by Janks Morton
Since I have been involved in collecting data and researching statistics about the African American community, I can recall three specific times when I have been put on my knees, heartbroken, and crying out to heaven. The first was in 2006 when I was made aware that the out-of-wedlock birthrate for African-Americans was 69.7% (US Census-American Community Survey 2005), The second instance occurred in 2009 when I found that 82.3% of African-American children born since 1990, will l guaranteed to live in a home without their biological father before graduating High School (A Demographic of Analysis of the Family Structure Experiences in the United States: The Institute for the study of Labor, August 2007) The Third occasion happened on March 17th this year when it was shown to me that 97% of Americans have engaged in premarital sex (sex outside of marriage) (Sexual Behavior, Sexual Attraction, and Sexual Identity in the United States: Data from the 2006-2008 National Survey of Family Growth: US DHHS, March 2011). I fell to my knees again yesterday when I received a press release stating that 1 in 5 American women with multiple children had multiple fathers of those children.
My scream-out-loud moment came when I saw that a staggering 59% of African American women with multiple children had multiple fathers (National Longitudinal Survey of Youth: University of Michigan Institute for Social Research. Date of publication unavailable). My immediate thoughts were, can we go any lower? have we hit rock bottom? are we there yet?
After reading this most recent piece of sociological devastation, I began checking sampling methods, looking over the research protocols, and from a superficial glance the data seemed solid. (Nearly 4,000 U.S. women who had been interviewed more than 20 times over a 27-year period-MSNBC.) What gave me pause was the actual headline by the Grio and the immediacy and urgent response to the investigation released less than 24 hours prior. The Headline you may ask?
Nice colloquial spin and an instant shift of the focal point of the conclusions of the study. The sources cited in the Grio article were, the National Council of Negro Women; a source who in turn references Sara Baartman and the castigation of black femininity throughout history. The author’s second source, an Internet blogger states “One married mom and dad is not the magic potion that makes families work. There are millions of successful, healthy, blended and non-traditional families.” At this juncture I am hoping you can start to see the direction this debacle took during the course of a Saturday afternoon.
Next, Facebook ran into an all out frenzy, with most commentary falling into denial, dismissal or deflation modal. Here is sampling of a few of the comments I found disturbing, and reminded me mostly of my twelve-year old daughter when she gets caught and knows she’s in trouble;
- “The difference I see in this situation is that White girls get pregnant just as much with out of wedlock births, but they get married before the baby is born”
- “Plus they (White girls) have the insurance or $$ to get private abortions so there is no record of how many they’ve had anywhere therefore few statistics which reflect those numbers.”
- “It’s ONE study. Done by who, and for what purpose? “... White girls have multiple baby daddies too”
- “This is why I am sick of this country. No offense to Americans. They love to molest statistics to pick on some group”
- “statistics reside in a vacuum, a specific point in time and space. They can be manipulated and viewed however one would like.”
- “The stats on Hispanic women may actually be worse”
- “Any good study would take into account co-factors like divorce, median income, education level, religion/faith.”
- “How many men have kids with multiple mothers? Where is that statistic?”
- “Numbers Lie”
While I do not like generalization, I am absolutely comfortable in categorizing the commentators’ remarks as hypocritical, bi-polar, misinformed or disingenuous. How can I feel comfortable in advancing this whittled down summation”... Easily. About one year ago, former stand-up comedian turned relationship guru Steve Harvey, launched a national crusade to address the fact that 42% of African American women had never been married. Fully supported by ABC News, Tyra Banks, Essence Magazine and The grandmother-of-them-all Oprah, Mr. Harvey shared his personal insights into the mind of men in order to help African American Women (AAW) make better decisions around negotiating (or manipulating) the male psyche. He managed to sell a few copies of his book, and there was no questioning, petitioning or protesting of what I believed a very disparaging statistic (42% of AAW never married). Quite possibly because the causality of African American Woman’s plight was laid squarely upon the unemployed, incarcerated, under-educated and unavailable African American Male. So in the eyes of this particular victim, this was a statistic that required a national debate”...and did. The most peculiar thing about the entire debacle was not once did I ever hear anyone mention through this national crisis, this one statistic from the same data set (American Community Survey: US Census Department-2007) 44% of African American Males have never been married either. Which takes the conversation into a more difficult area of why are African Americans so uncoupled? But that won’t get you on Oprah.
I should qualify my commentary that follows with this preface: At present I am multi-tasking, I am editing a Book trailer video for the upcoming novel “Black Woman Redefined: Dispelling Myths and Discovering Fulfillment in the Age of Michelle Obama by Sophia A. Nelson” a powerful look at the denigration of AAW’s identity and an attempt at reconstructing the image of the modern era Black Woman. Secondly the US Census Data is coming in daily and a staggering headline that I haven’t seen the Grio or any other outlets pickup is AAW have the highest college enrollment rate (based on gender) of any ethnicity, and overall second only to Asian Males. Also a precursory look at the economic data for AAW is impressive as well, and I’m sure detailed examination of the data for both AAW and AAM will further expose the strides made by this group. This leads me to my observations and analysis of the state of Black America and a conversation I had with my pastor last week. Unfortunately there are several pathways by which you can measure achievement through the staggering amounts of information, but stated simply data and statistics can be narrowed down to these; individual versus group outcomes and societal constructs of success versus relationship constructs. Simply, our culture tells you that if you have, an education, a career, a home, freedom to choose, whatever you want, whenever you want it, you are achieving the American dream. In the parameters of my faith, it really narrows down to your ability to established significant, complex selfless relationships with others for the uplift and elevation of family, neighborhoods, community and country. So herein lies my quandary, worldly the African American community is achieving, transforming and navigating into spaces that the generations prior could not have imagined, Consequently, socially we are on a perilous journey of self-indulgence that is leaving a generation with very little skills to connect on any significant level with one another.
The evidence is clear, despite the denial, dismissal, deflation and decrying that has come from African American Men and Women around this study and social data already a repressed from communal discourse. WE, have a problem, that WE have not been willing to address either publicly or privately. And if WE continue on this path of self-gratification, self-delusion, self-deification, hubris and hedonistic mantra, talk shows will have much more fodder around the plight of Black relationships for years to come. Today, the summation of a generation of “me” bears out in the statistics. African Americans have;
- The Highest Divorce rates (selfish)
- The Highest Single rates (selfish)
- The Lowest Marriage rates (selfish)
- The Highest Out-of-Wedlock birthrates (selfish)
- The Highest multiple parentage multiple children Rates (selfish)
I do not wish my assessments to be ascribed as a “Black Thing” or a problem isolated to the Black Community. This ideologue of “self” has been pervasive in Western Culture for at least the past forty years. Just in this analysis the sage adage of “when America catches a cold, Black America catches pneumonia” is most applicable.
Sometimes my faith in a people and naivetÃ© leads me to look for data that exudes the best in the 21st century African Americans, but unfortunately, in the complex social inter-connected dynamic that has it’s basis in family, the evidence compounds itself over and over and over. Evidence summarily demonstrating that since 1968, our nation has ascribed to a familial destructive postulate, and now would like to distance ourselves from the debilitating consequences of our choices, and the abominable social plight we have bestowed on our legacy.
What saddens me most is that as I speak to thousands of young people around the country, they are starting to look at us (the Baby Boomers) with one simple question. When will you own up to your responsibilities? Will you ever admit that your actions have never been a part of the African American, or American history? When will you act contrite for making the same social mistake that has led to the collapse of multiple nations throughout history?
Fortunately, and as quiet as it is kept, a community redeeming truth is slowly permeating this next generation of African Americans and giving them a reconciled understanding of the African American family experience in this country. A perspective that is liberating them from the misinformation, misdirection and misleading ways of my generation. This generation has Googled and discovered the fact that the majority of African American children were raised in two-parent homes until the Civil Rights Act of 1964. And that despite chattel slavery, Bull Conner, Jim Crow, water-hosing dog-sicking egregious human violations endorsed by a majority white society, Black children could always count on one thing “... A Mother and A Father to be present and in the home. This next generation is beginning to hold true to the promise of our heritage by desperately trying to find meaningful connections in their inter-personal relationships; despite being handicapped by the selfish insanity that is my generation”...the Baby Boomers.
A Black Man who contributed his fair share to the aforementioned statistics, and asks forgiveness from the next generation everywhere, always.
JANKS MORTON is a groundbreaking international and award winning Documentarian. As founder of iYAGO ENTERTAINMENT GROUP, LLC, he states “the company came into existence to reflect both the conscious and unconscious soul of Black America. JANKS MORTON has been in the entertainment industry for more than 20 years and is a much sought-after teacher, lecturer, commentator and motivational speaker. He has convened workshops, seminars and served as panelist and keynote speaker at colleges, universities, prisons, conferences, churches and community centers around the world.