First of all, let’s agree on the facts. On the whole, unmarried black women with children are tremendously economically disadvantaged. That’s irrefutable. Black children growing up in fatherless households are similarly troubled. Drug use, education, crime, it’s worse for these kids. These are just statistical facts. With sample sizes in the millions and standard deviations small in comparison to the differences between groups, only the math-challenged would argue otherwise.
Joy, however, writes a column almost completely untroubled by facts. With analysis of the quality shown in her article, she might just as well claim that unmarried black women rise from the sea at dawn, tentacles waving in the air, to menace Tokyo.
Joy’s article describes the results of interviews with unmarried black women who claim that being married is worse. In this, Joy demonstrates a complete lack of basic analytical skills. Allow me to explain.
Statistics describe trends. Interviews describe mechanisms. It is possible to be struck by lightning. We can interview the people who were hit and discover how the event occurred. However, it is not true to say that it is more common to die from a lightning strike than a heart attack.
Even if you interview four people who were hit by lightning, it is still less common than a heart attack. What Joy has done is common in journalism. Perhaps reporters are frightened by equations and hope that by ignoring them, they’ll just go away. Alas, they do not. Journalists typically substitute interviews for analysis. They carefully choose their interviews to leave you with a certain impression.
In Joy’s case, she wants us all to believe that the apple that hit Sir Isaac Newton was an anomaly, the one that managed to fall down rather than join it’s brethren that were hurling themselves at the sun. Of course, dear. How nice. Why don’t you have a cool drink and lie down for a while? You’ll feel ever so much better.
While Joy takes a much-needed rest, let’s examine her essay in detail.
She was raised in an intact family and wanted one of her own. She never married.
For years, I wondered why not. And then some 12-year-olds enlightened me.Despite their earnestness, 12 year olds have very little to teach us about marriage.
"Marriage is for white people."
After demonstrating that she has some grasp of real numbers and statistics, she panics and runs away from them, falling into the comforting arms of the interview. Startled by the fact that antebellum blacks were more likely to be married than 21st century blacks, she confuses cause and effect.
It's hard to know "what normal looks like" when it comes to courtship, marriage and parenthood. Sex, love and childbearing have become a la carte choices rather than a package deal that comes with marriage. Moreover, in an era of brothers on the "down low," the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and the decline of the stable blue-collar jobs that black men used to hold, linking one's fate to a man makes marriage a risky business for a black woman.This is totally at odds with statistics. Married black women have more than double the household income of unmarried ones and unless the single ones have become unstuck in time like Laurence Simon was this weekend, they have more to do and less time to do it in. When less time and less money equals more freedom, you know you have left Earth far behind.
"A woman who takes that step is bold and brave," one young single mother told me. "Women don't want to marry because they don't want to lose their freedom."
Others have convincingly argued that the brothers are on the down low because they have no responsibilities other than taking care of themselves. Husbands joke about doing what they’re supposed to because the wife will get mad if they don’t, but there’s a basic truth behind it. Women civilize men. If you’re men aren’t civilized, look in the mirror. You’re only worth as much as you cost. You haven’t demanded civilized behavior.
If they were good husbands when they were starving and being whipped and they’re bad ones now, then the trouble must be you. That is, external forces were far worse before, so external forces cannot be responsible for increased failure now. She goes on.
My observation is that black women in their twenties and early thirties want to marry and commit at a time when black men their age are more likely to enjoy playing the field.And that field consists of what? The field is you and your friends. When your culture lionizes pimps, don’t be surprised that you’ve got a lot of pimps on your hands. Pimps are of limited social value. Only a total idiot would mistake a pimp for a good husband. Who made them pimps? What other profession is required for a pimp to operate?
Perhaps Joy really is unstuck in time. Dig this:
In the past, marriage was primarily just such a business deal. Among wealthy families, it solidified political alliances or expanded land holdings. For poorer people, it was a means of managing the farm or operating a household.In what past? The 1700s? Do any of you know anyone who arranged political marriages for their children?
She finally gets to the real heart of the article. The article is all about her peers: educated, successful, career-minded black women.
Most single black women over the age of 30 whom I know would not mind getting married, but acknowledge … they are not desperate enough to simply accept any situation just to have a man.Joy’s article simply dissolves at this point. She uses group statistics and then argues from the point of view of a subgroup that is completely anomalous in her overall statistics. She’s examining mortality causes at a lightning victims’ convention.
Near the end, she finally talks to a man who can tell her what it’s like to pick up the pieces left by the destruction of marriage.
He has worked with troubled adolescents, and has observed that "the girls who are in the most trouble and who are abused the most -- the father is absent. And the same is true for the boys, too."For Joy and her friends, society is everyone else. She hears this and clucks her tongue at the sadness of it all and then looks out for number one while wrapping up her dreadful statistical analysis and a rationale for marriage from the Renaissance.
Her conclusion? All the single guys she knows suck.
…if marriage is to flourish…it will have to offer an individual woman something more than a business alliance…As one woman said, "If it weren't for the intangibles, the allure of the lovey-dovey stuff, I wouldn't have gotten married. The benefits of marriage are his character and his caring."