In 2006, The Washington Post published an op-ed essay by writer Joy Jones with the provocative headline “Marriage Is for White People.” The headline didn’t reflect Jones’ views; it repeated what one of her students told her when she taught a career exploration class for a predominantly black group of sixth-graders.
If you look at the statistics on marriage, you’d be inclined to agree. While 62 percent of white adults and 60 percent of Latino adults are married, only 41 percent of black adults are. Even worse, more than 70 percent of African American children are born outside of marriage.
The familial structure in the African American community has been severely damaged. It has gotten to the point that a mother is considered essential in a family, but a father is optional or expendable. I have several friends and family members who are parents and are either divorced or have never been married. It breaks my heart every time one of my single friends shares the good news of her pregnancy with me. While I want to be happy for her, all I can think about is the difficulties she will face as a single parent and the struggles the child will have without a father present.
Life without two parents in the household is tough. My parents divorced when I was young and my mother struggled to raise my sister and me by herself. However, my mother always taught us that marriage was a worthy pursuit even if hers didn’t work out. She proved her point by remarrying when I was a teenager and has been married ever since.
I have since realized that my mother was right. According to a 2002 study sponsored by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, married men and women tend to have lower mortality, less risky behavior, more monitoring of health, more compliance with medical regimens, higher sexual frequency, more satisfaction with their sexual lives, more savings and higher wages.
These facts have encouraged people like Maryann Reid, organizer of Marry Your Baby Daddy Day, to make marriage more common in the black community and throughout America.
“Most of our couples [getting married] are Black, because it is our community that has the highest out of wedlock rate of all groups,” Reid said. “However, the crippling family structure in this country is just not a Black issue, but a national one.”
While it true that the institution of marriage is under severe stress, I can emphatically say that marriage is not for white people. It’s for all people. I represent the 41% of black Americans who are married. My wife and I have enjoyed nearly 12 years of matrimony. And there are many more happily married couples just like us.