Monday, December 10, 2012

Different Last Names, The Decline of Marriage In The African-American Community

This may sound odd but, each and every time I read a story about African- American youth, I have a habit of searching for the parent's last names, hoping that they are the same. Nine times out of 10, I'm disappointed. No matter how many articles I read or how many blogs I write. My habit and disappointment don't seem to change. I guess I can either chalk it up to being old fashioned or being in denial. But I find it increasingly difficult to accept the "new normal".
73% of all African-American children are born out of wedlock, compared to 53% of Latinos and 25% of whites. Researcher's have consistently found that children who are born outside marriage face elevated chances of falling into poverty, failing in school or suffering emotional or behavioral problems.
Analyst's and intellectual's have summarized a number of theories in reference to this subject. Everything from there being a lack of eligible Black men, to unemployment and poverty. Both reasons are viable, but when we compare African-American's to other ethnic groups who also have poverty within their ranks, and the numbers are still disproportionate, we have to ask ourselves what the root causes are, and then dig a little deeper.
African- American's are the only ethnic group who were enslaved here in America, and we are still suffering the after effects of this atrocity. The decline in Black marriage cannot totally be blamed on poverty, and socio-economic disparity because there was a time when slaves wed simply by jumping the broom, and they were poor. Who was more impoverished than slaves?
As I have stated previously, Thomas Jefferson's preferred method of unusual cruelty when it came to punishing his slaves was to separate them from their families. He preferred this method more than physical torture because he realized that destroying the African family tore the very fabric of their being. Jefferson wasn't the only one to use psychological warfare to break his captives. This kind of tactic was widespread, and did more damage to African's at that time, and African-American's today than any whip, chain or shackle. Generation's of Black people have unknowingly passed on dysfunctional behavior from generation to generation, and then what once wasn't a choice became an option because it became acceptable.
Today this affect is more prevalent than ever and what was once an action on the fringe has now almost become an after thought in an ever growing counter culture for African-American's. In other words, the stigma is gone. When there is no tradition of marriage in the community, and there is no tradition of marriage in families, it almost seems peculiar to make such a commitment. Individual's also tend to internalize. Then the question becomes, "Why should I?" Marriage in the African-American community is just not a priority any more because the cultural tradition has changed. Many Black men feel that sex is a necessity that they can indulge in without repercussions, or responsibility. Some believe that self gratification is the only gratification. Wives and children make it impossible to live a life in constant pursuit of satisfaction. Things like time, attention, money, and support have now become much less desirable in the face of pleasing ones self. Especially given the fact that more often than not, these men were raised without father's in their homes to set a standard or example. The cycle continues and history repeats itself.
As long as I can remember there have always been unwed mother's in the Black community but, there was a time when you would hear about the girl down the block getting pregnant, she would disappear for 9 months, and then return as if nothing ever happened. Whisper's and speculation would permeate the neighborhood, and many a nosey neighbor could be overheard whispering whenever she walked by. Those days, are long gone. It has become quite the norm in the Black community to have the baby without the marriage. So much so, that it has become synonymous with our community.
Women are not pressing the father's of their children to marry them simply because it was not part of the structure of their families. They honestly don't know any better because they haven't seen any better or experienced any better. Being a man's wife is unfathomable because there is no point of reference for many African- American women to follow, just the status quo. The bottom line is that a cycle has begun, one that is both disturbing, and not at all beneficial to those involved. Children from single parent homes mimic and continue what is normal for them. Boys growing into men trying to figure out how to treat a woman who is neither mother or sister, and girls growing into woman trying to figure out how to be successful in non-sibling male relationships. A never ending repetition which can be broken if there is a strong desire to be different. This is not a sweeping indictment of all of those who have found themselves in this position. Some men and women bear the scars of broken promises and dreams deferred. It is even a possibility that former or current significant other's are not worthy of marriage. But everybody? There must be some accountability. Until then, there will be generations of children with last names that differ from their mother's. Children given their father's last names for no other reason that a possible child support claim.


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