Detroit community and church leaders hardly raised an eyebrow following published reports citing national health statistics revealing that 72 percent of black babies are born to un-married women. Here, the out-of-wedlock birth rate is upwards of 80 percent. By comparison, the unwed birthrate for white women is around 32 percent, but no less a demographic omen for a social catastrophe.
In the 1950s, the “married with children” model was considered the American norm. For decades, wedlock was the glue that held black communities together. Even into the early 1960s, the percentage of married black families exceeded that of white families.
What seemed normal then, however, is an aberration today. Even the casual observer of contemporary Detroit would be hard pressed to find much evidence that an “intact” black family ever existed.
Beginning in the 1960s, the popular culture pretty much sanctioned a woman’s right to bear children outside marriage. About the same time, family structures unraveled when the husband had to be out of the house in order for women with children to receive welfare benefits. Men also became expendable when it came to rearing children with the advent of the “feminist movement.”
While these approaches to parenting may be socially acceptable to a growing number of women, it can’t be good for all children or all families, especially if they are black.
Women who opt for the experience and joys of motherhood without the benefit of marriage, for example, have a poverty rate more than six times that of married-couples, and are many times more likely to stay poor longer.
Youngsters raised in these homes are many times more likely to have emotional and behavioral problems, drop out of school, abuse drugs, get in trouble with the law and end up in jail and/or a premature death.
Handicapped from birth, aggressive, rebellious and abusive boys inherit by default an unmet hunger for a father. Lacking identity, they are notoriously prone to being hyper-masculine, destructive and indoctrinated with seriously flawed codes of manhood.
The odds are great that they too will become a dad and assume a remote relationship with the children they sire before fully understanding the consequences. With no sense of sexual responsibility or psychological preparation for parenthood, both boys and girls unwittingly engage in a ritualistic cycle that breeds despair.
Not all children raised in this environment are subjected to such grave outcomes. Not all single moms fail in their parental responsibility. However, the difficulties many father-deprived youngsters face often last a lifetime, which means they may be less successful as adults when it comes to love, intimacy and a stable marriage.
Marriage is not a perfect social institution. However, traditional married couples offer children greater security and stability with the promise of better outcomes than the less desirable alternative. Research shows that after tying the knot, men are less likely to engage in crime, they work harder and are more family-oriented. The positive qualities that a husband displays in his rapport with the wife set the stage for an enriching family life for sons and daughters.
There appears to be no consensus to revive the stigma against unmarried births. Trying to modify the behavior of the growing number of black moms and dads, who for various reasons, choose not to commit to the marriage premium, is a time-consuming process. That makes it all the more difficult to find much civility in any city that is mostly made up single mothers and absent fathers. Detroit is no exception.
There are a fortunate few who still value marriage and stable communities. They should be concerned, however, that the moral leadership has all but turned a blind eye to young black men and women destroying their futures, and the future of the city, beyond redemption.