We’ve all read about the African-American schoolchildren who get taunted by their peers for reading books and doing their homework: That’s “acting white.” Now there’s a new dismissive meme in the black community: “Marriage is for white people.”
That’s great–because single motherhood is a nearly surefire guarantee of lifetime poverty no matter what your race. And now, African-American women seem to be taking up the “marriage is for white people” mantra. Here’s Joy Jones, writer and former teacher writing in the Washington Post:
“The marriage rate for African Americans has been dropping since the 1960s, and today, we have the lowest marriage rate of any racial group in the United States. In 2001, according to the U.S. Census, 43.3 percent of black men and 41.9 percent of black women in America had never been married, in contrast to 27.4 percent and 20.7 percent respectively for whites. African American women are the least likely in our society to marry. In the period between 1970 and 2001, the overall marriage rate in the United States declined by 17 percent; but for blacks, it fell by 34 percent. Such statistics have caused Howard University relationship therapist Audrey Chapman to point out that African Americans are the most uncoupled people in the country.”
Jones seems to realize that this is not a good development.. She quotes a black male friend:
“It’s a bad thing. I believe it takes the traditional family — a man and a woman — to raise kids.’ He has worked with troubled adolescents, and has observed that ‘the girls who are in the most trouble and who are abused the most — the father is absent. And the same is true for the boys, too.’ He believes that his presence and example in the home is why both his sons decided to marry when their girlfriends became pregnant.”
Jones also notes that the idea that “marriage is for white people” is also a recent development. Even in the time of slavery, when families could be split up on an owner’s whim, black men and women made and tried to keep marriage vows to each other. And even during the Great Depression, John McWhorter has pointed out, the illegitmacy rate in the worst black slums of Chicago was only 10 percent–in contrast to nowadays, when 70 percent of all black children, rich and poor, are born out of wedlock.
Nonetheless, when Jones taught a classroom unit on fatherhood–and her sixth-graders informed her that “marriage is for white people,” she made no effort to point out that good fatherhood is more than writing support checks for your kids and taking them to baseball games, that it also includes being in the home for them, and yes, supporting both financially and emotionally your kids’ mother in a mutual commitment to love each other and raise the children whom your love has produced as your most important enterprise.
Jones’s theory is that marriage is strictly an economic relationship, and what with so many African-American women working at well-paying middle-class jobs these days, who needs men? She writes:
“But human nature being what it is, if marriage is to flourish — in black or white America — it will have to offer an individual woman something more than a business alliance, a panacea for what ails the community, or an incubator for rearing children.”
Actually, “incubator for rearing children” sounds like a darned good definition of marriage to me. Kids need fathers as well as mothers, no matter how much money Mom makes.