If finding a soul mate or even a spouse for that matter seems hard for black women, staying married is becoming mission impossible. According to numerous studies, African Americans are less likely to marry and more likely to divorce than any other segment of the American population. In 2010, Dr. Linda Young reported that 70% of black women in the United States were unmarried. Her data included women divorced, widowed or never married. Many of these woman fall into the category of SWANS®, a term coined by Christine Whelan referring to Strong Woman Achievers [with] No Spouse. Dr. Young also reported that “nearly twice the percentage of black women (44.5%) as white women (24%) and Asian women (23%) have never been married. They also significantly outnumber never-married Latinas (32%).” Some researchers suggest that 70% of first marriages for African American women will end in divorce as compared to 47% for white women.
Dr. Andrew J. Cherlin, professor of sociology at Johns Hopkins University, suggests one of the reasons for the high divorce rate among African Americans lies in a hidden pressure within black American culture to remain more closely aligned with “grandmothers, aunts and other family members” more so than with spouses. A pressure, Dr. Cherlin suggests, does not exist for white Americans. Because family bonds are cemented together by struggle for most black Americans, it is taboo for black couples to speak ill of the in-laws. Even when the in-laws commit an infraction against a spouse new to the family, black couples rarely receive wide-spread family support in circling the wagons around each other. Instead, families so used to adopting an us against them mentality, drawing lines in the sand between blood relatives and everyone else on the planet, quickly turn on any newcomer sluggish to accept the status quo of their family dynamic. The demands for allegiance to the family of origin places great stress upon African American couples, particularly newly-wed couples who need emotional support from family the most. Black families are slow to accept the changes to familial relationships that necessarily come along with the normal maturation process, particularly with regard to the female members of the family. Some black women receive the worst possible advice they could ever receive about love, sex and marriage from the other black women in their families. High divorce rates coupled with the despair associated with finding a good black man cause some black women to provide a negative depiction of the prospects for living happily ever after. “If it happened to me, it will happen to you” guides the counsel of the day far more often than, “Your situation seems different to me. I think you two can make it!” Due to the somewhat unique pressures facing black women, it takes more strength to follow their own hearts along with their husbands than to maintain strict allegiance to family and friends. In fact, any woman would do very well to avoid marrying any man she deems lacking in true leadership capabilities.
Ironically, black women who announce their marriage engagement usually find no shortage in supporters and well-wishers; unfortunately, the same family members and friends who so fervently helped these blushing brides get down the aisle most often become the first to cast doubt on the marriage. In the same manner that real friends do not let friends drive drunk, true friends do not enable friends to ruin a marriage. Unless a loved one is in imminent danger from their spouse, family and friends should offer unwavering support to married couples. This starts by embracing new spouses as full-fledged family members. Black families that readily accept new spouses into the family circle will alleviate undue pressure on the married couple and likely aid them in building a successful union. It is hard enough for Americans of any race to stay married. Family and friends should be the least corrosive element to any marriage. God’s remedy: “For this reason, a man shall leave his father and his mother and shall cleave unto his wife, and they shall become one flesh, and the man and his wife were both naked, and they were not ashamed.”
Black women possess a transcendent quality that can neither be easily put into words nor expressed without having had the experience of being loved by one. Most African American women can be likened to the rose spouting up from a crack in the concrete, a beautiful and rare flower blooming in spite of great adversity. The benefits of having a black queen cannot be quantified. Michelle Obama, for example, aided her husband ascend to the presidency of the United States of America, for before Mrs. Obama featured prominently in the 2008 Presidential Election, many commentators had the unmitigated gall to question whether Barack H. Obama was black enough win over black voters. Not only did Mrs. Obama’s authenticity resolve that issue, she also quickly won over far more than black voters through her uncommon poise and grace. King Solomon teaches that “he, who finds a wife, finds a treasure and receives favor from the Lord.” Finding the woman of your dreams and earning her affection is nothing less than a spiritual experience!
(An excerpt from “On the Respect of Womanhood”, We Struggle Not Against Flesh & Blood: Thoughts & Reflections on Being Black in America, Vol. 1. Copyright © 2012. Amir Clayton Powell. All Rights Reserved. Download the full eBook or order the paperback.)
Amir Clayton Powell is an advocate, author, entrepreneur, father, husband, servant of God, and warrior. By the by, he also happens to be the Publisher of The Old School Journal™ (TOSJ) as well as the Founder & Chairman of A C Powell & Co. LLC. Find A C on Twitter: @AClaytonPowell. Follow TOSJ on Facebook & Twitter. Find books and other essays written by Amir Clayton Powell by following this link.
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