New York Times writer Charles Blow says that there is one recurring narrative that is used to “bludgeon” the reputation of Black men: 72 percent of Black births stem from an unmarried mother. According to Blow, critics often use the stat to paint Black men as fleeting fathers, which makes them responsible for the downfall of the Black household.
Blow calls this rhetoric “mythology.”
He acknowledges the statistic as concrete data, but he argues that there are several factors that contribute to this 72 percent rate that critics overlook. For one, most Black fathers do, in fact, live with their children. According to author Josh Levs who wrote All In, 2.5 million Black men live with their children and 1.7 million live apart from them.
With these numbers in mind, Blow said, one should ask, “So then…how is it that 72 percent of Black children are born to single mothers?” Don’t let the term “single mother” fool you, Blow warns. Yes, the mother may not be married, but this does not mean her children do not have their fathers in the picture.
“…There are a growing number of people who live together but don’t marry,” Blow said.
According to an upcoming report by the National Center for Health Statistics, “shotgun cohabitations” are surpassing the number of “shotgun marriages” for the first time in the last 10 years. In other words, more people are opting to move in together, sans the wedding bells, rather than walk down the aisle after a pregnancy.
On top of this, a 2013 Center for Disease Control report found that Black and Hispanic women are far more likely to be pregnant during the first year of cohabitation in comparison to White and Asian women.
Another overlooked factor that contributes to this “mythology” of Black men, according to Blow, is that some men have kids by more than one woman. “This phenomenon means that a father can live with some but not all of his children,” Blow said. He suggests that this does not mean he is not a part of his child’s life. Levs calls these type of men “serial impregnators,” but Blow is convinced there’s more than just irresponsibility and promiscuity at play here.
Blow points to an issue MadameNoire has written about before: 1.5 million Black men are missing from society due to jail or death. As a result of this mass incarceration, Blow argues that the pool of marriage-age Black men have dropped significantly for Black women. However, Blow does not properly illuminate how this statistic plays a role in serial impregnation, which he claims is “more than just irresponsibility.”
All in all, Blow asserts that the “72 percent” stat exaggerates the gravity of Black fatherhood in America. It “echoes a history of efforts to rob Black masculinity of honor and fidelity,” he said.
Do you agree with Blow?