Arriving just in time to ring in the official beginning of the wedding season, the March 26 issue of the Washington Post featured a spirited commentary by Joy Jones on the state of black marriage in the United States titled “Marriage Is for White People.”
Well, do you want the bad news or the worst news first? Let’s start with a few stats spotlighted by Jones:
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.
There are several possible reasons for these stats, but Ms. Jones, speaking from a single female’s perspective decided to focus her attention primarily on all the things that are wrong with black men that make them unworthy of marrying.
She herself grew up in a two-parent household, she wrote. While growing up, she eagerly awaited the day when she could exchange nuptials with her soulmate. As she put it: “I wanted a husband, not a live-in boyfriend and not a baby’s daddy; however, when my time came to mate and marry, my time never came.”
Why not, I ask? Well, she like other black women has many issues to be concerned with in being courted by black men. Among them, she said is the fact that when women are in their 20s and 30s want to marry men, those men are still playing the field. On the other hand, when men get older and mature and are ready to settle down, women are already in their careers and should not have to settle for “men that don’t bring much to the table.” That’s assuming she has a better career than him. Or, there are men that “bring too much to the table,” meaning previous relationship baggage or children.
She also lists brothers on the “down low,” the spread of STDs, and a decline of “blue collar employment black men used to hold,” which make mating with black men “risky business” at best.
The problem I have with articles and opinions like this is the same problem I have with all of those Madea movies people love so much: They function as pseudo-psychology for women eradicating their need to take accountability for their own role in these relationships. Regardless of what went wrong, it is always easier to focus on what black men lack than what you truly want.
Granted, the socio-economic climate has dramatically shifted in the last generation. More women are working, and certainly in the case of African Americans, oftentimes women make more than their male partners. This means that the man’s traditional role of “provider” may not be the same in every household, requiring women to decide what they need in their relationships and stick to it.
How many times have you seen a sister describe exactly the type of mate they require: “financially secure, affectionate, kind-hearted, mature” and so forth, but enter a relationship with a man who is none of these things, then claim “I can change him”? Many times sisters are just not honest with themselves or their partners about what they want, and waste several years on the wrong side of the relationship equation.
Curiously, Jones was once close to exchanging nuptials. A close male friend of five years whom she’d met in college proposed to her a few years ago. As she puts it, “We had built a solid friendship which is the basis for a successful marriage.”
She said “no.”
This man was educated, successful and a loyal friend. So why wasn’t he good enough?
“If we would have married, I would have had to relocate to the Midwest. Been there, done that. I didn’t like it. Additionally, I feel a camaraderie with his son, but I know that step-motherhood can be a bumpy ride.”
For better, or worse, this revelation may say more about the state of marriage than any other reason Jones outlined. Her inability to see beyond her own apprehensions about his child and her issues with the Midwest contributed to her relationship problems?”not some no-good black man.
How can a black woman, or any woman for that matter, expect to get this perfect, idealized relationship in their lives without any sacrifice?
In the end, the problems encountered by black men and women deserve equal blame for the current drop-off in black marriage. Once we take a look at ourselves first, then we can begin to become better partners for each other.