Sunday, March 26, 2006

The Marriage Paradox

Joy Jones writes an essay in today's Washington Post (also the lead op-ed column in today's NY Post) with a title inspired by one of her students, 'Marriage Is for White People'. A few excerts:

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...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.

My observation is that black women in their twenties and early thirties want to marry and commit at a time when black men their age are more likely to enjoy playing the field. As the woman realizes that a good marriage may not be as possible or sustainable as she would like, her focus turns to having a baby, or possibly improving her job status, perhaps by returning to school or investing more energy in her career.
As men mature, and begin to recognize the benefits of having a roost and roots (and to feel the consequences of their risky bachelor behavior), they are more willing to marry and settle down. By this time, however, many of their female peers are satisfied with the lives they have constructed and are less likely to settle for marriage to a man who doesn't bring much to the table.

...human nature being what it is, if marriage is to flourish -- in black or white America -- it will have to offer an individual woman something more than a business alliance, a panacea for what ails the community, or an incubator for rearing children. As one woman said, "If it weren't for the intangibles, the allure of the lovey-dovey stuff, I wouldn't have gotten married. The benefits of marriage are his character and his caring. If not for that, why bother?"

It seems like Ms. Jones is vacillitating between bemoaning the state of black marriage and praising the strength of the black woman. Both are indeed proper positions, but nowhere in the article do I see any serious analysis of the byproducts of the single-parenting system.

Ms. Jones seems to speak to the reasons why women choose not to marry and have children out of "wedlock", but where is the concern for the child brought up this way? It is great to "want to have a baby", but is it not also important to think about the conditions he will be raised in? Without a father present most of the time, absent a strong male role model, young men take their cues from other strong males within their reach - sometimes coaches and teachers, other times thugs and gangsters. And while Jones seems to view males as more of a drag on female achievement than as "partners", she does not mention the economic chains placed upon single parents - it becomes impossible to take the promotion that might involve travel and late hours. Realistically, the single parent becomes the one leaving work early to pick up the kids - behavior very few companies will punish, but very few will reward. And how does this now-limited upward economic mobiltiy help the child? Unable to move to a different neighborhood, diminished ability to purchase beyond basics, limited higher education opportunities - all this plays into the suffering of the next generation.

The increasing problems of crime, poverty, and inequality among blacks in America can be traced in some degree to the slow disintergration of the black family. While many make a strong go, with the help of friends, grandparents, and the occasional doting (if absent) father, it can never replicate the economic and familial stability provided by the two-parent household. The great shame is the the Democratic party, long the favorites of the black community, will not address these issues; instead, they slam racism (which while always present, has less and less to do with the problem) and raise taxes to provide funding for programs that have done little to help raise up the black family. If anything, these young families are better off with as much money as they can get in their pockets, and not shortchanged by another "jobs center" that provides less than nothing.

If, as Jones intimates, the issue is really the quality of the male (and I don't buy that 100%; for women, the problem is alway the men!), then political and social leaders need to re-define what makes a man - not the glorification of gangsters, or the demeaning of women and work, or the crass accumulation of material goods - but the power of strong moral values, respect for oneself and others, the honor of a good day's work, and the unmistakeable pride one feels when they can proudly say, "Let me introduce you to my family".
For it is through the realization of these values that one may achieve both the spiritual and monetary rewards that are the benefits of a strong marriage, and a strong family structure.

Ms. Jones seems to feel, in her final paragraph, that marriage is simply "not a good business deal" for women. Well, perhaps they should stop thinking about what is good for only them, before they start having children with the men they seem so disdainful of. Time to step it up, ladies, and get the men into line by letting them know, as a society, what is and is not acceptable behavior. In other societies/subcultures, men work as hard as they can to be as successful as possible in order to attract the highest quality mate. Why shouldn't this philosophy apply to the black community as well? When the proper demands are placed upon men, to fulfill the role they are needed to play within the family/society, you can bet they will respond.

Especially if the love of a good woman is the reward...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A Decent analysis, for ( I assume) a white guy!