All Articles Tagged "african american marriage"
Sometime during the national conversation on Single Black Women, someone hypothesized that the Black church keeps women single. I thought that was pretty ridiculous considering 95% of the black married women I know, I know from church. In fact, it seems to me that religion is much more important in judging a person’s chances for marriage than race. The link between being a Christian and getting married in a timely fashion was something I noticed years ago.
After high school, I went to a Bible college for a year. At that college, there was a huge emphasis placed on marriage and seemed to be the primary (or a close secondary) purpose for being there. It wasn’t just the women either who seemed intent on “marrying a pastor” it was the men too who would approach women announcing “God said you’re my wife.” Sound creepy? That’s because it is.
I remember telling a staff member that I refused to cook in the dorm’s community kitchen…or anywhere else for that matter. Shocked, she said “Well what are you going to do when you get a husband?” She asked it so urgently as though she had said, “Well what are you going to eat for dinner?” I was eighteen and not even thinking about marriage tat hat time, but I guess she automatically assumed I was angling for a husband because so many people around me were foaming at the mouth to get married. In fact, some members of the administration had begun calling it “ring by Spring” mocking the high percentage of students who came in the Fall semester and ended up engaged or married by the end of Spring semester.
When I left Bible college after one year, I attended a state university. There, the game was totally different. In fact, nobody talked about marriage, ever. It was refreshing to date guys without one dropping the “God told me you are (or are not) my wife” bomb on an otherwise great night. It was nice to have conversations with women without one declaring she hoped to marry her crush, despite having never been on a single date with him. I had recently broken up with my Bible college boyfriend and he was the last person for a while to ever bring up marriage as something on his short-term goal list.
I could have easily chalked the difference up to the fact that Bible college was a place for aspiring ministers and, like politicians, pastors are expected to have wives. But it wasn’t just those pursuing a pulpit that were getting married left and right.
While I was at the state university, Facebook was opened to people who were in college and those who weren’t. As a result, I found out that many of my parochial high school classmates had skipped higher education and went straight for “Wife Life” and some even had children. I was stunned. All of that before their 21st birthday? It was then that I noticed the stark contrast between my college friends and my friends from my hometown.
Most of my friends from home were friends from church and if they weren’t married then they weren’t shy about wanting to get married. Most of these friends (guys and girls) were either virgins or celibate. In contrast, my friends from college were about their business and romance was mostly relegated to the sidelines. Both the men and the women seemed engrossed in the risky game of who can have the most sex with the most people while suffering the least consequences in the form of pregnancy, STD’s and/or emotional pain.
After graduation, I went back home and, still addicted to Facebook, I noticed that more than a few college acquaintences I’d known from Campus Crusade for Christ walked off the graduation stage and down the wedding aisle. Here I was trying to find my first post-college job and these girls who had graduated the year before me were posting pics of themselves flanked by an adoring husband cradling a newborn baby. A friend and I used to joke that we should have spent more time at Campus Crusade for Christ meetings and less time at the library.
As time went on, I noticed that most of my church friends who were in serious, committed relationships rarely dated for more than two years without popping the question. Many of my non-church friends who were in serious relationships were living together and dating for four and five years without getting engaged. Of course, there are Christian couples who live together and/or date forever without getting married and non-Christian couples who don’t live together and/or got married in a timely fashion. I just noticed that there was a marked difference in terms of proportion among the people I know. Like, Stanford professor Ralph Richards Banks asked in his famous book, “Is Marriage For White People?”, I wonder is marriage for Christians?
The evidence to support my theory that Christians are more likely to get married and get married young is strictly anecdotal, but the statistics back up my experience. While the majority of Americans walk the aisle eventually, according to Christianity Today, a whopping 84% of Christians marry and the average age is 25.
By “Christians” they mean “couples who regularly practice any combination of serious religious behaviors and attitudes — attend church nearly every week, read their Bibles and spiritual materials regularly; pray privately and together; generally take their faith seriously, living not as perfect disciples, but serious disciples.”
These Christians, they also found, enjoy significantly lower divorce rates than mere church members, the general public and unbelievers.
While churches don’t explicitly command “get married”, it seems the culture promotes it among attendees. And while many factors play into getting married including economic status, educational accomplishments and even race it seems the common denominator among the largest group of married folk under 30 is the fact that they’re Christian.
I’m not suggesting that anyone jump in the Jesus Jetta because they think their future husband is riding in it. Jesus is not passing out marriage licenses. I’m just thinking, considering the fact that most Christians are African-Americans, then maybe we’re not so “doomed to be single” after all.
What do you think? Do you think religion plays a big part in whether or not people get married? Have you noticed Christians people you know getting married young or at a higher rate?
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Some friends, mostly women, and I have been having this on-going discussion about polygamy and whether or not we could see ourselves available to two or more spouses. The discussion spawned from the now-defunct HBO series “Big Love,” which we were fans of. Whenever there is news about polygamy, the discussion resurfaces among us. Recently, we heard the story of Zionnghaka Chana, 67, who lives together with his 39 wives and more than 120 children and grandchildren in some sort of tribal Christian cult in North Eastern India.
Of course that is an extreme example but the idea of two, three or four consenting adults coming together in perfect matrimony is not so foreign. Despite the natural impulse to curl your lips up in disgust, I have been stunned by the number of female friends, who have said that they are okay with the concept of sharing their husbands. From an analytical standpoint, it can make sense. So much lip service, and blog bandwidth, has been given to the black marriage crisis in the black community. We have all heard the statistics: 42 percent of American black women have never been married, compared to 21% of white American women. Between 1970 and 2001, the black marriage rate dropped by 34%, compared to 17% in the general population. African-American women are the least likely group to get married in the United States. And if we do wed a black man, those couples have the highest divorce rate in the United States. Not to mention the higher incarceration rates for black males, which also play a role in the decrease in the availability of marriageable Black men.
So with those statistics threatening the future of the institution of marriage, could marrying in the plural be the answer to not only saving the black marriage but also stabilizing black families?
Polygamy and Polyandry, which is the pairing of one woman with several mates, has a long history in the world — a history I won’t bore you too much with. But I will say that although some say its Biblical, there has always been a much more important societal justification behind it, particularly the unequal ratio of males to females. While it is true that at birth, the number of each sex are pretty much equal (at birth, there are 101-104 males per 100 females), war and other factors leads to females outnumbering males. Historically, the uneven ratio led to polygamy as it became acceptable for men to take on another bride, usually sisters of the wife of a fallen brother, to ensure that these women were taken care of but more importantly, that the population within a tribe or ethnic group of people continued to grow. Of course, there are a few exceptions, like in the some parts of India, Africa and Amazon, where fraternal polyandry is used to keep the population in check (one woman with several husbands can’t make as many babies as the reverse).
According to researchers at Brigham Young University, an estimated 30,000 to 50,000 people live a polygamist lifestyle in the US. I actually believe that number to be too low. Folks may not like to admit it but there are women, some within our own families, who know that their husband has a whole other family on the side. The other woman, and her kids, are the ones that usually show up at the funeral and everyone, with exception of the “wife,” is wondering why “that strange lady’s son looks an awfully lot like Uncle Joe.” Uh-huh. What do you think the S.O.S Band meant when they sang, “I don’t care about those other girls, just be good to me?”
Growing up in Philly it was not uncommon to know someone who was a product of an Islamic polygamist relationship, in which the orthodox rules of Islam virtually allow a man to marry several women at one time. As a teen, I became infatuated by the concept and would probe them with all sorts of questions about how their alternative families worked and how their mothers dealt with being one of several wives. And while, I anticipated their mothers being those submissive types, who flinch every time their husbands said, “boo,” I was surprised to discover that many of these women were very well-rounded, educated and logical in their practice of polygamy. Some were stay at home mothers but the vast majority of these women had careers and lives of their own, outside of their unions. They didn’t view their sister wives as competitors but rather helpmates in their family. And more importantly, they took no crap from their husband.
While it is logical to believe that men are the ultimate beneficiaries of polygamy, the reality is that any man, who takes up more than one spouse has to be financially and emotionally stable enough to carry the load of responsibility. And with several wives outnumbering the male, each requiring their needs and desires to be fulfilled, I can imagine who really gets to call the shots in the relationships. But with anything, it is a matter of personal choice. And while I personally have considered the idea, I don’t think I could get past the sharing of a man in that context. Call me selfish, but “know thy self and to thine own self be true.” However if a woman, or a man for that matter, decides of free will to enter into multiple relationships – and is emotionally mature enough to handle it – well I believe more power to them. There is more than one way to be unified in matrimony. I’m just presenting an alternative view.
Charing Ball is the author of the blog People, Places & Things.
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(Afro) — The study debunks highly popularized theories about the lack of marital options for Black women. For example, the research cites a story from ABC that states only 54 percent of Black men would be considered “adequate to marry” taking into account the Black men who lack a college education, are in jail and are unemployed. In his study, Toldson points out that such reports don’t take into account overlapping of this data. This “phenomena” of the single and successful black woman as well as the crumbling of the Black family has been covered by many news outlets. MSNBC, NPR, the Washington Post and countless bloggers have had stories with headlines such as “Marriage Alludes High-Achieving Black Women,” “Black Women: Successful and Still Unmarried” or “Marriage Is for White People.”
(Time) — TIME.com: Your book focuses specifically on marriage patterns within the black “middle class” of educated professionals. Why focus your research so narrowly?
Banks: Because this is a demographic that has traditionally been overlooked by demographers. When scholars study marriage, they usually focus on white people, yet when they focus on African Americans, they usually study the lower classes. There is very little serious data on other segments. Plus, the black middle-class is the community I am a part of — and I’ve personally witnessed the decline of marriage among African Americans.
So what did you find out? How is marriage faring among the black middle class?
Not well — particularly for black women. Typically, the more educated the woman, the more likely she is to marry. But a college-educated black woman is no more likely to have a husband than a poor Caucasian woman with barely a high school diploma. When it comes to forming a family, black women are not reaping the benefits of advanced education — nor are they passing those benefits onto the next generation.
(Wall Street Journal) — “At this point in my life,” says Audrey, age 39, “I thought I’d be married with children.” A native of southeast Washington, D.C., and the child of parents who are approaching their 50th wedding anniversary, Audrey seems like the proverbial “good catch”—smart, funny, well-educated, attractive. Audrey earns a good living, too, with an income from management consulting that far surpasses what her parents ever made. Her social life is busy as well, filled with family, friends and church. What Audrey lacks is a husband. As she told me, sitting at a restaurant in the fashionable Dupont Circle neighborhood of the nation’s capital, “I’m trying to get to a point where I accept that marriage may never happen for me.” Audrey belongs to the most unmarried group of people in the U.S.: black women. Nearly 70% of black women are unmarried, and the racial gap in marriage spans the socioeconomic spectrum, from the urban poor to well-off suburban professionals. Three in 10 college-educated black women haven’t married by age 40; their white peers are less than half as likely to have remained unwed.
(Chicago Tribune) — Tamika Miller knows what she wants in a husband. Her Mr. Right would be ambitious and driven, well-mannered and polite, smart, attractive, faithful and, of course, ready for family life. But the 35-year-old Alsip woman has one thing hampering her dating search: she’s an African-American woman hoping to meet and marry an African-American man. And that puts her in the category of singles least likely to marry, according to U.S. census figures. ”I am getting older. I’ve never been married. I don’t have any children. And that’s something that I want in my life,” she said. “It’s hard to meet black guys who want to be in a committed relationship. And that’s what I’m looking for.” Recently, stories like Miller’s have been recounted so often that they’ve created a boutique industry — comedian Steve Harvey and actor Hill Harperhave written books on the matter; there have been reality shows, blogs and YouTube videos; and ABCproduced a ”Nightline” segment on the topic.
(Washington Post) — A socially conservative group has apologized for including a passage about slavery in a pledge it asked the Republican candidates to sign as a prerequisite for the group’s endorsement in the presidential race. Rep. Michele Bachmann had been the first GOP hopeful to sign “The Marriage Vow,” which included in the introduction a section that lamented that “the Institution of Marriage in America is in great crisis.” One piece of evidence it offered was the claim that a black person born into slavery “was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA’s first African-American president.”
(Rolling Out) — Malcolm X once warned African Americans that no one can exploit and hate on black people with the dexterity, efficiency and ruthlessness as other blacks. Case in point: a black Stanford law professor is gainfully profiteering off the collective marriage misery of middle-class African American women with a blog-level, contemptible book, Is Marriage for White People? How the African American Marriage Decline Affects Everyone. Ralph Richard Banks, a law professor at the “Ivy League school of the West,” Stanford University, has an answer to solve black women’s dilemma to finding a suitable soul mate: marry white men.