Food For Thought

I really enjoyed working on this blog. I did not know what to expect when I first started, but I have learned a lot. Seeing that this has been a major topic of discussion within society, there are so many articles, blogs, and videos about this topic. I have included some great ones that I wanted to write about, but couldn’t due to the date requirement. Below you will find the links to these articles. I think they are worth looking in to. I also have questions for the purpose of encouraging discussion that would be great to consider when thinking about this topic critically.

 

In what ways does society portray the idea that black women don’t get married? Why is this done?

What stigmas and stereotypes play a role in shaping this idea? Which ones further perpetrate it?

How can this “crisis” be addressed? Can it be changed? Will it ever change?

 

 

http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/FaceOff/nightline-black-women-single-marriage/story?id=10424979#.UW9oJFsaenY

http://abcnews.go.com/nightline/faceoff

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/11/opinion/sunday/black-and-female-the-marriage-question.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

http://thegrio.com/2011/10/28/marriage-is-for-white-people-author-black-men-have-failed/

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/03/25/AR2006032500029.html?__hstc=223762052.ee05448f4f4cf6c95e54c6bafb40faa4.1366247670771.1366247670771.1366247670771.1&__hssc=223762052.2.1366247670771

“Real Talk: Stop Saying Black Women Don’t Get Married”

come-close-5_240x340_72

http://www.essence.com/2013/01/09/real-talk-stop-saying-black-women-dont-get-married/

I thought this article was great and a well appropriate note to end on. In my opinion it sums up what I have realized over the course of writing this blog: Black women do get married! Writer Demetria L. Lucas explains that Black women do indeed get married; however, there is more coverage when it comes to divorces and breakups than with marriages. Much to her chagrin, she thought there would be more coverage, Tweets, and Facebook posts about some of the women she mentioned who recently got engaged (Brandy, Mellody Hobson, Janet Jackson). She states that this “crisis” or “the problem”, as she calls it, between single Black women hinders people from realizing the truth that Black women are and do get married. She ends the article on a positive and optimistic note in hopes that we (I am assuming she means black women) can “kick off a new narrative when it comes to Black women and relationships.”

I am so glad I chose to do this topic for my blog. When I started, I too was wary about the idea of marriage and it being a “lack there of”  in the Black community. Living in Atlanta, I even began to doubt my chances. That mentality is everywhere. I have heard friends, colleagues, sisters and others say that in Atlanta there are 10 Black women to every 1 Black guy. I have heard this countless times, but no one could ever tell me what source they got it from. They would just say “well, that’s what I heard and it has to  be true. Just look around.” That’s not longer a good enough explanation for me. The crisis is not the idea that Black women don’t get married; the true crisis is that this idea is being ingested and internalized by  more and more women. This is a major way in which society, the media, socialization and other influences shape what we think and how we think about it. This is similar to the statistic that noted there are more Black men in jail or in prison than in schools. This one statistic from one source has shaped the way society views Black men and in turn how Black men view themselves. If I am inundated with messages and stats that say I probably will never get married, chances are I am more than likely not going to get married. Not because those messages are true, but because theses things easily get internalized and become a complex telling me that I am not good enough. Therefore a lot of women start to question what is the point if they are never going to walk down the aisle anyway. Or on the flip side to that, women start to get anxious and settle for any man that does so much as take a second glance at them. Assata Shakur talks about the power and effects of internalized oppression. Oppression is why there are so many, too many stereotypes against Black women. Oppression is why self-hatred exists. Oppression is what keeps people close-minded.  This type of oppression can clearly be traced back to slavery and although slavery is in the past, Blacks still suffer from it’s detrimental effects. Will Black women forever be seen as angry, ill-tempered, and too-independent? Can Black women really do “bad all by themselves”? Should they have to? Will being too educated and speaking too proper continue to be an excuse for some Black men?  As disheartening as this marriage topic is, I think it is safe to  say that it just simply is not true. I hereby classify this myth as debunked! At least, for me it is. What will you choose to believe?

Black Marriage Day

texas-bmd

http://blackmarriageday.com/

So this post is a bit different from my other ones. Instead of doing an article, I choose to do this website: blackmarriageday.com. Black Marriage Day was founded in 2002 by Nisa Islam Muhammad. It is a national initiative founded for the purpose of shifting the way marriage is viewed in the Black community and to celebrate it. BMD falls on the fourth Sunday in March, which is preceded by Black Marriage week, the last week in March. By posting the link to this website, I am encouraging you to browse the website, see what it’s about and what it aims to do. While doing so, I ask that you view with a critical eye. How are they portraying marriage? Who are their articles mostly about (celebrities, common people, professionals, etc)? How are they saying we should fix this marriage crisis? It will be more effective to first peruse the website before reading my commentary, that way my thoughts and opinions won’t skew your own.

I want to start off by saying that I think this is a creative and proactive initiative. It is a great way to get people  involved in something as a community. I can’t really be mad at something that brings others together for a good cause. Marriage within the Black community is a huge topic of discussion (as my entire blog has shown) and although I feel like this “crisis” is not as bad as society and statistics are making it out to be, it can definitely use some improvement. Marriage in general in the United States can use some improvement, but that’s a different blog, different day. I first came across this website while reading an article on theGrio.com titled “Black Marriage Day: A showcase for African-American love, commitment” (link provided below). My initial reaction was “does this article meet my date requirement?” and my second was a happy reaction. I thought, “finally! an article celebrating black marriage.” However, as I started reading I became more interested so I went to the website. My intentions are not to bash this movement/initiative, but I could not help asking a question: Is marriage really the answer? In the about section of the website, I saw those infamous marriage statistics, again. Heightened by words like single mothers, wedlock, obsolete, far worse, troubles, and issues, of course the natural response would be a negative one. Then I read, “BMD is focused on supplying the solution to the problems we face in a real life way.” Maybe I am taking it wrong, but this sentence insinuates that the solution to “criminal persecution, financial troubles and relationship issues”  is marriage. I don’t know how I feel about that. Yes, I believe the black community faces these issues. Yes, I think there is major room for improvement. Yes, it needs to be addressed; but with marriage? Love is beautiful and marriage is sacred, but with things the way they are now I am not sure that marriage is a sufficient enough plan of action. Marriage is not going to fix the unemployment rate, particularly for Black men. Marriage is not going to decrease the crime rate. Marriage is not going to fix relationship issues. A person who has baggage before a marriage will certainly carry that baggage into marriage. That goes for anyone. Now, I am not completely irrational; I understand where this organization is coming from and what it will like to accomplish. However, my personal opinion is that as a society greater strides in education need to be taken. Educating children on all of their options in life,  providing learning centers and outreach programs in underprivileged communities, and working to reshape oppressive stigmas and stereotypes of the black community would be my suggested plan of action. Not to mention, what is this telling young, single Black women? In order to help and uplift the Black community they should just get married? It’s no wonder women are feeding into this “marriage crisis”.  I am also not saying that marriage cannot effectively aid these areas in some way. I am, however, asking what about people in nontraditional families? What about people who just plainly don’t aspire to get married? This leads me into my next point. After reading the first article on theGrio, I read the follow up article: “Black Marriage Day Excludes Many Black Families” (link also provided below). This article raised another great point: what about everyone else? What about the LGBT community? What about single parents who are making it work? Does this mean interracial marriages don’t uplift and celebrate “Black love”? There is so much more to marriage than a ring. Commitment does not necessarily mean marriage and just because two people are married does not mean that marriage is stable. Writer of the latter article, Kevin Maillard, writes that the initiative needs to be more productive and less exclusionary. Instead it would be better for it to “celebrate black families in general, which would include a wide diversity of arrangements: interracial families, LGBT families, single parent households and yes, traditional families. This means that black marriage is one of many options for healthy black families. A Black Family Day, as opposed to a Black Marriage Day, says that all families deserve recognition and praise.” To sum up, although I think that this initiative is well intended and is aimed to address really troubling conditions, I cannot help but feel that this approach is rooted in a bit of naivety. Also, this just puts more anxiety on single Black  women. In order for them to fix their life problems all they have to do is find a man and get married. We all know that is the last stereotype that needs to be further perpetuated. For me, this is another reason why it is so important to always think critically and question concepts and ideas. The “fountain” of knowledge is susceptible to anything without a filter.

http://thegrio.com/2012/03/24/black-marriage-day-a-showcase-for-african-american-love-commitment/

http://thegrio.com/2012/03/25/black-marriage-day-excludes-many-black-families/

“Solution to SBW Crisis: Black Women Should Just Marry Each Other”

url-3

Please take note of the overt sarcasm in this article. It also has some expletive language, but I thought the writer highlighted great points which is why I chose to write about it.

http://www.clutchmagonline.com/2013/02/solution-to-sbw-crisis-black-women-should-just-marry-each-other/

This article is a lot more playful and sarcastic than the other articles I have written about. I think this article serves two purposes. First, I think this article highlights major points of the discussions that have been circulating around this topic. Some of the points (unfortunately given by blacks themselves) have been ridiculous and Demetria Lucas does a good job at showing just how utterly ridiculous they are. Second, I think this article serves to make light of this so called marriage “crisis”. It seems as if people have taken this topic too far in exaggeration and sometimes it takes a little sarcasm and satire like this to bring us back to reality. While I found this article to be very funny (I actually laughed out loud while reading it) and comical, I also think that it is sobering and reminds me to not buy into it.

After reading this article, once my laughter ceased, I started thinking. How did black women get here? One would think that having an education and being self-sufficient would yield better results from society than what have been given. Black women in college and who graduate out number black men a great deal. Black women are proving that they can pull themselves up from their bootstraps and do well for themselves. Black women have always exuded diligence and resilience in tough times. After slavery, black women fought hard to reclaim their sexuality, their families, and their marriages. Throughout the first half of the 20th century (c. 1920s- 1960s) black women had to fight to show not only whites, but black men as well, that they were powerful. Through movements such as but not limited to the washerwomen movement, women clubs movement and  even the civil rights movement, black women worked hard to show that they were intellectuals and they could do more than just sit around waiting to get married and have children. With many more struggles between then and now, black women have always fought to prove themselves to society. Today I see an exorbitant amount of impressive and influential black women who are educated, successful, and diligent. Seeing that I am not the only person in the world, I know that society has seen this from black women as well. So why are people exaggerating this marriage topic? It is as if to say that black women put all of their worth and value in a marriage. I do not say that to portray marriage as being insignificant; however, marriage shouldn’t define a woman but compliment where she already is in her life. It isn’t a destination, it’s the start of a lifestyle and partnership.  Although I understand that not all black women are like I described, and that’s okay, but not every women is sitting around beckoning for marriage while crying in her pillow every night. This is what society and the media is portraying. I feel like society is taunting black women saying, “yea you’re educated, yes you have a successful life, but you will never get married and will never be complete.” The ABC Nightline  report that Lucas refers to is titled “Single, Black, Female– and Plenty of Company”. This title to me insinuates that there are just so many black women who aren’t whole or fulfilled because they are single. For some women that might be true, but that isn’t that case for all black women. In my opinion, society and the media are controlling this stigma and complex just like a puppeteer. Black women need to realize this. Therefore, I thought it was funny and well-needed that Lucas satirizes this topic in such a way to make women (and society for that matter) see the amount of foolish attention this is getting. Again, I am not trying to downplay the fact that this may indeed be a serious problem for SOME women, but let’s not make this out to be an every-black-woman problem. It certainly is not, even though some have gone to great lengths to do just that.

ABC Nightline article:

http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/single-black-females/story?id=9395275#.UWH3dlsaenY

“Marriage Rates Contribute to Wealth Gap for African-American Women”

http://www.healthcanal.com/mental-health-behavior/37039-Marriage-Rates-Contribute-Wealth-Gap-for-African-American-Women.html

This article highlights the growing concern of older black women entering retirement age with not as much or no assets at all compared to their white counterparts. Dr. Fenaba Addo stated that research has shown that for black women, the marriage rate dropped off drastically in the 50s and 60s. Since only 37% of black women were married by age 50, this was a major difference that “accounted for about eight to 10 percent of the wealth gap between races.” As a result, older black women of this age group will have to continue working well into their retirement years and will be dependent on government programs such as Medicare and Social Security while white women will have sufficient assets to enjoy their retirement. This article is a apart of Dr. Addo’s paper titled “Marriage, Marital History, and Black – White Wealth Differentials Among Older Women”.

I thought this topic was pretty interesting. Not so much for its content, but for the way it is framed. This sense of “crisis” that is aimed at black women and marriage is starting to seem more and more strategically formulated to me. My last blog post was in regards to the numbers and statistics of black women and marriage (or the lack thereof). Ever since that article, I have been skeptical and I have started reading certain articles with a heavy level of criticism; starting with this one. Therefore, this blog may be a bit more analytical than the others. Firstly, the author failed to go into detail about the data. Yes the study yielded the numbers, but the author failed to do a further analysis of why the study produced the statistics that it did. Why did the marriage rate between blacks drop drastically in the 50s and 60s? Why is there such a huge gap between black and white women in regards to housing value? “‘Marriage is not a cure-all, because white women benefit financially from marriage more than African-American women,’ Addo says.” Well, then why is it being insinuated that marriage would cure this disparity between the races? Perhaps I am over-analyzing this, but I don’t think that I am. Maybe Dr. Addo goes into more detail about my questions in her paper and this article in particular just isn’t doing it any justice. This causes me to pose another question: is that done on purpose? Readers who come across this article, skim it, and take in this information at face value may leave with a painted and fabricated picture. After reading this article, it is easy for people to walk away thinking “majority of older black women have it hard, they never get married, and they won’t be able to enjoy retirement; that sucks.” That is simply not okay. I reference my previous blog because that article has challenged me to think critically about this marriage crisis topic. Is this a strategically formulated topic that serves to loom over black women and make them think that they have no hope of love or marriage in their future? I am not knocking Dr. Addos full paper because I have not read it. However, I think it is articles like this one that keep black women scared and feeling hopeless. When information like this is circulated into the blogosphere, it is understandable how those who read it without a critical eye can ingest these statistics, numbers, and studies done by researchers and professionals and take them to be absolute truth. So it is easy for readers to say “well there is research done on it and statistics to back it up,” not realizing that these numbers can be framed in that light on purpose. Also, this continues to pressure black women into marriage for economical reasons: get married so you can have the hope of closing the wealth gap that exists between blacks and other women or find a husband to provide for you so the government doesn’t have to. This is another example of how society still has a major influence on and a hand over the mentality of blacks. In my opinion, this is yet another way that society is saying “Look black America! This is another thing that you are not good at and another category where whites have you beat.” And unfortunately, black women are eating it up; I too admittedly. This has been going on for centuries. My question is will it ever stop?

“Myth-Busting the Black Marriage ‘Crisis’ Panic over single black women is unfounded. Two black scholars have the numbers to prove it.”

BLACK MARRIAGE-400

http://www.theroot.com/views/myth-busting-black-marriage-crisis?page=0,0

So, I understand that this article is a bit older than what is required, but I loved it and thought it was a perfect fit for my topic. Editor Jenée Desmond-Harris published this article for The Root highlighting the alleged  “marriage crisis” that has been going around regarding African-Americans. In this article, researchers Ivory A. Toldson, Ph.D and Bryant Marks challenge the statistics and numbers that paint a picture of  crisis and fear for blacks and marriage, particularly black women. The researchers state that the media’s analysis of this topic is “divisive and defeatist” and that blacks need to stop buying it these fear tactics. They first target the infamous statistic from the 2010 Census that states that 42 percent of black women 18 and older have never been married. Toldson and Marks explain that most black women in fact do get married. The age range of 18 and older is really broad; thus this includes ages when women would not normally get married anyway. When they did independent research using the same data, they realized that when raising the age range of women to 35 and older, the percentage of women who have never been married goes down to 25 percent (a big jump from 42%). The article goes on to reveal several other hidden truths that are painted negatively by the media and society. The media can be very influential in a good way but in this case it is influential in a negative way and fear sells. However, Toldson and Marks want to challenge people to think about where they get their information from, how that information might be framed, and realize how much it can affect and cloud our judgement of the truth.

I thought this article was a great and needed contrast to the other articles I have posted. Even I was shocked and amazed at the how low the percentage actually was for black women who never get married. I always hear how there are no more good black men and how there is a greatly disproportionate ratio of women to men, especially in Atlanta. So naturally I just assumed that that statistic held absolute truth since there was “evidence” and word of mouth to back it up. And unfortunately,many others have that exact same thought process. So I focus on the question of why does the media portray marriage amongst blacks so poorly? Why strategically frame that data in that way? Why hide the truth if it can actually help those that are affected by it? Well, Toldson and Marks said that fear sells and by creating this unnecessary sense of desperation and crisis women naturally buy  into it and this allows America to benefit financially. Seeing that I bought into it myself, it is understandable as to why black women would go into such a panic. However, I believe it goes a lot deeper than that. I see it as another point of control for society over black women. During slavery and even well after slavery, black women were not seen as ladies. They were not the ideal image of the Victorian lady and were not seen as gentle,lady-like beings. As a result, the idea of black women being able to get married began to form. This may very well be a continuing, subtle way of keeping black women at that bottom of the tier when it comes to marriage. Black women can never seem to catch a break. As slaves, black women did not have the privilege of marriage like whites did. So when they were able to openly enjoy the perks of marriage, black women had to fight to show that they can be wives and lady-like all at the same time. Many black women became stay at home wives, which was once reserved for white women. They showed a sense of elegance and class through their attire, education and organized women’s groups. They reclaimed their sexuality and really fought hard to exude piety. Unfortunately, black women are still fighting to show that they are indeed marriage material.  Many young black women today think and truly believe that their possibilities of marriage is slim to none. They ingest statistics, commentary, and false pretenses that lead them to believe that they have no chance, especially in comparison to whites. This then causes a chain reaction and affects other areas of a women’s life such as self-esteem and self-worth with added pressure and a sense of desperation. All of these hinders a women from being proactive and open to the opportunity of marriage. But maybe that is exactly what the media was going for.

“Can Black Women Lead on Rethinking Marriage?”

http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2012/09/17/can-black-women-lead-on-rethinking-marriage/

 

This article touches base on a couple of interesting topics. It is mainly about marriages amongst black women and its political implications. The author Dani McClain (I think it is safe to say that she is a black female, although it isn’t specified), highlights the effects gay marriage has on black women. With the proposition 8 bill in California that was passed (this stated that California deemed it unconstitutional to recognize gay marriage) , the idea that blacks, particularly women, are against gay marriages. This is because when the results were analyzed majority of blacks voted for the bill. Needless to say many right wing supporters jumped on this and ran with it. McClain continues the article by pointing out that black women may indeed be changing the “face” of traditional marriage. She cites the infamous statistic “that 70.5 percent of black women between the ages of 25 and 29 had never been married,” so many of these heads of households are black women. When these women go to the polls they may not be as concerned with others’ inability to marry but rather their own desire to directly access quality  healthcare or tax breaks. Black women and marriage have been the topic and target of discussion for many Conservatives. McClain mentions that conservative rhetoric of Reagan, Nixon, and Rick Santorum has been focused on the demonization of black unmarried women, particularly “welfare queens.” Their driving argument over the years has been the idea that “within the traditional, patriarchal family structure, daddy provides so government doesn’t have to, and that’s a good thing.” McClain sums up her article towards the end with her thesis statement that “unmarried black women are an untapped force for change because we’re more likely to stay that way and so are best positioned to lobby on behalf of the rights of single people and those in non-traditional families.” This is the very reason why unmarried black women have such an effect at the polls politically when it comes to topics such as proposition 8 and other economical topics as well.

 

I thought this article was very enlightening. When I think of Black women and marriage I think of it in a “lack thereof” frame of mind and not in the view that McClain does. She does in fact address that fact that there is a very low rate of Black young women who get married and she addresses some reasons for this. Some of these reasons included the high incarceration rate amongst Black men as well as the high unemployment rate. However, besides all of those things, McClain shows that because of this Black women can and may in fact be a source of change. Marriage and sexuality has been a topic of public discussion since slavery and the fact that Conservatives are using that as an economical ploy (to a certain extent) does not surprise me. Their mentality is that marriage, between a man and a woman, is what is needed to help the economy (in regards to the black community) and solve government aid agency spending. What I got from this is that not only is there an enormous amount of pressure from black women themselves to get married, but there is a great amount of pressure politically and economically as well; not the mention the backlash they got from the gay community after prop 8. It seems to me that Conservatives want marriage to be the answer to the economic struggle of blacks and strategically drive a wedge in between blacks and gays by upholding the idea of the “traditional”, patriarchal family. This goes to show that black women are still under the hand of the government and society. Women still have to fight and deal with concerns towards the disadvantages of not getting married that their white counterparts do not deal with. Also, black women continually fight against the white supremacist standards of beauty formulated by society. Lastly, Conservative views are also insinuating that black women, or women in general, need a man to provide for them or someone to provide for them. If they don’t have a husband who is providing for them, then they are seeking provisions from the government. In reality, black women have been providing for themselves for centuries. Many black women, particularly around the 1930s, embraced the fact that they can provide for themselves and they don’t need a man to do it. I am not down playing the fact that it is hard, it is just Black women have done such a great job in exuding strength and courage in overcoming and enduring a lot of obstacles. So overall, as mentioned before I think this article touches base on a lot of topics that are relevant to black women and shows just how much black women are  under the microscope in society. With the topic of black women and marriage it easy or more prevalent to think of the fact that so many black women never get married. However, what I liked about McClain’s view on it is that, yes this may be true, but black women can use that to their advantage to be a source of change politically and economically one way or another.