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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

What I Couldn't Say in Ebony


"Make sure you say something positive."

When I got the assignment from Ebony Magazine to write the State of Black Marriage, quite a few of the people I interviewed made that statement. But I have to tell you, there's not a whole lot of positivity to report. Complicated and unproductive trends are a prominent feature of the state of our relationships. And it's hard to address these issues without stepping on toes or hurting some feelings.

The family activists who are giving serious thought to these matters have made some suggestions as to ways we need to change or think differently about our behavior. They had some thoughtful - but hard to hear comments that didn't make it into the article. Here's what they said:

Bill Stepney, a family advocate in the New York-New Jersey area said that "The post-sexual revolution generation has a hard time defining on a common basis what marriage means." He pointed out that there is a difference between family formation and merely relationship formation and that we have to stop "decoupling having children from marriage."

Nisa Muhammad is the founder and director of Wedded Bliss, an organization based in Washington, DC that promotes black marriage. "Our family structures, although they may seem to be 'politically correct', aren't serving our families very well" she stated.

For example, 53% of black children live in low-income families, black teens have a high teen pregnancy rate and our boys' high school graduation rate is only 47% - and the preponderance of these situations are in homes headed by single mothers.

"If someone breaks the window on your car, you get your car fixed," said Muhammad. "It seems we should do at least that for our marriages."

Serious relationship repair and marriage rehab is in order. I, for one, don't believe in marriage no matter what, no matter who. I have seen enough people caught up in emotionally wretched situations where divorce did seem like a reasonable answer.

However, it can't be our first reaction or our only response. We're extraordinarily creative when it comes to arts and entertainment, exceedingly persistent when pursuing our rights. Can't we bring to bear that same exceptional inspired and forceful energy to guide our families into recovery? 

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