in the black community. No community has a more anemic record of marriage than blacks. The lack of marriage has devastated the black family and in turn damaged the black community. The number of marriages has been declining for all races and groups in America for the last 30 years. While this is a troubling fact for our country as a whole, my emphasis is on the damage this decrease has brought to the black family structure, because it has been one of the leading causes of internal strife in our community.

The bad news is that the number of Black married couples is only half the number of married Whites, and the situation is getting worse. In 1963 when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his "I Have a Dream" speech, more than 70 percent of all Black families were headed by married couples. In 2002 that number was 48 percent.

An even more alarming statistic is the increase in the number of both Black men and women who have never been married. Nearly 45 percent of Black men have never married and 42 percent of Black women have never married. More to the point, an increasing number of Black women will never get married. The percentage of Black women who are married declined from 62 percent to 31 percent between 1950 and 2002.

As an Orthodox Christian, I have religious reasons for wanting to see the black family strengthened and our communities restored through marriage. I believe that marriage was created by God to protect us from ourselves. Human beings by their nature are selfish creatures and if given the chance would choose selfish pleasure over responsibility. Imagine a world without marriage, where there were no boundaries to seeking selfish pleasure. Even with the institution of marriage some people still have a hard time denying their selfish interests. But even if you are not prone to religion, the social evidence is clear. Children from two parent homes regardless of their race, economic status, or culture do better than those from single-parent homes. We have had study after study that bears this fact out, only the most ignorant and fanatical person would argue otherwise.

So with such indisputable evidence how is the following even possible? A community activist in Richmond, VA. was speaking to a group of young black girls about marriage. She began the conversation by asking the girls two questions and their responses to these questions speaks volumes about the state of our communities and our future. It also reveals the level of spiritual mutilation and psychological injury we have allowed to be done to our daughters.

RICHMOND, Va.— The questions Richmond activist Adia Blackmon posed to a group of 13 girls were basic.
How many wanted to be mothers?
Blackmon, charged with mentoring the girls, counted 13 arms in the air.
How many wanted to be wives?
Their response shed light on a community that leads the nation in levels of single-parent homes.
"Only one hand went up," said Blackmon, who was floored by the response from black girls as young as 11.
"They said they wanted the fathers to be involved and wouldn't mind them coming around," she said.
"But they did not want to be married to them

The responses of these girls should be alarming and heartbreaking to anyone concerned about not only the state of the black community, but also the mental health of our young girls. As a response to this and similar situations around the country someone decided to have a “Black Marriage Day”, during this day which was designed to celebrate and hopefully encourage marriage in the black community some 200 cities featured seminars, award dinners, and vow-renewal ceremonies. Any efforts to improve the state of marriage is a noble goal to be sure and should be applauded. The issue I have with this celebration and the similar ones that have been held to highlight different problems in the black community is that in the midst of an epidemic our answer is a one day event? Our children are dying and all we can muster is a one day occasion. Sometimes the apathy of our community is mind numbing to me.

I’m sorry but we have life and death issues occurring in our communities that are going to require a bit more than these one shot publicly stunts. The resolutions to our problems are going to require the full input and the full-time efforts of our community as whole. These are complex issues and they did not occur overnight. We have allowed them to fester and go unchallenged for years. It will take years to overcome the malaise and spiritual deprivation that we have allowed to permeate our collective consciousness. Today, we have accepted children out of wedlock in the black community as if this were the normal state of life. I am not advocating that we return to the dark ages, but there is a big difference in a mistake and a life-style choice. Many of our young women are opting to using men as sperm donors only, having the mistaken belief that men are not necessary to raise a family.

Anyone who chooses to bring a child into this world alone with the following
statistics from the Census Bureau or these from the Responsible Fatherhood Clearing House is not showing love for a child, but instead selfishness. If you know that by having a child alone, you are more than likely sentencing that child to a life of struggle from the very beginning, this is not love. It is unfortunate that in our community for many women, if it were not for their children born out of wedlock, they would be alone. It is time we recognize the damage not only being brought to us from the outside, but also the damage we are bringing on ourselves. I can’t control what others are doing, but I can control what I am doing to myself.

I wrote an essay on
gentrification and how do we integrate the poor into these new neighborhoods and I received a number of comments about how what I was suggesting was to make them more “white”. This troubled me because for many their racism is so ingrained that for them anyone who acts responsibly is equated with acting white, so the reverse of this is naturally to act irresponsibly is to act black. I would have accepted it better coming from devout racists, but these were comments from so-called liberals. The point is that no matter what our station in life is, we all have a responsibility to ourselves and to each other, this goes for the billionaire right down to the beggar.

[1] - BNet
[2] - Houston Chronicle

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