Recently, I stumbled upon a staggering statistic mentioned throughout the website of a non-profit organization called No Wedding, No Womb (NWNW). NWNW was founded to address the high instances of out-of-wedlock births, particularly among African Americans, since research shows that the rate in our community is a staggering 72%, which is three times the rate among Whites and Asians.
This news was alarming, yet not surprising, since only a small minority of the Black women I know who have children did so within the confines of marriage. The most common reason (among Black women I know) was to keep their baby’s father “around,” hoping that he would eventually marry her. Often, this had the opposite effect, especially in the absence of previously existing love and affection for the mother. Other reasons were long-term relationships that still hadn’t led to marriage, but rarely involved the use of contraceptives, and women growing older and wanting to have children, coupled with an inability to find a life partner ready and willing to marry them.
Although both parties are at fault, for not taking the proper precautions, I mostly blame Black men for this high percentage of out-of-wedlock births, assuming that the majority of these relationships are comprised of Black men and women, and very few involve Black women having children out of wedlock with non-Black men. I simply don’t understand why having a child or children (seemingly, a larger responsibility financially and emotionally) isn’t considered with the same scrutiny and care as choosing a wife. What is it about marriage that sends Black men running for the hills? And, why is marriage seen as negative, rather than a positive and natural progression into manhood?
After all, statistics show that married men tend to be healthier, happier and wealthier, so what’s keeping Black men from marrying in their prime rather than waiting until much later in life, if they marry at all? Insight into why some Black men prefer the single life reveals that, for most of them, being single is less arduous, freeing them from responsibility and stress often caused by divorce or an unhappy union. And then, there is also the appeal of “new booty,” and having the freedom to bed random beauties as often as they’d like, for the rest of their lives (assuming they have the “goods” to attract said random beauties).
Interestingly, a Black man gave his perspective on why he is still single, and in response to an article on singleblackmale.org stated, “I used to believe that the right woman would come along and inspire me to want to marry her, but lately I’ve wondered if that logic was flawed all along. In other words, should I first make the decision that I want to be married and then find the right woman as opposed to the inverse? Although, this negates the ‘fairy tale’ most of us have been force fed since birth since it means love is more of a logical decision than an emotional one.” In response to his comment, another author agreeably wrote, “When you’re looking for that “perfect person”, you’ll never find them. Everyone will fall short in one way or another. Plus your focus is always on everyone else’s shortcomings and not your own. I think when you decide that you want to be a good wife/husband, your focus turns inward, on what YOU need to do to become a good [husband or] wife.”
I’ve also heard many Black men say they want to be financially stable before they enter into marriage, whereas men of other races seem to look at marriage as a way to build financial security, hoping to accomplish some of their goals with their partner, as opposed to doing it alone. Of course, there are always exceptions to every rule, but since this seems to be the most common
excuse reason why Black men decide not to marry at all, or hold off on marrying until later in life, I decided to research some of the men who made the Forbes 400 list of Richest People in America . What I learned did not surprise me, but it may help to put things into perspective for Black men who insist on having “all their ducks in a row” before taking those vows.
No Black men grace this list. However, many of the men that do, such as Rupert Murdoch, Donald Trump, and Warren Buffet chose to marry in their early 20s or early 30s, and managed to build empires and establish wealth during this time. I also noticed that the vast majority of the billionaires on the list are currently married and have been for the majority of their lives. Could there be a correlation between wealth and marriage? Possibly, but I digress.
Incidentally, Jay-Z was an honorable mention, with the article stating that “[he] is on his way,” which is likely true. After wedding, his bank account got considerably fatter, making him and Beyonce the highest earning couple in Hollywood. Would Jay-Z have reached such heights as a single man? Probably not, considering Beyonce’s share of the wealth is much larger. It certainly seems as though the grass has gotten a whole lot greener (pun intended) since he’s been with Bey, and not just in terms of money. Jay-Z’s status was instantly “upgraded,” once the beautiful and talented Beyonce began throwing up ”the Roc,” making him more credible and marketable than ever before.
So, where does the fear of marriage and commitment come from and why does it plague our community most? Simply said, ‘monkey see, monkey do’ (and, no I am not literally calling us monkeys, it’s a figure of speech). I can already hear some of you saying, ‘having children out of wedlock is something all races of people do, not just Blacks…blah blah blah,’ but the statistics show that the instances (28% for whites, 17% for Asians) are drastically lower than the whopping 72% in our community.
It was also noted that the majority of women and men having children out of wedlock were lacking education, and thus had considerably lower incomes than those who did not. But then, how do you account for men (obviously, I’m using the term ‘man’ loosely) like Lil Wayne who, at the ripe age of 29, has four children by three different women, one whom he married at age 15, but divorced 2 years later? Or Erykah Badu who has 3 children by three different men (I’m holding the women accountable too) or Lauryn Hill who had 5 children for the son of reggae legend, Bob Marley, but whom he has yet to marry. Examples of Black men and women like this are prevalent in the media, and unless young boys and girls are taught differently or see otherwise, this is the behavior they will emulate. Unfortunately, more and more African American children are growing up in single parent households, and in some instances, don’t understand how truly rewarding and fulfilling a loving marriage can be.
Reportedly, almost half of all Black women will never marry for reasons that aren’t quite clear (e.g. limited options, desirability, Black women too picky and unwilling to “settle” and Black women less willing to date outside their race), compared to only 23% of White women. So, more and more Black women, including myself (yes, I admit it), have at least considered starting a family without a husband, or are simply more open to the idea of being a single mother than we were in the past.
After exploring the NWNW website and research, I understand why it is so important that we stop perpetuating this cycle. I strongly believe that having both parents present in the home is crucial to the development of emotionally healthy children and I would like to be a part of the solution, not the problem. I support the founder’s efforts to combat this problem, but I’m not sure if promoting marriage and the nuclear family will yield the desired result. Have you ever considered having children out of wedlock? If so, why?