Black men’s marriages

An in-depth look at how some Black men see their marriages.

Research on marriage trends, and the reasons behind them, tends to focus on the decline in marriage — especially among African Americans. That’s not crazy, given the dramatic nature of those trends:

Source: My chart from U.S. Census Bureau data.

Now the working paper series from Bowling Green State University’s National Center for Family and Marriage Research features a new paper that examines interviews with about 50 married Black men in Atlanta: how they see the role and meaning of marriage in their lives, how their views have changed, and how they think cultural views have changed around them.

The author, Tera Hurt, who works at the University of Georgia on a project called Promoting Strong Families, describes four (positive) themes in the views of her respondents:

  • Lifelong commitment: “Without my wife, I really don’t know how to live without my wife. She has been there my whole life.”
  • Enhanced life success: “I strongly believe that my wife is the key to my success. She keeps me grounded.”
  • Secure emotional support: “Friendship, meaning my wife is a person who I can sit down and talk with and would come to me and talk about things and we know it’s between us.”
  • Secure attachment: “[I]t means that you won’t be lonely when you get old for one thing, and you can live in the joy and the comfort of knowing that when you get old or dreaming that when you get old, you’re going to have a friend.”

The focus on Black women‘s marriage travails are “becoming grating,” says Ta-Nehisi Coates in Essence,

not because Black women don’t have their share of struggle, but because of the lack of agency that runs through them all, this sense that Black women are there to be acted upon, to wait by the phone. There’s almost an objectifying quality to the whole discussion.

The same could be said for the men’s side of the discussion. But this is a helpful study for keeping the trends in perspective.

Aside: Amazingly, but utterly normally, an in-depth paper on the benefits of marriage doesn’t mention the role of state recognition. Maybe (probably?) none of the men mentioned that aspect of marriage in their interviews. Does that mean it’s not important? It is quite central in the homogamy debate. So that’s just the way normative statuses are (even when marriage has become much less common among African Americans).

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