A Boston Globe article on August 9 covered the attitudes of some Black teens in Boston on marriage. The article, "Younger Blacks Absorb a Wariness of Marriage," painted a depressing picture. Here's what teenagers had to say:
"I don't think we [people in general] should be married, because I see how other marriages ended up in my family and on television. It's always a disaster." (Nakeeda, 17, daughter of single mom)
``I don't know anyone who's married, or anybody who is married and stayed married." (Marshall, 15)
The article wasn't as bleak as the article in the Washington Post some months back, "Marriage is for White People," but it's not a good sign. Marriage provides many benefits for the married couple and is especially beneficial for the children, as Kay Hymowitz has amply demonstrated here. Hymowitz sees the "marriage gap" as "America's chief source of inequality." No other family unit provides as many psychological, economic, medical and social benefits. Why don't these teens know this? The Globe article looks into historical trends:
"Their disillusionment mirrors a growing resistance to marriage among African-Americans. In the post-Civil War era, when African-Americans had the option to marry legally for the first time, many did. The 1890 Census showed that 80 percent of African-American families were headed by two parents....But in 1970, census figures show ed that only 57 percent of black men and 54 percent of black women were married."
In 2001, according to the U.S. Census, 43 percent of black men and 42 percent of black women in America had never been married, in contrast to 27 percent and 22 percent respectively for whites. A Black child was more likely to grow up living with both parents during slavery days than he or she is today. Blacks now have the lowest rate of marrige of any ethnic group in the U.S. The Globe article quotes a Harvard professor on the issue:
"Orlando Patterson, a professor of sociology at Harvard University, believes that African-Americans' views of marriage reflect the lingering effects of slavery. The system emasculated black men, who had no real power over themselves, the women they loved, or their children, who could be sold, raped, or violently beaten. It upended the traditional male and female roles in a family unit. The idea that this history could result in a stable, two-parent lifestyle for African-Americans today ``is utterly absurd," says Patterson."
Utterly absurd? Really? Then what explains the stable, two-parent lifestyles that predominated in Black families 100 years ago? Why did it take 100 years for these "lingering effects of slavery" to manifest themselves? (Why do leftist academics cling so tightly to being victims? Where's that gonna get you, Professor Patterson? Where's that gonna get Boston's teens?) His explanation makes no sense, but reporter Vanessa Jones doesn't notice. A letter to the Editor in today's Globe notes another more likely explanation for the precipitous drop in marriage rates of Blacks since the 1960's:
"But wasn't that also at the start of the Great Society's welfare programs that all too often created ``economically independent" women -- black, brown, and white -- at the expense of requiring that fathers and husbands leave the home? ..... Jones leaves open the question of whether it was the lingering effects of long-ago slavery or the much more recent welfare programs that undermined the black family."
No kidding! The rise in single motherhood - and all the social ills that accompany that - looks to be a direct result of liberal welfare policies enacted in the 1960's. I don't think you need to go back to slavery times to explain why people are no longer getting married. Welfare programs will support you more if you don't marry, put you in subsidized housing, and pay additional money for having more children (even though you're not able to support yourself or one child).
I hope that these teens encounter successfully married adults who model an alternative to being single moms and part-time daddies. This is a tough trend to turn around. Maybe the notions of commitment, working together, partnership, give and take, sharing ups and downs, and having a companion for life's journey will seem attractive and desirable again. It would mean a better future for these teens and their children.
UPDATE: Shay at Booker Rising has plenty to say about Professor Patterson's "lingering effects of slavery" conclusion:
"Professor Patterson is talking crazy here. If today's low marriage rates are due to the "lingering effects of slavery" - as he claims - then why was our marriage rate far higher just years after slavery? How is it that my great-great-great grandparents - who were born dirt poor into slavery, and later had to deal with Jim Crow - were able to maintain a family unit but today's coloreds cannot?! And my grandparents were married for 62 years (up until my grandfather's death). Negro, puhleeze! Ain't buyin' this mess. Let's stop making boneheaded excuses."