Remember that piece I wrote a couple of weeks back?
From today's Washington Post comes a story that illuminates one of my points better than I was ever able:
"Marriage is for White People"A point I made in Culture.
By Joy Jones
Sunday, March 26, 2006; Page B01
I grew up in a time when two-parent families were still the norm, in both black and white America. Then, as an adult, I saw divorce become more commonplace, then almost a rite of passage. Today it would appear that many -- particularly in the black community -- have dispensed with marriage altogether.
But as a black woman, I have witnessed the outrage of girlfriends when the ex failed to show up for his weekend with the kids, and I've seen the disappointment of children who missed having a dad around. Having enjoyed a close relationship with my own father, I made a conscious decision that I wanted a husband, not a live-in boyfriend and not a "baby's daddy," when it came my time to mate and marry.And that ladies and gentlemen, is one shining illustration of the different weltanschauung - world view - between America's black culture and every other culture living along side it. That world view is responsible for the lack of good male role models for black youth - instead, at best they get "baby's daddy," who often doesn't turn up on his weekends with the kids.
My time never came.
For years, I wondered why not. And then some 12-year-olds enlightened me.
"Marriage is for white people."
That's what one of my students told me some years back when I taught a career exploration class for sixth-graders at an elementary school in Southeast Washington. I was pleasantly surprised when the boys in the class stated that being a good father was a very important goal to them, more meaningful than making money or having a fancy title.THAT, at least, is better than not giving a damn at all.
"That's wonderful!" I told my class. "I think I'll invite some couples in to talk about being married and rearing children."
"Oh, no," objected one student. "We're not interested in the part about marriage. Only about how to be good fathers."
And that's when the other boy chimed in, speaking as if the words left a nasty taste in his mouth: "Marriage is for white people."But they're still having children.
He's right. At least statistically. 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.
This March, 2002 Washington Monthly article notes:
An alternative explanation focuses on the boys and the harm allegedly done to them by the weakening of the African-American family. Former Senator Daniel Pat Moynihan (D-NY) famously made this argument in his 1965 report on the Negro family. Many black leaders criticized the report for "blaming the victim," even though Moynihan clearly placed the blame on this nation's unemployment record and discriminatory history. In any event, his analysis proved prophetic. While a quarter of African-American families were headed by single women in the year Moynihan issued his report, today that fraction has more than doubled to reach 56 percent.While young black men are attending prison, and dying, also in record number.
But the argument that single-parent families disproportionately hurt boys is suspect. Girls may not be going to jail in large numbers, but they face their own considerable problems, such as out-of-wedlock childbirth. Today, fully half of black women between the ages of 20 and 24 have children, which most raise on their own. Sociologists Sara McLanahan and Gary Sandefur, authors of the authoritative Growing Up with a Single Parent, make a convincing case that girls, not boys, are most damaged by the absence of a parent. Yet, despite these significant obstacles, young black women are attending college in record number.
Read the whole thing; both pieces. Very interesting.
UPDATE, 3/27: Through the miracle that is Technorati, I found a related piece at Tom Maguire's JustOneMinute:
The Times follows up on last Tuesday's gloomy statistical portrait of black men in America with an op-ed piece by Harvard sociology professor Orlando Patterson. His theme - people are unwilling to invoke cultural explanations:Which was another point I made. Usually the "rejection of any explanation that invokes a group's cultural attribute" is done with one word: "Racist!"SEVERAL recent studies have garnered wide attention for reconfirming the tragic disconnection of millions of black youths from the American mainstream. But they also highlighted another crisis: the failure of social scientists to adequately explain the problem, and their inability to come up with any effective strategy to deal with it.
The main cause for this shortcoming is a deep-seated dogma that has prevailed in social science and policy circles since the mid-1960's: the rejection of any explanation that invokes a group's cultural attributes — its distinctive attitudes, values and predispositions, and the resulting behavior of its members — and the relentless preference for relying on structural factors like low incomes, joblessness, poor schools and bad housing.
Absolutely, positively read the whole thing, and all the links.