I don’t ask this question lightly. I’ve been asking myself the question for the past two days here at this historic conference on marriage and families. How does marriage benefit black women? I see why and how marriage benefits children (of course I mean here a “healthy marriage”). I even get what men get out of marriage. But what’s in it for women? Especially educated, upwardly women who don’t have to worry about being hurled into abject poverty if their husbands leave them.
Let me back up:
I’m here at the National Summit on Marriage, Parenting, and Families, a historic gathering that’s being held on the beautiful campus of Hampton University. More than 100 of the most diverse, influential leaders working in the area of marriage and family issues are here to witness the unveiling of the National Summit on Marriage, Parenting and Families which will be headquartered here at Hampton under the directorship of Dr. Linda Malone Colon (chair of the Summit). The summit is being touted as a groundbreaking public conversation about marriage and families aimed at increasing the national conversation on the declining status of today’s marriages, especially marriages in the black community and the importance of healthy, effective parenting. I’ve met some really great people while I’ve been here, people working in the trenches to help families in crisis and children who don’t have a strong family safety net.
You can catch Wednesday’s sessions live on the web at www.hamptonu.edu.
It’s a great meeting with lots of provocative dialogue. I’m here because i was invited to participate on the religion panel where the discussion centered on questions like “What does God say about marriage and family” and “What can communities of faith do to transform marriages, empower parents and strengthen families in our country.” Except for knucklehead here and there who their own agenda and didn’t want anything to do with dialogue, it was a good panel.
Yeah, yeah: I’ve noticed that not a peep has been said at these proceedings about same-sex marriage. One look at the major sponsors for the conference tells me why. I get it.
There’s no denying the research that says that children raised in homes headed by their biological parents who are wedded are more likely to succeed than those who grow up in households where the parents never married or divorced early on.
Here are a few things I’m taking away from this conference:
- Marriage is a vanishing institution in the black community.
- Divorce and unmarried childbearing increase the chances of poverty for both children and mothers.
- Children raised in single parent households are more to have problems in school, to get involved in drugs, to enter the juvenile system, and to live without medical insurance. Not only are our children at risk, but adult single men are more likely to engage in risk behavior than men who are married (e..g, take drugs, drink too much alcohol, unprotected sex with multiple partners, reckless driving).
- When it comes to attitudes about marriage, one of the biggest difference sbetween those under 35 and those over 35 is that younger people think you should postpone marriage until your career or finances are stable enough to bring a spouse into the equation. Their parents grew up thinking that it’s easier to build and accumulate wealth in marriage than it is as a single and that marriage gives one the stability and inner fortitude needed to endure the vicissitudes that come with building a career.
- Children want their parents to stay together –even if for their sake.
- Men who are religious tend to make better father and husbands than those whowant nothing to do with religion.
- Young black people use finances, career, and emotional readiness a lot as excuses for postponing marriage. but they don’t seem equally vigilant about postponing having babies out of wedlock, cohabitating, and entering into joint economic ventures with lovers (things normally associated with marriage).
- It is important for the church to affirm the ideal of married couples rearing their children, while at the same time affirming the possibilities for self-actualization and purposeful, emotional healthy live for those not married.
I get all of this, but again I ask: what do black women get out of all this? How do black women benefit from marriage when you consider the high ratio of women to men (and men’s likelihood of cheating on their wives) and when you consider that many times women are better educated and better employed than their men?