Increasingly, the pitch for relationships and marriage among African-Americans, comes with disclaimers, warnings, and side-glances that suggests much hope of happy, healthy love relationships has gone. Statistics don’t lie. In 1950, the percentages of married white and African-American women were essentially the same, 67 percent and 64 percent, respectively. By 1998, both rates dropped — by 13 percent (to 58 percent) among white women and by a whopping 44 percent among Black women (to 36 percent). But while the statistics offer an accurate account, they obscure the total picture.
For instance, researchers Kelly Raley, Megan Sweeney and Danielle Wondra began reviewing common explanations for what they termed patterns of marital instability and patterns of marriage formation. Raley, Sweeney and, Wondra argued in “The Growing Racial and Ethnic Divide in U.S. Marriage Patterns”, (which appeared in the Fall 2015 issue of the journal Future Child), that the racial gap in marriage that emerged in the 1960s, and has grown since, is due partly to broad changes in ideas about family arrangements that have made marriage optional.
“As the imperative to marry has fallen, alongside other changes in the economy that have increased women’s economic contributions to the household, socioeconomic standing has become increasingly important for marriage. Race continues to be associated with economic disadvantage, and thus as economic factors have become more relevant to marriage and marital stability, the racial gap in marriage has grown,” the report concluded.
And while some relationship experts’ ire may increase with data from an informal poll of D.C.-area young people refuting the existence of love and romance when placed alongside the Future Child Black marriage statistics, the reality is far more hopeful.
“There is no magic formula for love, for successful relationships, or for a happy marriage. That is a Hollywoodized, popular culture version of reality. It’s like jumping headfirst down a trash chute and believing a soft and cozy relationship teems at the bottom of it,” relationship coach Robinson Stokes told The Informer. “Young people today know themselves better than their parents did at 15, 20 even 30. If anything, the problem may be that we have a few generations of people who are so content with their lives, that they selfishly refuse to share themselves or risk the vulnerability of a committed relationship.”
The Informer’s recent poll, taken at the John F. Kennedy Recreation Center in Northwest asked a random group of 40 African Americans (20 males, 20 females; all 40 and under) a series of questions about love, dating, sex, and marriage. Participate in survey online here. An overwhelming 80 percent, said that they believed in the institution of marriage, though only 23 percent believed they would ever marry. Quick responses to why they would not marry included: financial insecurity, feeling they were not ready for the level of commitment marriage required, and not wanting to be monogamous.
Stokes said that examples of healthy love relationships find few celebrations when hidden behind television programming about lying, cheating and divorcing partners. Still, with great examples like Sammy and Macie Waller of Lancaster, New York, who recently celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary; and John and Betty Mattocks, of Silver Spring, Md., who celebrated their 51st, the only ingredients needed to move from first glances to a sustained marriage, are the tenacity and courage to make it work.