Sunday, April 02, 2006

Marriage Is for White People

"Ain't nothing going on but the rent. You got to have a J.O.B., if you want to be with me. No romance without finance." Remember that 1986 song by Gwen Guthrie? At that time, black women generally needed the black man's earning potential to sustain their families. We all remember that back in the day, it was the black man's role to be the "breadwinner" in the family, and that many times, women married -- or stayed in dysfunctional marriages -- because they couldn't afford to be alone. Oh my, how times have changed.

Like last week, this week's entry discusses another article that circulated via email last week. The article, titled "Marriage Is for White People," addresses the low marriage rates for black people, as compared to people of other racial groups. The article also states some very interesting statistics that support this phenomenon:

  • African-Americans have the lowest rate of marriage of any racial group in the U.S.
  • 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.
  • A black child was more likely to grow up living with both parents during slavery days than he or she is today.

The author attributes these statistics to her observation that "black women in their twenties and early thirties want to marry and commit at a time when black men their age are more likely to enjoy playing the field." She continues by stating, "as men mature, and begin to recognize the benefits of having a roost and roots (and to feel the consequences of their risky bachelor behavior), they are more willing to marry and settle down. By this time, however, many of their female peers are satisfied with the lives they have constructed and are less likely to settle for marriage to a man who doesn't bring much to the table."

WOW, it's like deja vu. I feel like I've had this very conversation with several of my girlfriends before, and this article has sparked more conversation (and more opinions) about the subject. Personally, I can definitely relate to the author's observations. When I was in my early to mid 20's, I was much more willing to settle down than I am now. As I look back, I can objectively say that back then, I was probably looking for someone to provide me with stability -- not to make me rich, but to make me feel safe and secure. As I have gotten older, and accomplished more in my life, my standards in men have changed. As the article states, "Women's expectations have changed dramatically while men's have not changed much at all..." "Women now say, 'Providing is not enough. I need more partnership.'" The author also states, "Most single black women over the age of 30 whom I know would not mind getting married, but acknowledge that the kind of man and the quality of marriage they would like to have may not be likely, and they are not desperate enough to simply accept any situation just to have a man."

Those comments really resonate with me because I can relate to them. Financially, I'm pretty self-sufficient, so I don't need a man to provide that type of security for me. Rather, I need a man to be my friend, my confidant, and my partner, as the article states. Personally, I feel like black women have stepped up their game, and are bringing a lot more to the table; whereas black men really have not done the same. Instead of just bringing financial support to the table, black men need to realize that they need to bring emotional support to the table as well.

Perhaps some of these attitudes toward marriage cause, or are caused by, the information related in last week's entry about the state of the black man. Either way, I think it is a topic worth discussing, and I look forward to your comments.

If you have not read the article, click here to access it:



ljh1999 said...

I meant to reference this article in your post last week. I think that this attitude leads to the situation many black men find themselves in. I love single parents who provide their children with love and knowledge, but it was never meant to be that way. There is no substitute for a husband and wife living together and raising their child. When this environment is not provided, it increases the chances that a child will go astray. Man and woman provide different elements to the young mind that are meant to balance each other. For example, if a young man grows up with only his father, he may lack some of the sensitivity, compassion and respect for women his mother could have taught him.

I wish I had time to find some statistics to back me up, but it's late. I just wanted to share my thoughts. Goodnight.

thespookwhosatbythedoor said...

Just this Sunday, the pastor at the church I attend spoke on the institution of marriage. He said that marriage is a gift from God, but women must look to God to see if that gift is something He wants for them. Because there is something worse than not being married-- its being married to the wrong person.

Like Notta, I too am financially self-sufficient. Therefore, I look for a man are with good character, strong values, and most importantly one who treats me the way I want and deserve to be treated.

In my experience, most Black men don't expect to have to fulfill those kinds of requirements. They think that providing financially and "laying pipe" are the only things they have to do in order to get and keep a woman. And while that may be true for some women, "quality women", the type with the qualities that a smart man would want in a wife, are not going to settle for the okey-doke. If you want quality, you’re going to have to step up your game.

Curry said...

I agree with the general attitude of this read and see it as a call for black men to revamp most of what we’ve held as articles of manhood. It’s a fairly primal thing for a man to be the “provider”. For a woman to have more financial power, she has the ability to “take care of” the unit, in the traditional sense, better than we can.

However I don’t necessarily agree with thespookwhosatbythedoor comment about black men not feeling that they should have to fulfill the emotional side of a relationship. Any man that has spent any serious time with a woman knows that being an emotional anchor is part of the whole package. And denying a woman that emotional foundation will send her packing her bags more so than even money.

Here’s my angle; both the man and the woman have their separate roles that, when understood, make a relationship whole, fulfilled, and balanced. If the woman is making more money than the man, the man is still the head of the household with major money decisions ultimately determined by him WITH (NOT WITHOUT) the wisdom and guidance of the woman I just believe that that is how God intended for it to be (anybody remember when God said “…it’s not good for man to be alone.”?). . I’ve heard women disagree with this, but to this day, I STILL haven’t met a single women that wants to have to wear both the pants AND the skirt.

From a historical standpoint this is the model that these statistics date back to. Now, if you’ve got a good, smart, & spiritual woman then she’ll understand these dynamics coming in to the relationship. Knowing that to set this order off would be inserting an unbalanced element & an uneven yoke that would more than likely set the relationship on a path of destructive behavior leading to it’s demise. No more than if a man were to insert female or maternal behavior into a relationship.

Earning potential in & of itself does NOT validate manhood. If your manhood hasn’t been validated by the time you get married, then you’re not ready for marriage.

Anonymous said...

You know what's depressing? No matter how many studies are published and no matter how many black Americans profess to want a change, for some reason it seems beyond our grasp. Whether it's the low marriage rate, the plight of black men, Katrina recovery efforts, or any other major issue of concern for black people, it seems as if we just can't get it together long enough to make a positive change.

That's more depressing than any of the statistics, in my opinion.