Modern Marriage for Modern Times
If I had to choose between a traditional marriage or a modern marriage, the choice would be simple. Modern would be the obvious option. As an African American living in today's society, traditional marriage doesn't seem to be quite practical. Kevin Weston, editor of the Youth Outlook Magazine argues: "We African Americans have to remind ourselves of the legacy of our sojourn in North America. When have African male/female relationships been "normal" here? Does the "traditional" marriage model work for us -- has it ever worked for us?” (Weston 2001).
Terry Martin Hekker, in her essay “Paradise Lost (Domestic Division) gives a glimpse to how she defines “traditional marriage” – she writes: “It becomes evident that where traditional marriage through the centuries has been a partnership based on mutual dependency, modern marriage demands greater self-sufficiency.” (Hekker 2006).
Traditional marriage doesn't take into account two factors: The social climate and attitude among African Americans has changed dramatically about marriage over the last forty years. Lastly, the income gulf between the average African American and Caucasian person is to vast to try and compete with a traditional marriage lifestyle.
It would be naive to say that economics didn't play a major role in marriage. According to a press release from the U.S. Census Bureau in August 2004, the real median income for non-Hispanic white household was $48,000 compared to the $30,000 blacks earned. (U.S. Census Bureau). Respectively, using the MSN Money Central calculator, the average cost per year to raise a child computed to $13,661 on a two-family income averaging $65,000 per year. Forty years ago it was possible to raise a family on one income as the cost of health care, child care, food, and clothing weren't that expensive as they are today. The job market isn't the same either. Higher paying jobs today require a higher education and specific skill sets. It was easier for a husband in the sixties to hold down two factory jobs in the industrial age to support his family because the job requirements weren’t that high for employment.
I recently spoke to one of my female friends about her two failed marriages. I wanted to have a personally account to validate my theories. "When you had your son, did you stay at home to raise him?" I politely asked. "No, I've always been a working woman." she responded. "Was that by choice?" I asked. "I had to work. My husband at the time didn't earn enough for me to stay home." she replied.
The social climate has changed radically since the sixties just like our taste in music. Right behind the Civil Rights movement in 1960’s was the Women's liberal movement. Women all across the nation unified together for equality and independence. They traded in their homemaker occupations for corporate careers and pursued higher education. As a result, black women embraced this American culture movement and gained an independence and identity of their own. No longer would the African American women be dependent on their husbands financially. Joy Jones, a Washington freelance writer, wrote an article for the Washington Post entitled, "Marriage is for White People" she concludes: "Today, people have become economically self-sufficient as individuals, no longer requiring a spouse for survival." (Jones 2006). For a black woman to be traditional she’d have to give up her independence that her sisterhood so rightfully fought for and be dependent on the black man once again. My divorced friend commented on the idea quite frankly, "It would be hard to go back to the old way."
The times have changed and so has our culture. It only seems logical to swim with current rather than against it. This could be the reason that we are seeing the fabric of our community being torn apart and acquiring the shameful title: " … the most unpartnered people in America." (Stone 2005).
Having a modern marriage in modern times is stacking the odds in my favor. I'm likely to have a two family household than risk adding to the rising divorce rate. Sacrificing to keep two incomes will ensure that my family has financial stability, my offspring has a college education and my family stays together until death due us part.