STEPHANIE ROBINSON SPEAKS
Is Black on Black Marriage Dying?
Numbers seldom tell the whole story. They can be used out of context to make things look worse than they are, or to stress one aspect of a much larger and more nuanced picture.
That said, the numbers aren’t looking too promising when it comes to African American marriages these days. This is particularly troubling given the much-touted Black Family Reunion celebrations going on this fall in DC and about the nation.
There appears to be a real trend toward non-commitment going on within the black community. The 2009 census showed that 42 percent of black adults reaching their 40s had never married as compared to 23.6 percent of whites. It was also revealed that African Americans are more likely than other ethnic groups to divorce and have children out of wedlock.
Now, of course, there are a number of complex reasons behind these statistics that we could talk about for years to come. They include the legacy of slavery, black male incarceration, high unemployment, and the changing attitudes toward matrimony.
But rather than getting bogged down in such complexities, I’m going to focus on another often overlooked aspect of relationships and marriage. And that is the individual. That’s right –the individual– even though it almost sounds contradictory to the idea of marriage and family.
But it’s not. I’d argue it could even be one of the most important elements in a relationship.
You see, in marriage we assume very important roles, that of husband, wife, mother, father, and provider. These are all incredibly critical to the survival and welfare of the family unit.
But even with these assumed roles, all of us are still individuals who deserve to enjoy life, set and accomplish goals, and fulfill our dreams.
Think about it… How many times have you heard of marriages or relationships failing because one person feels ‘stifled’ by the other, or are forced to put their goals or dreams “on the shelf” because of the roles they now play?
My point is this. Healthy individuals help produce healthy relationships; healthy relationships produce healthy marriages; and healthy marriages produce healthy families.
So if we truly want to have strong relationships, we need to become the best individuals we can be. Then we can fully appreciate and more clearly recognize other healthy individuals.
And even if we are already married or in a relationship we need to spend each day growing spiritually and engaging life in a way that makes us happy.
To put it another way, if we truly want to become one with our mate, both individuals have to feel happy and fulfilled. A wedding should not be the end of one’ s individual growth, rather, it should represent a new opportunity for growth within a committed and loving relationship where both participants are learning and maturing.
For as they say, when it comes to relationships, “We can grow together, or grow apart.”
Stephanie Robinson is President and CEO of The Jamestown Project, a national think tank focused on democracy. She is an author, a Lecturer on Law at the Harvard Law School and former Chief Counsel to the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy. Stephanie reaches 8 to 10 million listeners each week as political commentator for the popular radio venue, The Tom Joyner Morning Show. Visit her online at www.StephanieRobinsonSpeaks.com
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