~ The Fragility of the African-American Family
Circumstances of the particular arrival of the African-Americans to the United States, and inefficient plans of actions toward their instauration and support to establish them in society motions have projected unfavorable socioeconomic conditions and racial stereotypes that overstressed male-female relationships throughout today.
The initial factor that sabotaged African-American marriages was the significance of slavery. As African-American were seen as belonging to an inferior race who had no legal rights as a person and were constitutionally declared as ‘no fully human’ they were violently separated from their families. While emotional bonds were diminished, females were sexually exploited. Males were regarded as oversexed, promiscuous, considered incapable of marital commitment, were denied the fatherhood rights of their offspring and treated as invisible, their names were not listed on birth records but only the slave’s mother name and the owner were recorded on born children.
The legacy of slavery, Post-War instability, northward migration and inappropriate programs to establish African-American in the society, left marriages vulnerable to continued assaults on the stability of their families.
In the wider society and at every class level, restrictions of economic opportunities and the discrediting of African-American identities have generated social inequality affecting employment, housing, health and education; blacks tend to have less prestige, power and wealth, greater difficulty gaining acceptance, often viewed as dangerous, aggressive or subordinate, more likely to be ignored and given lower quality services than whites.
Currently, while African-American value marriage, they marry less. When they do marry, they separate or divorce, and are less inclined to re-marry. According to a study of Elaine Pinderhughes about African American Marriage in the 20st Century, responsible factors increasing the fragility of African-American marriages derived from their legacies and societal role, other than the socioeconomic aspect that make men unattractive for marriage are associated with the male/female unequal sex ratio. A smaller number of marriageable men than women derived from higher death rates from disease, poor healthcare, high rates of drug and alcohol abuse, gang activity, violent crime and consequent imprisonment and psychiatric hospitals residencies (28.8% are black males) reduce significantly the suitable men spectrum. Subsequently, half of African-American children live in one-parent families and these children constituted half of all awaiting for adoption.
Orlando Patterson's Rituals of Blood: Consequences of Slavery in two American Centuries comments that the most devastating impact of the ‘holocaust of slavery’ was ‘the ethnocide assault on gender roles, especially those of father and husband, leaving deep scars in the relations between Afro-American men and women’ (1998, p.25)
Today, African-American suffer disproportionately and have higher morbidity from stress diseases and higher rates of cancer and HIV-AIDS. Byrd and Clayton's An American Health Dilemma: A Medical History of African-Americans and the problem of Race (2001) claim that since they arrived as slaves, ‘they have had the worst health care, the worst health status, and the worst health outcome of any racial or ethnic group in the United States’ (p. 33)
The actual increased nurturance of African-American men transmitted by mothers throughout generation should not need to be more subtle to that offered to white men in order to compensate for the psychological risks which males are exposed, since this cultural attitude sets up distorted expectations, affecting them in ways that later contribute to problems in marital intimacy. In order to pare social maleness, they should be raised with equal treats.
Another important factor weakening marriages is the existing stronger ties between blood and kin than the bond of family.
The decline in marriage is also affected by the increased income of African-American women and the higher like-hood of receiving professional degrees than black males. This historical tendency of southern families to educate female child was to keep her out of domestic service and sexual exploitation.
While most black women prefer being married and some marry down in socioeconomic class, high-income and highly educated females fear loosing what they achieved to a less successful male partner. Women are most likely to remain single or never marry because they emphasize achievement, independence, and self-reliance. Although, the need for a father for the children and financial considerations tend to outweigh romantic love as the primary reason for remarrying, African-American women (which have the higher rates of mother-only families through the States) are less likely to remarry for economic reasons, since wives of this subculture earn about the 90 percent of the income earned by their husbands, according to Betty Yorburg's Family Realities.
National programs should be established to support African American people’s pair-bonding choices, reinforcing economic equities and help to lower the high male mortality and undesirably, making these prime targets for policy changes. Considering the devastating impact of the ethnocide assault on gender roles done throughout generations especially those of father and husband, since family nucleus has been broken and manhood stereotype degraded, plans of action should focus particularly on the African-American male function. Strong ties should be enhanced inside the family nucleus between spouses or lovers, rather than between blood and adopted kin in order to lower the rates of marital instability and divorce.
The legacy of slavery and the subsequent treatment that has destroyed African American cultural practices placing them in a disoriented and destructive situation falling into undesirable social patterns, project an absence of guidelines for marital behavior. Promoting programs towards the African-American culture should be founded to conform positive patriarchal traditions enhancing inspirational roots, roles, models and ideals. The significance of studying the African-American culture is to place an in-risk-of-disappearing community from the social 21st Century landscape in the societal spectrum; sociopolitical improvements must be done in order to avoid that their relative invisibility became a physical reality.