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Looking at African-American Marriage

The history and right now of African-American marriage.

At the Ebenezer Baptist Church, Oct. 31, 2010, in Atlanta. (AP)

Marriage and the “nuclear family” have taken stunning hits all over this country. American births to unmarried women were five percent in 1960.  Now, they are 41 percent nationally, and apparently climbing.

Affluent Americans are generally marrying just fine. For everybody else, the institution is in trouble. And especially for African-Americans.

Seventy-two percent of African-American women giving birth in 2008 were unmarried. Black children are three times as likely as whites to live with one parent.

It was not always this way. We look at the African-American family over time.

-Tom Ashbrook


Anastasia Curwood, assistant professor of African American and Diaspora studies at Vanderbilt University. She’s author of: “Stormy Weather: Middle-Class African American Marriages Between the Two World Wars.”

Ralph Richard Banks, a professor at Stanford Law School who looks at issues of race and inequality. His forthcoming book is titled “Is Marriage for White People?”

Donna Franklin, award-winning author and scholar of African American families. She’s former co-chair of the Council on Contemporary Families. She’s author of: “What’s Love Got to Do With It? Understanding and Healing the Rift Between Black Men and Women.”

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  • Ted Auch Ph.D.

    While there is no denying the deck staked against certain sectors of society I have a hard time with the fact that things like Proposition 8 passed because many African-Americans came out in support of it for religious reasons. How is a group of society that has been so needlessly and brutally persecuted for so many years incapable of empathizing/sympathizing with a another sector of society that is its modern day equivalent?

  • Kye

    “How is a group of society……incapable of empathizing/sympathizing……?”

    Although I empathize with your comment, Ted, as a black American I have difficulty with the essence of your comment. It is not fair to generalize a population of people based on a minority of voters that mobilized to vote on a referendum in a mid-term election, which generally have a low turnout anyway. The true criticism is, why couldn’t supporters of gay-marriage mobilize enough voters to come and vote down Prop 8? Especially in California, which although conservative in many aspects, the majority of voters are found in mainly 3 cities.

  • Ed

    I think you misunderstand the African American religious community. They are devoutly religious, and if they vote against same-sex marriage, it’s not because they want to harm gay people, but because they want to affirm their beliefs, which is what they should do. In Christianity same-sex relationships are not a benefit to people or to society and should not be encouraged, and they know that.

    Larchmont, NY

  • Brett

    Dr. Auch,
    I would say that a large portion of African-Americans happen to be Baptist (at least have very traditional views socially and spiritually that are based on Christian beliefs), and I can’t imagine any Baptist (White or Black), for example, going for the idea of same-sex marriage. So I would say that a certain belief system, shall we say, is what compelled both African-American and Hispanic voters to vote for Prop. 8. In each ethnic group, whatever potential there may have been for empathy (the opposition not having the deep pockets for advertising that the religious right had, notwithstanding) was probably overridden by a belief system at odds with same-sex marriage.

    As unfortunate as that is, what I’ve heard, generally, coming from the African-American community, is ostensibly almost a concerted effort not to display empathy, which is evident when people seem offended whenever there are comparisons made concerning certain parallels of the struggles in the gay community and the African-American community. Yet, I don’t know if lack of empathy is the predominant factor?? Perhaps that is a good question?

    I don’t know that one can draw the conclusion that race, in and of itself, was a clear-cut factor; or, let’s say, data would have to be available to support such a conclusion showing White Baptists/White Catholics voted distinctly in different patterns than African-American/Hispanic voters regarding that issue, and I don’t think there are such data.

  • EIO Boston

    Reading these comments one would get the impression that this program is on gay-marriage. Plaese keep the focus on what this show is all about – African American marriage. This is how we start out not doing a thorough job dealing with the issues we have before tring to remove the log in some other person’s eye. Tom please keep this program to topic, and gay marriage is enough of an issue that I know that you have already had more than two programs on it.

    Reagrds to all

  • Brett

    “The true criticism is, why couldn’t supporters of gay-marriage mobilize enough voters to come and vote down Prop 8?”

    The answer is because the opposition to Prop. 8 didn’t have the Mormon Church’s money that proponents did. There was a blitzkrieg of ads splashed across the tele using falsehoods like if Prop. 8 didn’t pass, kindergarteners would be forced to learn about explicit sex acts, privileges enjoyed by heterosexual couples would erode, people would be legally free to marry their pets, etc.

  • Brett

    “In Christianity same-sex relationships are not a benefit to people or to society…” -Ed

    What benefit are opposite-sex marriages to people and society? Procreation? Do only marriages that result in offspring have value? …not surprisingly, your statements cast a harsh judgement, something from a which I thought a good Christian was supposed to refrain?!?

  • eliz

    So some blacks vote for their religion not their race. Hmmm. Isn’t this what freedom is all about? I favor gay marriage. I also favor all Americans being able to be individuals, not a block of voters. We move forward slowly, taking into consideration all viewpoints. Rancor isn’t too helpful. Though at times it is hard not to submit to it’s draw.

    This conversation is somewhat off topic. Bashing a race for not supporting the rights of another minority, who have divisions among themselves about marriage rights.

    I can’t wait to hear the show. The state of black marriage in itself is interesting. Marriage is morphing. It is different all over the place. I find it interesting to watch. And it has morphed over the course of history. Maybe another show on marriage in general after this one?

    I am from Cambridge MA.

  • John

    Voting against gay marriage harms gay people whether the voter does so out of overt malice or seemingly benign religious ignorance. Believe whatever you want in your church, temple, or mosque, but if you bring those bigoted views into the public policy arena, be prepared to be called on it.

  • P. Jones

    Religion aside, no one has presented evidence that blacks were the reason Prop. 8 passed.

  • Ellen Dibble, Northampton, MA

    Same-sex marriages not a benefit? How about with foster care way, way overstretched (at least in my state), and adoptions…
    Oh, those who marry after the age of reproduction, Not a Benefit.
    Those who marry but have an STD that stops procreation, or use certain devices? Not a benefit.

  • http://npr marsha davis

    The low marriage rate has caused companies to discriminate against African Americans especially women. There is a K jeweler’s commercial that features a caucasian, a hispanic and an asian couple getting engaged but no african americans. Most of the commercials that have to do with relationships involve an AA man and a woman of non african descent. Florence, South Carolina


    While there is no denying the deck staked against certain sectors of society I have a hard time with the fact that things like Proposition 8 passed because many African-Americans came out in support of it for religious reasons. How is a group of society that has been so needlessly and brutally persecuted for so many years incapable of empathizing/sympathizing with a another sector of society that is its modern day equivalent?

    Posted by Ted Auch Ph.D., on December 7th, 2010 at 7:08 AM

    Actually, it is not a modern day equivalent. Race, ethnicity, and gender are functions of birth. Homosexuality is an immoral and unnatural lifestyle choice. There are organizations that can aid homosexuals to leave this lifestyle (Exodus International, but like alcoholics, they first have to admit that they have an addiction and want to leave it).

  • Jameel Davis

    People get married and stay married when they are shown and taught skills on how to have and maintain healthy relationships. These behaviors and skills are rarely taught, especially within African American communities. Until that’s addressed, nothing is going to change.

  • http://WPLN Keith in Nashville

    Does the fact that the trend of out of wedlock chiildren, the behavior is propagated due to what your parent(s) viewpoint of marriage?

    Also does the lower income families that are supported by government lead to a uselessness of a father? Uncle sam is my dad?

  • Ellen Dibble, Northampton, MA

    I believe it was Curwood speaking of the challenge being how to get the financial social benefits children within married units to children of single parents.
    I’m thinking in my state if a parent is on the books, so to speak, with the Children and Families, they have access to lots of things — in state: daycare is provided; health care is provided; also therapy, educational perks. Some of this is available if the parent is poor enough anyway. But there is downward pressure.
    Again, Curwood speaks of the drag of career women. Versus, I suppose, having bored, frustrated mothers.
    Black women I see having babies in their teens in order to escape their families of origin. And far from having fewer responsible adults to escape from, if the mother has had five or six boyfriends/husbands, there can be aunts and grandparents by the dozens in the picture.

  • judy

    from Wellesley Massachusetts
    a question for your guests:
    There are a great number of single women giving birth now, but is there a statistical breakdown to identify how many women are having babies as part of a stable relationship vs how many are having babies completely on their own? Has this changed over time?

  • Marilyn Richardson

    Please, please ask your guests to comment on Frances Smith Foster’s groundbreaking historical study/perspective in her book published earlier this year by Oxford Univ. Press, ” ‘Til Death or Distance Do Us Part: Love and Marriage in African America.”

    Foster is a prof. of English and African American studies at Emory Univ.

  • Jamey

    As a single African American woman in her late 20s, I think that the drop in marriage in our community comes from the erosion of the relationships between people these days. So many people are just focused on sex, not developing and maintaining a mature loving relationship. Many of us don’t have first hand examples to learn from, some of us have been in failed relationships and don’t know how to correct the behavior that sabotaged them. Regardless as time goes on without relationships developing with success, people have children together and figure that their kids won’t be negatively effected by what’s lacking. For marriage to rebound in our society we all need to retool how we build relationships with each other.

    Jamey from Lakewood, Ohio

  • Mari McAvenia

    I can’t believe that a person just said “slavery equalized black men and women”. It equally UN-EQUALIZED
    both genders under the whip of slavery.

    When people are oppressed by a hierarchy of ownership, nobody is better off than any another.

  • Ellen Dibble, Northampton, MA

    I question statistics as well. People can remain “single” in order to preserve the Medicaid for a mate with medical problems. A young woman may be in a successful long-term relationship with a guy who may not live with her because her subsidized housing does not allow it. So technically he lives in his aunt’s basement, but as a matter of fact, his laundry is always to be found strewn around his lady friend’s bedroom. I agree the justice system has a lot to do with this. Anyone convicted of this or that is not allowed to live in subsidized housing, something like that. So you don’t get married.

  • g, Buffalo, NY

    Isn’t this a viscous cycle?

    Single women, giving birth to children who are at the onset already disadvantaged. Then these children grow up and not become good parents themselves; men are either missing fathers, jobless, lazy, drug-dealing and women are teenage-mothers, single-mothers, uneducated or working more than 40 hours to support their children.

    How do we break the cycle?
    How do we ensure that good family values are restored and reinstated and ARE actually valued?

  • Parson

    From Cambridge, Mass.:

    I really think this is more of a class issue. Researchers keep focusing on race, but I am a middle class black women who sees many black marriages around me. So many women I went to college with are now married. The women are married to professional, educated black men. Where are the reports for these families. I am tired of the media focusing on this and acting as if those of us who are married are outliers. I think it depends on class, education, and geographic region. My problem with these reports is that there are black women who are really starting to believe this hype-that they are “unmarryable.” We, black people, are not all the same and it’s time we stop allowing ourselves to be lumped together.

  • Ellen Dibble, Northampton, MA

    Statistically, MIDDLE CLASS black women are way more likely to be unmarried. More likely, statistically, by far than 50 years ago.
    I don’t expect an answer this hour. But I’m thinking about it. “Confluence of forces,” the woman guest says. The history of black men getting detached from their woman and families by slave owners? Thereby a tradition that the man doesn’t get too involved in his own family? I’ve been wondering about that theory.

  • Ann, Barrington, Rhode Island

    I think it’s possibly this:

    Legal Jim Crow only ended 45 years ago. At about that time, far too many African-American men were drafted into the hardest and most dangerous positions in the Armed Forces in VietNam. Those factors alone mean that there has NOT been enough “wealth” for the African-American community to get the educations needed in today’s world, or for Blacks to be able to move out of some of the inner cities of America that are war zones themselves. THESE I believe are major factors in why some individuals might not even consider themselves “marriageable”. Another word for this might be “Consequences” — consequences of America’s legal landscape of bigotry. The other, unrecognized word for it, I believe, is community “despair”, especially in this economy where African-Americans are even more adversely affected.

  • Ellen Dibble, Northampton, MA

    Parson, about 50 years ago, I would not have been reading about lots of professional black women marrying professional black men, in numbers, as you report among your circle. I think that is huge. Thanks.

  • Michael

    The 1000 pound elephant in the room is this. African American children are 52% in fatherless upbringings. The issue is not the 72% unmarried, but the 52% single parent families. The question is why do AA men not hang around??

  • g, Buffalo, NY

    My question is, where do I FIND this good man, that has good values, has a job, has an understanding of what a commitment IS, what it takes to have a family, that won’t RUN when things will get tough, that will stick around through tough and hard times, that doesn’t have substance abuse issues, that is self aware enough to understand any issues he might have and be able to work on them and or TAKE CARE OF HIMSELF, that is emotionally and mentally mature enough to even WANT to be in a relationship!

    Relationship ARE a lot of work and what I find is that men don’t WANT to work on their relationships. Not marriage, not relationships with their parents, not with their friends or siblings.
    Why would he choose to work on his relationship when he can just go out there and get himself a 20 something young girl who would spoil him and not demand anything from him?!

  • Barbara

    If African-Americans are not participating in marriage as a majority, why are they so against gay marriage?

  • SMK in Boston, MA

    I would like to hear the guests comment on the role work plays in a man’s decision to get married. It seems to me men tend to wait until they have a good-paying job before getting married. Might the decline of manufacturing jobs and the stagnation of wages have played a part in the drop in the marriage rate?

  • Adrian

    Lyndon Baines Johnson’s Great Society in the sixties started the destruction of the black family which is now spreading like a cancer to all of society. The Progressives under LBJ have been more destructive of the black families than the Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan could ever have been. Before LBJ there was material poverty. After LBJ there still is the material poverty, but now we have added the far more insidious spiritual poverty.
    Only the abolition of LBJ’s Great Society policies can undo the harm these policies have caused. Uncle Sam is a terrible dad.

  • Hassan

    I think the institution of marraige is being attaccked and not just for african americans. if we look at what comes out of hollywood, most images are of non-married people living it up. Basically encouraging co-habitation where most of those couples fail. The basis of this attack from hollywood in my opinion is a revolt against one of the basic tenets of the 3 Abrahamic religions, namely Islam, Christianity and Judaism.

  • Aaron

    This nation’s antiquated ideals of the institution of marriage needs a legal overhaul. The numbers are indicative of children out of wedlock. This is not the thirties, fifties, or the nineties. We need to stop being so dramatic. The idea of the institution of marriage has changed. It’s not bad, it’s not good, it’s a fact. There is no need to place a value judgement upon it or be so dramatic about it. Live with the facts.

  • Ellen Dibble, Northampton, MA

    What a guy has is not a girlfriend or spouse but a “baby mama,” which I think is black/Hispanic(?) vernacular but not white. If he fights for custody, it is the grandmother’s home that is offered as the site, and the grandmother who will do the caretaking. She may try to take early retirement to do that. Apparently she wants her genes passed along, so.
    I know that is not the middle class, but it is a familial organization that certainly has a certain currency nowadays.

  • Jamey from Lakewood, Ohio

    Recently I went to my 10 yr reunion and a friend who has been with the same man for 11 years and has 3 children with him. Both are African American. Another friend has been with her husband for 12 years and they have 3 children as well. They are Caucasian. The difference between these two couples as far as I can tell is not their race or class but how marriage is approached. The unmarried friend is ‘waiting’ for her long time boyfriend to make the next step. My Caucasian friends discussed marriage for several years before deciding together to take that next step. Its a difference in how marriage is approached.

  • Ellen Dibble, Northampton, MA

    The guest thinks patriarchy is getting challenged by empowering female “equality”? And I’m seeing matriarchies in black families because the men sort of take off.

  • g, Buffalo, NY

    Thank you Michael!

    I am with you on this one.
    The problem is with MEN!
    Men need to stop dropping the ball and step up.
    Stop being lazy and run from hardships.
    Get some balls and stick around.
    You got somebody pregnant, you get a job, grow up, support your family, whether you want to or not. This is just what you do and that is what I THINK is the right thing to do.

    And we, as MOTHERS need to raise our BOYS the right way. So that they do not even dare to even think about running away from their problems and deal with consequences of their behaviors!

    I know one 20 something boy who had a child with a girl, left her, went to a different city, went to college, haven’t been around his child AT ALL, a few years later, having not finished college – is having another child with a new GIRLFRIEND!!!
    And guess what, HIS FAMILY SUPPORTS HIM.

    They won’t come out and say out right that they support his behavior, but they support him emotionally and financially and do not condone his behavior whatsoever.

  • Michelle

    I wonder about research that looks at any change in level of involvement of the fathers in unwed families over the years. I have been impressed in the last 10 yrs of my work with health care with families that despite lack of marraige and co-habitation, young black men still spend time and make a committment to their children. It seems more common an in the older generation of unmarried families that the father was simply absent.

  • Aaron

    marriage is dead. The legal system needs to acknowledge that marriage is no longer a GOAL for a majority of AMERICANS.

  • Mark Durant

    Why do we always have to point out our racial differences when all it does is perpetuate our divisions? Surely this is an issue of poverty and class, not skin pigmentation.

    Mark Durant
    Walpole, MA

  • Marilyn Richardson

    Post Great Migration(s) factory, service and similar jobs paid enough to maintain comfortable life-style. That option is gone.

  • Nancy in DC

    As an African American women who is approaching the age in which I will not be able to procreate, I have dealt with several “frogs” who I thought were princes. As I have experienced it, most single, eligible men are not looking for lasting love, marriage, and stability. Most are looking to be “free agents” and seem to enjoy the attention that several available, professional, and economically independent women can offer. The numbers don’t lie and I am not the only women who feels this way – just survey the women of Atlanta, New York, Boston, Chicago, and Washington, DC, and this goes beyond the economic factor.

    This was not the paradigm I was raised with – I was brought up in a two parent household with parents who have been married 50+ years. As a people, we are experiencing a tragic epidemic and creating a vicious cycle.

    Thank you for addressing this topic on today’s show.

  • Bill Goad

    Young black women here in the South don’t get married, but they are sexually active, and they care nothing about birth control because they know they can get social assistance for prenatal and post natal care. It’s an epidemic.

  • Ellen Dibble, Northampton, MA

    MArk, we’re hearing 80% of black middle class women are not married.

  • Aaron

    No Tom, it’s not a problem. If the person you chose as the father of your children runs off, you should have chosen better. Take responsibility for your own choices and stop blaming others. Not ALL men are like that. Go look around.

  • Michael from Toronto

    Thanks for backing me up G in Buffalo. We need to start to address this delicate issue. Someone like Spike Lee, instead of making movies like “White men can’t jump” needs to make one called “Black men are whimps” This problem has no positive outcome the way things are currently going.

  • Aaron

    Marriage is no longer part of this nation’s morality. There is no association.

  • Jonathan

    I’m a married black man from Natick.

    Why the black marriage rate is low:
    1.)Marriage is hard. And our generation isn’t accustomed to the extreme discipline it takes to make marriage work.
    2.) There is a lack of marriageble black men, particularly for middle class black women. When I was a frehmen in college, there were 212 black freshmen girls to 30 black freshmen boys.
    3.) Black women are less likely to marry outside of their race.

  • Nancy from DC

    To caller Mark —

    The women are out there…continue to be discriminating.

    Good luck!


  • P. Jones

    I’m hearing no solution here. There appears to be a continuing argument on the settled facts.

    What if we address the prevailing attitudes of marriage itself, a dynamic barely touch by the panelist. If marriage is changing, then should not we? Let’s be as flexible as the issue itself and ask “are the expectation of a unified version of marriage helping or hurting?”

    If morality is no longer the associated with marriage, then wasting our time trying to put back a long broken institution is distracting. We have to teach young people, especially women, into making better long term decision regarding their choice of not only partners, but family planning.

  • Aaron

    I agree with you. There is evidence to show that lower income families regardless of race are less likely to marry right now. Stories like this taint the public’s perspective and only add fuel to the fire of racism. Digusting.

  • Aaron

    Exactly. Precisely. Well said. err typed.

  • Ellen Dibble, Northampton, MA

    I’m thinking black middle class women are dreaming of a marriage that resembles the white middle class, but on the other hand preserves their heritage which probably is NOT middle class. And I’m thinking that white men cannot really offer that, as the black women would know in their bones. Not too many white men can pull that off. But do the black men available to those black women have the wherewithal to recreate African-American traditional marriage, in its best traditions?
    They’d rather be free agents?
    I am getting it that America’s black middle class, led by those 80% unmarried black middle class women, recognizes that they want to create something that isn’t quite in existence yet, and which if not clear could land them in a pseudo-marriage, a copy of something that borrows from white traditions and sacrifices its own traditions. They may reach back to the African continent (think Henry Louis Gates, think Roots).
    Oh, there must be literature that “speaks to” that, and I haven’t read enough to know.

  • Sky Thompson

    What I find interesting is the presuposition that marriage and family is a great good despite thre fact so many of us feel so uncertain about the future of this planet. There are 6.5 billion people on the planet and growing. More over the planet is toxic stew, violence and apathy permeate all areas of hunan interaction. Perhaps the great change we see in the family dynamic reflects an ecological tension arising where our blind instinct to reproduce clashes against our ambivalence about the enviroment we create and endure.

  • Ellen Dibble, Northampton, MA

    Sky. The parts of the world where people live on a tiny fraction of an American’s average income, those people probably have not only tight nuclear families but tight extended families/clans. The “Family” is sort of the Government, the Safety Net. If that level of organization fails, then the religious communities sort of come into play. Between the two, the children are kept in a matrix, a creche.
    We have such a different infrastructure, altogether. The idea of perpetrating traditions and genes, the encoded and encapsulated experience and strength and wisdom of two lines merged into one — that still exists. But it is not necessary. One can perpetrate in different ways. And the cohesion is not necessary the way it was pre-government, in the bush, so to speak.
    That probably is not the issue when addressing the statistical differences within American life between black and white, even within the SAME CLASS. Don’t forget the big dent in familial cohesion (premarital sex was so much more dangerous pre-birth-control pill) that came about circa 1965, launching the age of Feminism, the age of women in the workplace. The specter of planetary demise of the human race had not yet come onto the horizon. Choice became a reality. And legal abortion made a difference beginning about 1974. So.

  • Ann

    I would also like to say this about all the races and both genders. I do NOT think that the majority of us has figured out how to operate in a world the has the birth control pill as an option. It separated the sexuality that resulted in procreation from the sexuality of pure allure and desire. I know that that is “obvious”. The trouble is, most of us have NOT figured out how to behave given this “obvious” fact.

    One of the biggest consequences is the number of young, young people engaging in sexual activities that bring with them EXPECTATIONS that ADULTS before the birth control pill would have help thinking about via the systems of taboos and permissions that all knew and most subscribed to. Before I leave this paragraph, I’d like to say ALSO, that where there are expectations, there are often disappointments, and one sure sign of thwarted or hurt expectations is the seemingly cavalier attitude of “I have NO expectations”. Except for those truly in touch with their Buddhist practice, this is usually a statement of unacknowledged despair, not of “no expectations”!

    What I’m saying is: the stakes, emotional and physical, got too high for far too many young people who are too young by far, and who do not get much help from our society at large as they grow, thus preventing much growth into adult behavior that is much clearer in its motivations than that of people far younger. Yes! I AM saying that too many of us are adolescent in our emotional thinking when it comes to sexuality and family making, and, marriage.

    On top of that, our entertainment industry is comprised of dangerous memes. For instance, just how many middle aged, married people have you seen in your media viewing lately? If you’ve seen any at all, chances are their fictional children are mocking them, or scamming them; or the adults are falling adulterously in love. There is little chance that the middle aged, or older, male actors will be paired with women their own age. Yes, a Meryl Streep movie showing on HBO right now is the exception, but really, there are SO few products in the broadly public entertainment world that show us How Marriage Is Done. This is a factor for those of all races in this USA of ours.

    I believe that my previous comment, about recent African-American history, was more to the point, but I wanted to add this. I’m so glad that Father Knows Best was mentioned on air. I was just talking about it last night with a friend who is a therapist in an extremely poor city near us. I said that if families are falling apart, young people still need role models. When they can’t get that from our Cultural Tales, they are on their own. Coming of age in the “sexual revolution” myself, I had no guidance. My mom & I couldn’t talk about the changes that were happening because my mom was too “shy” about the issues; my girl friends were as naive as I was; boys tried to get successful, and if I did not comply, they couldn’t move on fast enough! THAT was the difference, for me, between high school and college. In high school (I graduated in 1965), almost all the sex was just heavy petting; we were not about to lose our virginity until we got married. A few years later, boys were looking for girls who wanted to “play in their court”. If you weren’t ready, or, once you’d taken that plunge (backwards metaphor!!!), you were “accused” of being gay if you wouldn’t have full sex. What does this have to do with Marriage??!! If you can explain that well enough so that the emotional impact of being sexually intimate does NOT hurt girls the way it did and still does when they are not married, I’d like to hear it. Notions of “girls having needs,too” won’t do it, because their emotional needs will always trump their sexual ones — it’s biological. And if it isn’t, it still happens.

    To all this, add the fact that so many of the young girls and young women are absolutely gorgeous nowadays! There were always two to four gorgeous girls per 100 students in the sixties, but now, they are just about all gorgeous. They are aware of it, yet they are also aware of their competition. Neither young nor older men want to be involved in the possible cat fights that can ensue; yet the young girls and women don’t get any REAL confidence from their beauty, except a kind of “I’m having a good day” kind of vanity confidence. But real, inner confidence that they can choose to know themselves and know what’s best for them in both their own behavior and in terms of the man they choose to begin married life with. Nope, it’s not there way too often! Meanwhile, the boys and young men, and even middle aged men are just about giddy (a masculine “giddy”, tho) with CHOICE! They have so many beautiful girls to choose between HOW can they choose? There’s an almost ADHD confusion I’ve seen in young men because each one of those girls (who has no inner confidence) could be a separate CHOICE! Now, I’m SURE that that’s biological!

    Anyway, my friend who is a therapist says that so many of the young girls & women she sees who are desperately poor (and mainly White) want to have their babies so that someone will love them, and so that they can get benefits for themselves and for their kids. Apparently, the moms know exactly what programs to sign up for so that their kids get dental care, etc. But, the young women will exhibit complete disorganization when it comes to signing up for their G.E.D.s, or for community college classes, or for regular 9-5 jobs. Now, this friend is a complete Liberal Democrat, leaning Left of that. Yet, this is what she sees — young people willing to tie themselves and their children (often lots of them by different men, many unknown to the mom — the cliche!!!) to the “sure bet”, the “sure thing”, i.e., the welfare system (such as it is.). Perhaps what they would have sought in a male in another time they now seek in government programs. Again, I write this as a person who believes in the social safety net more than I believe in tax deductions, and this friend has similar political beliefs. She is disappointed to see how many young women seem to “disable” themselves so as to get the benefits. She bases her impression on what her clients themselves have said out loud to her. By the way, she has to travel for one hour to get to work job; where she is only paid when the client shows up; about 40% of the time, the clients don’t show up for their free mental health counseling.

    We need a new Meme!

  • Brett

    “There are organizations that can aid homosexuals to leave this lifestyle (Exodus International, but like alcoholics, they first have to admit that they have an addiction and want to leave it).” WINSTON SMITH

    Ah, the old homosexuality=alcoholism…talk about false equivalences…

  • Dr. Mary Baker, Anthropology, Rhode Island College

    Societal change IS culture change. The definition of marriage is culturally defined. Economic shifts drive culture shifts. Gender roles and engendered statuses are culturally defined. The sexual revolution was a cultural revolution. Culture changes, sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly. There are dominant cultures and subcultures. The Pew report was documenting shifts in cultural values and cultural patterns of behavior. Everything you were talking about today was, in fact, culture.

  • Ellen Dibble, Northampton, MA

    Brett, when Massachusetts was arguing about gay marriage, and I was calling various legislators, I made a point of pointing out that the people I personally know who opposed gay marriage used the chief argument that gay lifestyle is obnoxious because “those homosexuals don’t want to settle down; they don’t want to take responsibility” (I’m thinking above all about certain many-times divorced individuals who accuse gays of having an inborn antipathy to “growing up.”)
    I asked if it makes sense to accuse homosexuals of b being antipathetic to marriage and as punishment forbid them their deeply held desires to be settle down, take responsibility, and be married.
    To me, the argument rated Zero on a scale of 1 to 10. There may be arguments to call gay marriage something else, like “gay marriage” or “lesbian marriage,” and specify for heterosexual marriage that it is heterosexual. The terminology can shift, but I think any child can recognize the nature of a partnership and doesn’t need to be — well, here’s an issue. A person won’t introduce her child to someone transgender because she doesn’t think she can explain it, and so the child will get confused.
    Oh, all those confused children…

  • Ellen Dibble, Northampton, MA

    Ann, I graduated from high school in 1964, so about when you did. I was at girls’ school both high school and college, so I’m not talking from experience. But I’m wondering why you say young women are so much more gorgeous now. Maybe there is more money around, and decades of ad campaigns attempting to make young women insecure enough to work endlessly on becoming more attractive create this situation.
    If women flaunt themselves out of insecurity, because they don’t want IN ANY CASE to be turned down in favor of another more attractive female, then they probably figure out sooner or later that the more they flaunt, the more they attract men who fall for just that. When there really aren’t enough men (as in the private schools I was at), then when men DO show up, they have an enormous choice, and may not have the patience to use their inner compass to search for most compatible rather than most attractive.
    I mean, I don’t know if the computer-based match-ups do any better than mixer dances where you can see but not hear, but insecurity masquerading as confidence (glamor) in women is cautionary if not self-defeating, in terms of identifying potential long-term stable partnerships.

  • Victoria Franklin L.A,. CA

    My comments are regarding Dr. Donna Franklin’s position.
    I have read both of her publications and was particularly impressed by her most recent book “What’s Love got to do with it?” It is abundantly clear that black men and women have never had a serious dialog regarding their interpersonal relationships. I’m not sure why but understand that it hasn’t occurred. Once we begin to address and understand and healing aspects
    involved in bridging the rift that exists between black women and men.

  • Esau Vanterpool.

    America is a country with its own internal colonized population, the Black population.

    There are many reasons why the marriage rate among Black are as low as it is. However, no talk show host will ever find the desire, guts or human will to analyze and extrapolate on the true causes of any issue they think is affecting the Black population disproportionately.

    For example, Black people don’t manufacture guns, yet the highest homicide rate is among the Black population. Black people do not have access to billions of dollars to import and distribute drugs in its community. Yet the Black population suffers the most adverse effects from the trade as “he” sits out in his suburbia mansion, line his bank account while knowing that white media will never look at or question how and where he got his assets.

    The truth is, there are 5.5 million Black men locked up in America’s jails. This fact alone contributes to the epidemic facing our Black queens and race. That is 5.5 million potential fathers and husbands, and are a direct result of the racist colonialist policies of the American government and its racist society. The truth is still is still of limits to the human intellect, spirit and guts.

  • michael

    Funny all the blacks attacks on here anyways,

    A few weeks ago, it was stated/reported a large majority of upper/middle income whites among others were staying together instead of divorcing solely for the fact of a bad economy not some special value/morals. Another was now going back a few months that many married couples were unhappy and choose to say together, others were fearful to there there spouses etc and the rate of divorce was something like 50% leading to a higher suicides % rate of white children compare to black children in in suburban area’s and most area’s in American in general. Also why was interracial marriages not included or the fact that racism and stigma still exist maybe another factor? In the past it was against the law and someone in the pasted that may have been considered African American is now considered mix-race(1 drop rule). Or how about the fact America in general are getting married later in life? how about throwing in religious zealot preaching abstinence only and at the same time discouraging condom use?

    Know what group has a low divorce rate?Arabs in Saudi don’t think it’s because of some special value/morals but not allowing many women to.

  • michael

    “have access to billions of dollars to import and distribute drugs in its community.”

    Reaganomics, pure capitalism and Laissez-faire attitude. Supply/Demand. if the person gets caught dealing mean he was not good or smart enough and someone will fill his/her place(often btw the people there dealing to are middle-class/rich whites is where the money is. The History Channel has gangland on and talks about how smart many of it’s leaders take note from how CEO at Multinational corporation run there companies.

    “The truth is, there are 5.5 million Black men locked up in America’s jails. ”

    This could be seen staring before,during and after the jim crow law, many (going by stats) are locked up for the same crime there white counter-parts would not be. Even sentences are out of wack. As well the difference in sentencing in Crack vs. Powder Cocaine which one disproportionally effects blacks.

    Don’t forget to throw in the “Often” unreported abuses of White Police officers towards Black males. Or news outlets WBUR is on of them not hiring Black Journalist or Reporters(http://www.wbur.org/people) while being station in the middle of Boston an majority minority area or reporting on the attack on black communities by Police officers causing black youths to rather look up to a drug dealer than an police officer who was just harassing them.

  • michael

    how smart many of it’s leaders are and how they take note on how CEO at Multinational corporation run there companies.

  • Ruth Swanson

    Hey history is interesting but the problem is NOW.

    Racism and slavery are evil and may be the cause of some of these problems. BUT right now worrying about slavery does not fix the problem.

    Is it fair? No.

    But too bad…

    If a huge portion of the black male population is in prison then damnit get your stuff straight. Stop talking in esoteric scholarly tones…somebody needs to get up on the roof tops and shout out loud STOP!

    Stop pushing your books and step up with a tough honest forthright community saving opinion.

  • Ruth Swanson

    This guy is too much “black men don’t have a script for living in an a-typical blah blah blah…”

    This is a HUGE tragety and this guy talks in idiotic metaphors.

    Hey guy here is a script for you: IT IS BROKEN AND MUST BE FIXED!

  • Edosa Eweka

    Just a general observation

    If the statistics show that there is significant high proportion of black men in prison, less educated, etc, and a significant high proportion of black woman college-educated – then the equation would most probably be that black women find it ‘difficult’ to meet ‘compatible’ black men. This may partly explain why there is a significant population of unmarried professional black women.

  • Ellen Dibble, Northampton, MA

    As Michael pointed out, the conversation (on air as well as here) hasn’t tended toward miscegenation. To me, that is a separate issue, needing separate research and separate researchers. Where I live, near a huge state university, what I observe on public buses carrying these students here and there is that young people mingle. Not only that, it is about impossible to assign race or ethnicity in the kind of targeted way one could do a couple of generations ago. Apparently most of them have parents from different parts of the world. You could say this cohort is the bus-riding, college-going cohort, but I suppose that is middle-class. Or do middle class students have cars nowadays?
    Anyway, not that it helps black couples establish families, but it seems families will be blended in the future, just looking at bus ridership. I think that if white men see women as individuals first, without screening skin-color into the top features, then the women will select the men similarly without screening for race. There would be a loss to the black community in its very rich traditions, however.

  • Andrew Bernard

    I listened to this program a day later so I could not call, but all through the program it seems like Tom was implying and trying to get the guests to say that the reason for the rate of African American marriage was purely cultural. I think to imply that it could not and will not happen to whites. But as a result of Tom trying to guide the conversation this way he kept missing what was being said – 70 years of change in the black community which is mirrored in the white communities, THE CHANGE, is not cultural, but societal. Which dictates that it will also affect whites eventually. Tom, you need to listen to this show your self, see if you see you bias on the subject, and know that being black is not pathological.

  • http://home.toltbbs.com/bobklahn Bob Klahn

    You find 72% of black women who give birth are not married. Hmmm… tell me, have you been living in a cave? That has been known for a decade or more. Yet you are talking about it as if it were some new catastrophe.

    Look a bit further. The problem is not confined to blacks. You give the rate for white women at 28%. What you don’t mention is, in 1970 it was 6%. For black women it was 38%. Since 1970 the percentage for black women has just under doubled. For white women it has just under quintupled.

    In 1941 the difference was 10 to 1 black to white. Now it’s 2.5 to 1. The number of unmarried births to both went up from 1970 till 1990, when it started down for black women, but kept rising for white women.

    The number of births to unmarried white women never stopped rising, but the number of births to unmarried black women kept falling until the early 2000s, when it started up again.

    From 1941 on the *rate* of births to unmarried women, black and white, went up pretty much in tandem, until 1961. The rate of births to unmarried black women peaked in 1961, and has fallen about 33% since then. The rate for unmarried white women kept going up.


    The real shocker should be the explosion of unwed births to white women, not black women.

    I notice your reference to 72% of black women and 28% of white women having children outside of marriage. Your language is a bit imprecise, it’s 72% of black women who have children and 28% of white women who have children are unmarried. The actual annual birth rate is very much smaller.

    One more factor that could be considered is the number of white women dating and marrying black men. Last I looked the rate was twice that of white men marrying black women. While those rates are small, remember, there are 6 times as many whites as blacks in this country. So 1% of white women can account for 6% of black men.

    Black women wondering where the marriageable men are might consider that the numbers work both way. 1% of white men could account for 6% of black men. Which adds up to 2% of white men to 12% of black women. That is a sizable cut in the number of unmarried black women. And will you say you can’t find 2% of white men open to black women? We my church had a dinner dance last Saturday. There were four couples there consisting of white men with black women.

    Rethink your premise, and do some research into the numbers.

  • Tim

    What is your point? BTW, I think everybody understands what the 72% and 28% stand for. They are both appalling……..I remember being shocked when I was in college finding out the black rate was 50%. I actually think the white rate is getting close that now, and is higher than the 28% quoted here.

  • Slipstream

    I began listening to this with interest – I think it is a very important subject. But then the man-bashing and the wild claims began, so I turned it off.

  • Steve Kohn

    I just caught this program on a podcast, and don’t remember ever being as disappointed in Tom Ashbrook. (Who runs the single best program on the radio, bar none.)

    He said the trend began to accelerate about 50 years ago, yet never explored what happened in America at that time.

    Among other things: the civil rights movement, the creation of the birth control pill, and the explosion of welfare benefits.

    I’ve not studied this, I don’t know if any of these had an impact, but I wish Tom had at least raised the issue.

    With the increase in out-of-wedlock births occurring not just in black communities but also white and Hispanic ones, I’m thinking it’s a societal issue as much as a racial one, if most acute in the black community.

    Others have commented on role models, but I think that’s overplayed. You don’t stay pregnant for nine months because some beautiful actress in People Magazine is.

    I also thought foolish some of the comments made by Tom’s guests, especially that black men are more egalitarian than whites (if anything the opposite), and that black marriage is in trouble because black husbands can’t abide earning less than their wives. A factor for some, but doesn’t begin to explain this tsunami of absent fathers.

    I suspect the two main reasons for the problem are: 1) our irrational drug laws, putting so many young men in prison, blighting their lives forever after; and 2) the ability of single mothers to support themselves as they were never able to before the Great Society.

    I hope Tom Ashbrook will do another program on this subject. It’s as important as anything else in America today.

  • Dsmith3670

    I feel everyones comments, so far are correct. With our growing society you will find just by working in the human service field I have found. There are more and more black men in prison, but white men are more and more there. White and black women do decide to stay single and raising children on their own cause they can receive welfare while they raise their children, or go back to school to provide for their children more once they get a good career foundation, so they don’t have to depend on a man. They feel as women that are more benefits in being single than being married, cause the welfare won’t help them as much if a man is in their lives and married. This country has came far from the picture of what God and country founded family upon of a man and a woman of the same race and the man as a provided. Now women are the provider in most cases, so women feel why should they have a man.

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