We never kicked it all. We never pitched or kicked at a ball. Dog, you never taught me sh*t. How to fight, ride a bike, fix a flat, none of that sort of sh*t. Beanie Sigel, Where Have You Been?
No Wedding, No Womb encouraging couples to “abstain from having children until they are emotionally, physically and financially able to care for them.” Approximately 100 African Americans, from across the political and religious spectrum, posted blog articles encouraging marriage, self respect and responsible fatherhood. Some of my favorite bloggers such as Black Snob and Mocha Dad participated in the campaign. It was great to seeing African American bloggers unite to discuss this important issue. Hopefully, instead of simply writing about problems, the black blogosphere will unite again and actually mobilize and organize the community to remedy other challenges such as inner city violence, inferior education, unemployment, war and police brutality.
In her article on the Root entitled The (Poor) State of Black Families, Bobbi Bowman cites some sobering statistics to remind us of the urgency of this situation:
"Nearly 10 million black families lived in the United States in 2007. Twenty-one percent of these families were married couples with children. This is the lowest for all racial groups. The U.S. average is 32.4 percent. But nearly one-third of these families were single mothers with children under 18. The U.S. average is 12.1 percent."
"No surprise then that slightly more than half of black kids live with only one parent and that's overwhelmingly with their mother. A home headed by a single mom often equals an economically poor home. Black married-couple families have a median income of more than $65,000 a year, the lowest for all races. But the median income for a black family headed by a woman is about $26,000 a year. The poverty threshold for a family of four is $22,000 a year. Nearly half of young black children living with their mom are poor."
In his 2008 Father’s Day speech at the Apostolic Church of God on Chicago's South Side, then U.S. Senator Barack Obama summarized the problem:
"But if we are honest with ourselves, we'll admit that what too many fathers also are is missing - missing from too many lives and too many homes. They have abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men. And the foundations of our families are weaker because of it."
"You and I know how true this is in the African-American community. We know that more than half of all black children live in single-parent households, a number that has doubled - doubled - since we were children. We know the statistics - that children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime; nine times more likely to drop out of schools and twenty times more likely to end up in prison. They are more likely to have behavioral problems, or run away from home, or become teenage parents themselves. And the foundations of our community are weaker because of it."
Here are a few concrete steps that we can take to address this epidemic. We must improve the quality of inner city schools. Without a quality education, it is virtually impossible to get a quality job. We must address the problem of chronic, disproportionately high African American unemployment. As result of high unemployment and the lack of education, many African American men are unable to support their spouses and children. We can write countless articles, give beautiful speeches and develop catchy slogans until the end of time. However, without addressing the fundamental issues of education and unemployment, the vicious cycle of single parent households and poverty will continue.
Although I have no objections to programs which encourage abstinence until marriage, we must face reality. In this society, we are constantly bombarded with sexual imagery in music, commercials, television programs and movies. In such a hyper-sexual environment, abstinence is rare. To confront the problems of teenage pregnancy and HIV/AIDS, we must expand our sex education programs and advocate for free distribution of condoms in high schools and universities.
Additionally, more African American men and women should participate mentoring programs such as Big Brother Big Sisters. We should donate money to programs such as the President’s fathering program and the D.C. Fathering Court program. Community activists should replicate such programs all over the country. Those programs provide employment opportunities for fathers and enable them to fulfill their child support obligations. Equally as important, those programs help fathers establish and maintain stronger relationships with their children.
Ultimately, we need a social revolution. Unfortunately, for many young black men, marriage is frowned upon. As reflected in today’s mainstream rap music, the pimp and player are glorified. Black male promiscuity is celebrated and the sisters are reduced to sex objects. That mentality promotes selfish individualism and perpetuates the destruction of the black family. To combat this problem, the community must do a better job teaching our young men and women to have self-respect. We must encourage our young people to value traditional marriage.
As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions.