Carol Platt Liebau: A "White" Institution?

Sunday, March 26, 2006

A "White" Institution?

Read this excellent piece in The Washington Post by Joy Jones.

She recounts her shock when some of her (African-American) students told her that "marriage is for white people," and notes with amazement that, according to sociologist Andrew J. Cherlin, "a black child was more likely to grow up living with both parents during slavery days than he or she is today." (emphasis added).

Ms. Jones writes eloquently about the social forces and realities that impact many African-American men and women's decision not to marry -- and it's hard not to empathize with some of them.

But the bottom line is this: It seems that too many Americans -- of all races -- are looking too much at what they want (what "works" for them) and not enough at what's right for the children they may be deciding to produce. As Ms. Jones notes:

[A black male acquaintance]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." He believes that his presence and example in the home is why both his sons decided to marry when their girlfriends became pregnant.

Here's the question: Are children better off in any way since premarital -- or nonmarital -- sex became the norm? Doesn't sound like it. And so wouldn't it be worth it, from a social perspective, to try to start re-establishing some of the older mores? And wouldn't it make sense, from a prospective parent's view, to do everything s/he could to give his/her child the best start in life: That is, a family with a mother and father who have made an explicit religious and legal commitment to each other through marriage?


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