In this era where marriage as it was once established in biblical and cultural terms is constantly being challenged, black women have emerged as the underdog in the hopes and dreams of ever getting married. Though divorce statistics are extremely high and marriage is plummeting in general, the challenge for black women is critical in comparison.
According to The State of our Unions, a yearly study produced by the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia and the Center for Marriage and Families at the Institute for American Values, marriage is at a high risk particularly among the middle and lower classes, mostly attributed to an "overriding shift in values." The study further concluded that highly educated and more affluent marriages are on the rise enjoying more strong and stable households. The report may be reversed for highly educated and affluent black women who are often plagued with the issue of finding viable mates. This may be associated with the lack of black men accelerating at the same level and the unwillingness of black women in higher wage groups to accept men with a lesser income or profession.
My difficulty in emotionally digesting the thought that society has come to a point where marriage is being constantly attacked and frequently labeled as obsolete and the fact that black women are challenged more severely than any other segment of the population is the compelling reason for this writing. I highly respect the institute of marriage and believe like many cultures and societies around the world that marriage is a sacred gift from God and should not be taken for granted.
Considering the statistics in most studies and reports are overwhelming, I am prompted to research further how this phenomenon came about and if we can find solutions to shift the pattern and break the chains that continue to enslave us and our way of thinking. This thirst for answers took me back to slavery, where African Americans can often find the roots of many problems we still face in America today.
The prolific writer and scholar, W.E. DuBois believed "the pattern of separation and rape by white slave owners during slavery produced single and unwed black mothers." Noted scholar and sociologist, E. Franklin Frazier, described "black women emerging as a more controlling force in the slave household--self-reliant, self-sufficient, and lacking a spirit of subordination to masculine authority." I believe these early experiences with the break-up and separation of the black family is significant to why so many black women remain unmarried today.
My reason for connecting our past history with the limited marriage opportunities for black women today is the direct ties to modern day enslavement of black men. Sociologist William Julius Wilson has argued that increasing levels of non marriage and female-headed households is a "manifestation of the high levels of economic dislocation experienced by lower-class black men in recent decades. He asserts that when joblessness is combined with high rates of incarceration and premature mortality among black men, it becomes clearer that there are fewer marriageable black men relative to black women who are able to provide the economic support needed to sustain a family." Today's society breeds other prevailing factors that support the limited availability of black men including homosexuality and marrying women outside the black race.
As painful as this situation appears, we have to openly discuss and work on solutions to counteract the doom portrayed in statistical reports and main stream media. I am hopeful if we begin even as individuals to implement change we can reduce and reverse negative ratios. Some thoughts and suggestions are.
• Encourage black men to advance their education. With innovation and technology at the forefront of our future, black men must be in a position to compete in the global workforce. Women will reinvent themselves at forty, fifty, sixty and beyond, whereas men are less likely to be motivated to return to school or embark on another trade or profession. We can begin early by instilling the importance of education in our boys and continue to encourage our black men whether they are husbands, partners, sons, brothers, friends or colleagues.
• Focus on communicating openly and effectively with our mates. Instead of concentrating on being right, listen to what the other person is saying. We may agree or disagree. No matter how strong the disagreement, ineffective communication leads to separation. Separation breeds distance and increases the gap.
• Drop the "angry black woman" image. No matter how strong men are, they don't want to be overpowered by their women. For some black women, this may mean humbling yourself to submission. Humility is an honor and submission is a deep level of devotion and commitment that should be exercised by both men and women to create a deeper love for each other. We often confuse submission with control and manipulation when we simply need to cooperate with the divine flow of working together.
• Stop settling for less in relationships. Less is defined as physical and mental abuse, relationships with married men we are not married to and living together unmarried. A good question to ask yourself is, "Would you do to the other person what you are allowing them to do to you?"
• Move up, move down, and move out. Try dating and marrying men who are younger or older. As long as the gap makes sense (let's be realistic) and you bring joy to each other, age is insignificant. Moving out is to consider dating men of other races. Black women are among the most loyal women staying within their own race in dating and marriage. Be more open to expanding your horizons.
• Pray and seek spiritual guidance and stay focused on things that enrich your life with or without a mate.
These suggestions may not resolve many of the deep issues that have created the tremendous marriage gap black women experience, but we should make a commitment to start focusing on self-improvement and become role models for our young daughters. One final comment, media, statistics and other people do not define us and rarely portray black women for the phenomenal women we really are. We still stand as beautiful queens regardless of our marriage status. "Facts do not hinder our faith."
- Chicago, IL, United States
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