Writer’s Note: All statistics below come courtesy of the US Census Bureau, US Department of Education, US Department of Health and Human Services, US Department of Justice and the National Center for Health Statistics.
Forty percent! Cuarenta porcentaje! Four out of ten! Quarante pour cent!
It is serious folks, but something that, oddly, doesn’t come as a terrible surprise in this age. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of black marriages has taken a precipitous nosedive over the past 40 years, when twice as many black marriages have declined as white marriages. The figure above doesn’t include widows and divorcees. Take a good look around you in your offices or stores or churches: Only six out of 10 of you beautiful young ladies will jump the broom.
A statistical pessimist normally wouldn’t take these numbers too seriously. Who are the surveyed? Where are these people being surveyed? How many are being surveyed? And on and on. But as a dweller among the Nubian sectors of Atlanta, I’ve noticed that this piece of statistic is probably understated. Living in the town of the emerging black professional-women-do-it-yourself-group of “Diva and Single Ladies” loving-third-generation feminists has taught me much about the fall/evolution of black marriages.
(Personal aside: If I received five bucks for every time I’ve heard females lament about the male options in Atlanta, the recession could end. Of course, this “issue” is predicated on the assumption that marriage is even a desirable option anymore. Constant divorce rates, asymmetrical dating patterns between the sexes and declining incentives to marry all take credit for declining rates of marriage all across the board. Many people would do just as well being single.)
Attribution to the decline in “blatrimony” (black matrimony) is mostly due to the 90/10 rule: 90% of the women want 10% of the same men. This is not because black women are picky per se, but simply because of an imbalanced ratio. The ratio is skewed before one even factors in the black men who are snagged by the criminal justice system, screwed up, gay or just plain immature. It’s no wonder why so many heterosexual black women are single, discontent and anxious. The “system” is broken and needs to be fixed. The causes for this are many, but the big four:
It wasn’t too long ago when African Americans were the leading race in hitching. Renowned sociologist Andrew Billingsley wrote in his oft-cited treatise, “Climbing Jacob’s Ladder: The Enduring Legacy of African-American Families” of the strengths of black families that persisted through the dog days of slavery. The denial of a nuclear family in bondage led blacks to jump the broom the first chance they got. In 1890, according to United States Census studies, 80 percent of all black families with children were headed by married couples. In 1960, the proportion was 78 percent.
Then Economics* happened, followed by women’s rights, which ushered in an era of female independence from the clutch of male supremacy. By 1970, it was 64 percent. For the next five years, divorce rates spiked in the 1970’s (rose 40% from 1970-1975), around the time when women started working (and spending more time away from the house). Since income-generation is heavily tied into superiority (gotta’ love that capitalistic paradigm!), friction ensued, and throughout all of this, the offspring noticed.
1980, it was 48 percent. By 1990, it had spiraled all the way down to 39 percent.
According to sociologist Andrew J. Cherlin, a black child was more likely to grow up with both his parents in slavery than he is now.
Declining marriages are not something that African Americans have a monopoly on. As Joy Jones pointed out in her article “Marriage is for White People”: Often what happens in black America is a sign of what the rest of America can eventually expect:
There are relatively few black male counterparts to the emerging black woman in contemporary America. Atlanta, my born-place and city of upbringing, is a microcosm of that. For every 10 Michelles, there is one Barack. Until a new wave of black men catches up, abysmal blatrimony statistics will continue to persist. If you’re a black woman, there are four ways to go about it: Get lucky, settle for less, remain single or readjust your lenses. And if those lenses no longer see color, black men can only kick themselves. After all, we had first dibs.