Monday, May 30, 2011

Extra, Extra! It's Not So Bad When White People Do It

Here what you need to know:
Upper classes are marrying late, while poorer women are deciding that they’re better off single.
You can read the article analyzing a recent Census report yourself.  But the basic gist is this: due to a changing economy, middle- and upper-class individuals are marrying later than before while working- and lower-class singles may not marry at all.

It's good that people are marrying later, and indeed, the divorce rate has gone down. These are people who're taking the time to establish themselves financially before marriage and children.
The changes of the last quarter century indicate that marriage is increasingly becoming a marker of class — the delayed marriages of the middle class produce steadily lower divorce rates, very few non-marital births, and substantial resources to invest in a falling number of children. For the rest of the country, the statistics may simply confirm a greater move away from marriage altogether.
What about everybody else? The working- and lower-classes?
Working class women, however, have become more likely to have children without marrying. If the father is chronically unemployed, uncommitted to the relationship, immature or simply unreliable, young mothers may decide that they are better off on their own.

So why am I bringing this up in the context of race? Well, around 25% of African Americans live in poverty. Only 10% of us have an annual income over $75,000. Let's throw-in the high rate of downward mobility and the unconscionably high rate of incarceration for black me, and you begin to get the picture.

Bear in mind, now, that rates of drug and alcohol abuse are just about the same across each US ethnic group. Moreover, once you hold for socioeconomic status, crime rates are also equal. So the rate at which black men are imprisoned has more to do with racism throughout the justice system than with black criminality.

But I digress. Everyone's alarmed at the ridiculously high-rate of out-of-wedlock births in the black community. That said, let's be clear that racism is the only reason everybody even knows of the high rate of out-of-wedlock births. Otherwise, just like everything else in black America, it'd be invisible to everybody else. But when you look at all the factors, there's really no reason to be. Having children without being married has more to do with economic opportunity, among other things, than it has to do with, say, the sexual habits of black Americans. If you put us in the same position as whites where it concerns the quality of education, generational wealth accumulation, job and career networks, etc, you'd see us doing the same thing: marrying later, and waiting until marriage to have kids.

Are you still with me? Everything making sense so far?

When we set race aside, we see that when people get married and whether they've waited to have children has everything to do with the economy and people's financial outlook. That includes African Americans. We're making decisions based on the economy and our financial outlook. We're not less wise or more sexually immoral than white Americans or anybody else. The problem has to do with unemployment rates, incarceration rates, income, wealth, etc. So consider those numbers in the context of race, right? Regardless of education level, we have higher unemployment rates. Due to racism, both past and present, we have higher incarcerations rates; discrimination in income and promotions; just about 10% of the wealth of whites with similar incomes; I could go on.

So. To boil it down, why're so few black people getting married and so many having children? Racism.

Why did you know about it prior to reading this post? Racism.

Why is it than when similar trends begin to emerge in mainstream America . . . That is to say, why is it that before you realize similar trends among white Americans, already researchers blame the economy? Why is the title of the article that inspired the post, "Changing Marriage Patterns Reflect Economics and Class"? (Yes, that's grammatically incorrect, but I want us to be clear on what we're talking about.) Why is it that no one's talking about white America as though they have some "problem?" Racism.

Racism. Racism. Racism.

Black America has no problem that an end to racism would solve.

Uh, bup, bup, bup, bup, bup, bup!! Before you even go there, is that what I said?

Don't get me wrong. Individual choice plays a huge part in this. But tell me this: why should black individuals have to be any less human than individuals of other racial and ethnic groups?

Again, don't get me wrong, cause a lot of self-proclaimed white anti-racists like to indulge racist thinking, I'm not saying we're unable to tighten our belts, as it were. Nor am I saying we can afford the status quo. What I am saying is simply that we shouldn't have to.

And by the way, for those of you who like to argue that you're white and never got any "privilege," let me help you understand what we mean by white privilege, okay? White privilege is having your changes in marriage rates and your increases in out-of-wedlock births explained by changes in the economy rather than pointed out as a "problem." I mean, of course, there are more concrete example, such as a spike in teen pregnancy being attributed to a "pact" rather than community dysfunction, but you get my point?

When white people do, it's actually understandable.


  1. Thank you for this article. There's a double standard in America when it comes to families and marital status by race. It's sad to think of it but it is the reality in America today.

    La Reyna


This isn't too complicated. If you disagree with me, I'm more than happy to have an honest discussion. I'm quite open to learning new facts and ideas. I'm dying for a conservative to explain their ideas in a sensible way.

But, I do have rules, and they also apply to those who agree with me. They just get the benefit of my already knowing the fact they'll be referring to.

So, here're the comment thread rules:

1 - Use facts.
2 - Refer to policy.
3 - Don't rely on theories and conjectures. Show me how, for example, a public health insurance option will lead to "rationing" of health care.
4 - No unfounded attacks on any entity.

If you break those rules, I will edit your comment to my own whimsical satisfaction.

Lastly, perhaps most importantly, I'm not going to entertain too much pro-white/racism-denying discussion. I want this to be a space to discuss strategies to fight racism, not space where I have to fight racism. I want anti-racists to be able to come here for a mental respite. If what you're interested in doing is attempting to demonstrate the fallacy of anti-racism by repeating the same ole comments and questions and accusations we hear all the time, please do that somewhere else.

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