quickest way to bring anger, tears, and vitriol to any conversation
people is to discuss the state of Black male and female relationships.
If it is true that men are from Mars and women are from Venus
it must follow that healthy relationships are difficult to
maintain. Add racism, the economic marginalization of black people,
rates of black male incarceration, and early death, and we
have the perfect storm for relationship and marital instability.
is accepted by too many of us that the stereotypes are true
and black men and women can’t get along. But in spite of lower
marriage rates and higher divorce rates we remain fiercely loyal
idea of intact black families. Unfortunately the desire for
strong family life may cause us to waste precious time supporting
that have no basis in reality and distract us from the crucial
issues that are relevant to developing strong family life.
enough people cry that the sky is falling then interesting
if amusing ideas like “man
sharing” may be taken seriously. The argument was made that the
imbalance in numbers of available men already results in unofficial
man sharing. A recent Chicago based study, The
Sexual Orientation of the City, concluded that 21% of Black
male residents were involved with more than one woman, as opposed
to 6% of men overall in Cook County. The statistics are not an
indication of greater immorality on the part of black men, but
instead reflect the temptation created by numbers that work in
men’s favor. As Chris
Rock pointed out, most men are “as faithful as their options.” It
has been suggested that man sharing, de facto polygamy, should
be encouraged. However, the idea fell flat because neither women
nor men are interested in participating. Women don’t want to
share men, and most men don’t want the complications in their
lives. Those women who are involved in these relationships do
so unknowingly or unwillingly. Some do not want to be alone,
or believe that a shared man is better than none. Man sharing
is an idea whose time has not
yet come and is an example of what happens when hysteria
and incorrect assumptions are allowed to rule the day.
The problems of black
marriage and relationships are exacerbated by statistics that
never bring good news. There is no escaping the fact that the
gender ratio works against black women. If it is seriously suggested
that women accept polygamy, a system which goes against American
cultural and religious norms, interracial dating might be seen
as an option. But black women will seldom cross the romantic
color line, even if doing so may give them new opportunities
in their social lives.
only subject more painful than the state of black male and
is the issue of relationships outside of our race. The belated
acknowledgement that segregationist Strom Thurmond fathered a
half-black child is a reminder of the awful sexual subjugation
endured by black women throughout American history. Thousands
of black men lost their lives when accused of merely “reckless
eyeballing” in proximity to white women. In addition to the historical
legacies of racism, most black people simply want to be with
their own, so much so that we risk not forming families at all
in our hopes of beating the odds. The sight of celebrities like
Quincy Jones, with a long list of blonde ex-wives, may be the
subject of gossip and condemnation, but the behavior is atypical.
The numbers of Blacks who marry
whites is still small, just 6% of black men and 2% of black
women. Those figures are not an indication of people who don’t
want to be together.
But is it enough to
say that everything is fine because we still marry each other
more than we marry others? It is true that Black men and women
likely to be married and are more likely to divorce even
when we do marry. The consequences are acute for men as well
as women. Divorced men experience more
illness, substance abuse, and even suicide attempts. Children
in single parent, usually female headed households, are more
likely to live in poverty.
family problems to economic issues provides an easy out in
explaining away disproportionate
instability in the family structure. Issues such as the high
rate of births outside of marriage have been the third rail of
black political and social discourse. We don’t want to discuss
anything that gives credence to negative stereotypes perpetuated
about us. The impulse is understandable, but not particularly
helpful when confronting difficult issues. Why are so many black
children born not only to unmarried parents, but to parents who
have not even formed committed relationships? Because of DNA
testing there are men paying child support to women whose middle
names they don’t even know. That behavior doesn’t speak well
for men or women and renders moot the old, tired arguments seen
in the headlines of black publications and heard in conversation. “Whose
at fault, men or women?” “Do black men treat women right?” “Do
black women support their men?” We need uncompromising introspection,
not worthless tabloid headlines, to improve our family lives.
is important to remember our loyalty to one another despite
the many problems that black
people face in dating and maintaining marriages. Point out that
the glass is full the next time someone says that black men and
women can’t get along. But it is equally important to speak up
when the more complicated and sensitive issues are also raised.
The time for platitudes has passed as well.
Kimberley’s Freedom Rider column appears weekly in . Ms.
Kimberley is a freelance writer living in New York City. She
can be reached via e-Mail at [email protected]. You can read more
of Ms. Kimberley's writings at http://freedomrider.blogspot.com/