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Archive for Sunday, November 7, 2010

Blacks struggle with 72% unwed mothers rate

November 7, 2010

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Christelyn Karazin holds her 15-month-old daughter, Emma, while her husband, Mike, sits with son Zachary, 5, daughter, Chloe, 7, and Kayla Higgins, 12, Christelyn’s daughter, at their home Oct. 30 in Temecula, Calif. Karazin had her first child with her boyfriend while she was in college; they never married. In September, Karazin marshaled 100 other writers and activists for the online movement No Wedding No Womb, which she calls “a very simplified reduction of a very complicated issue.”

Christelyn Karazin holds her 15-month-old daughter, Emma, while her husband, Mike, sits with son Zachary, 5, daughter, Chloe, 7, and Kayla Higgins, 12, Christelyn’s daughter, at their home Oct. 30 in Temecula, Calif. Karazin had her first child with her boyfriend while she was in college; they never married. In September, Karazin marshaled 100 other writers and activists for the online movement No Wedding No Womb, which she calls “a very simplified reduction of a very complicated issue.”

— One recent day at Dr. Natalie Carroll’s OB-GYN practice, located inside a low-income apartment complex tucked between a gas station and a freeway, 12 pregnant black women come for consultations. Some bring their children or their mothers. Only one brings a husband.

Things move slowly here. Women sit shoulder-to-shoulder in the narrow waiting room, sometimes for more than an hour. Carroll does not rush her mothers in and out. She wants her babies born as healthy as possible, so Carroll spends time talking to the mothers about how they should care for themselves, what she expects them to do — and why they need to get married.

Seventy-two percent of black babies are born to unmarried mothers today, according to government statistics.

This number is inseparable from the work of Carroll, an obstetrician who has dedicated her 40-year career to helping black women.

“The girls don’t think they have to get married. I tell them children deserve a mama and a daddy. They really do,” Carroll says from behind the desk of her office, which has cushioned pink-and-green armchairs, bars on the windows, and a wooden “LOVE” carving between two African figurines. Diamonds circle Carroll’s ring finger.

As the issue of black unwed parenthood inches into public discourse, Carroll is among the few speaking boldly about it. And as a black woman who has brought thousands of babies into the world, who has sacrificed income to serve Houston’s poor, Carroll is among the few whom black women will actually listen to.

“A mama can’t give it all. And neither can a daddy, not by themselves,” Carroll says. “Part of the reason is because you can only give that which you have. A mother cannot give all that a man can give. A truly involved father figure offers more fullness to a child’s life.”

Statistics show just what that fullness means. Children of unmarried mothers of any race are more likely to perform poorly in school, go to prison, use drugs, be poor as adults, and have their own children out of wedlock.

The black community’s 72 percent rate eclipses that of most other groups: 17 percent of Asians, 29 percent of whites, 53 percent of Hispanics and 66 percent of Native Americans were born to unwed mothers in 2008, the most recent year for which government figures are available. The rate for the overall U.S. population was 41 percent.

• • •

This issue entered the public consciousness in 1965, when a now-famous government report by future senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan described a “tangle of pathology” among blacks that fed a 24 percent black “illegitimacy” rate. The white rate then was 4 percent.

Many accused Moynihan, who was white, of “blaming the victim:” of saying that black behavior, not racism, was the main cause of black problems. That dynamic persists. Most talk about the 72 percent has come from conservative circles; when influential blacks like Bill Cosby have spoken out about it, they have been all but shouted down by liberals saying that a lack of equal education and opportunity are the true root of the problem.

Even in black churches, “nobody talks about it,” Carroll says. “It’s like some big secret.” But there are signs of change, of discussion and debate within and outside the black community on how to address the growing problem.

Research has increased into links between behavior and poverty, scholars say. Historically black Hampton University recently launched a National Center on African American Marriages and Parenting. There is a Marry Your Baby Daddy Day, founded by a black woman who was left at the altar, and a Black Marriage Day, which aims “to make healthy marriages the norm rather than the exception.”

In September, Princeton University and the liberal Brookings Institution released a collection of “Fragile Families” reports on unwed parents. And an online movement called “No Wedding No Womb” ignited a fierce debate that included strong opposition from many black women.

“There are a lot of sides to this,” Carroll says. “Part of our community has lost its way.”

• • •

There are simple arguments for why so many black women have children without marriage.

The legacy of segregation, the logic goes, means blacks are more likely to attend inferior schools. This creates a high proportion of blacks unprepared to compete for jobs in today’s economy, where middle-class industrial work for unskilled laborers has largely disappeared.

The drug epidemic sent disproportionate numbers of black men to prison, and crushed the job opportunities for those who served their time. Women don’t want to marry men who can’t provide for their families, and welfare laws created a financial incentive for poor mothers to stay single.

If you remove these inequalities, some say, the 72 percent will decrease.

“It’s all connected. The question should be, how has the black family survived at all?” says Maria Kefalas, co-author of “Promises I Can Keep: Why Poor Women Put Motherhood Before Marriage.”

The book is based on interviews with 162 low-income single mothers. One of its conclusions is that these women see motherhood as one of life’s most fulfilling roles — a rare opportunity for love and joy, husband or no husband.

• • •

Christelyn Karazin has four angels of her own. She had the first with her boyfriend while she was in college; they never married. Her last three came after she married another man and became a writer and homemaker in an affluent Southern California suburb.

In September, Karazin, who is black, marshaled 100 other writers and activists for the online movement No Wedding No Womb, which she calls “a very simplified reduction of a very complicated issue.”

“I just want better for us,” Karazin says. “I have four kids to raise in this world. It’s about what kind of world do we want.”

“We’ve spent the last 40 years discussing the issues of how we got here. How much more discussion, how many more children have to be sacrificed while we still discuss?”

The reaction was swift and ferocious. She had many supporters, but hundreds of others attacked NWNW online as shallow, anti-feminist, lacking solutions, or a conservative tool. Something else about Karazin touched a nerve: She’s married to a white man and has a book about mixed-race relationships coming out.

Blogger Tracy Clayton, who posted a vicious parody of NWNW’s theme song, said the movement focuses on the symptom instead of the cause.

“It’s trying to kill a tree by pulling leaves off the limbs. And it carries a message of shame,” said Clayton, a black woman born to a single mother. “I came out fine. My brother is married with children. (NWNW) makes it seem like there’s something immoral about you, like you’re contributing to the ultimate downfall of the black race. My mom worked hard to raise me, so I do take it personally.”

Demetria Lucas, relationships editor at Essence, the magazine for black women, declined an invitation for her award-winning personal blog to endorse NWNW. Lucas, author of the forthcoming book “A Belle in Brooklyn: Advice for Living Your Single Life & Enjoying Mr. Right Now,” says plenty of black women want to be married but have a hard time finding suitable black husbands.

Lucas says 42 percent of all black women and 70 percent of professional black women are unmarried. “If you can’t get a husband, who am I to tell you no, you can’t be a mom?” she asks. “A lot of women resent the idea that you’re telling me my chances of being married are like 1 in 2, it’s a crapshoot right now, but whether I can have a family of my own is based on whether a guy asks me to marry him or not.”

Comments

devobrun 3 years, 9 months ago

All Americans have a choice. They can vote and support government solutions to their problems or they can vote for more individual freedom.....and the resulting responsibilities that come with less top-down management of their lives.

For the past 50 years the public has mostly chosen the collective. Periodic spasms of remorse occur, but the general direction is toward more "experts" calling the shots for more and more of the populace.

Those who manage to crawl out from under the wing of government achieve more. It can be done eg. Christelyn Karazin and Demetria Lucas. But the vast majority of young women who choose the route of government support fail. Their boy babies get a sense that they don't have to be responsible because, after all, their own father is nowhere to be found. And the numbers climb.

White babies born to unwed mothers were 4%, now it is 29%. That's 7.5 times the number of 45 years ago. I think the excuse that blacks had their culture destroyed by slavery many generations ago doesn't wash. The problem isn't history. It is right here and right now. Young people are want to be irresponsible. This is nothing new. What is new is the loss of cultural pressure to be responsible. The redefinition of what is moral and what is immoral.

Today it is not immoral to have a baby out of wedlock. It is not immoral to live hand-to-mouth on the dole from the government. Those who work hard to earn a living to support a family are suckers.

Today it is: Party. Make some babies. Support yourself by dealing drugs. Momma and child are supported by government. Get arrested and land in jail a few times. Inside, outside, its all the same culture. And it is a culture that has no morality. Cultures are made by people, not governments. Governments can aid decisions made by people, but ultimately it is the individual who chooses.

All you gals out there who choose to become pregnant by a deadbeat. You're wrong. All you guys out there plantin' your seed whenever and wherever you feel like it. You're wrong too.

You're culture is rotten because you make decisions that are wrong, immoral. You should be ashamed. And all of you who ignore the obvious cultural breakdown fomented by government support of this behavior, you should be ashamed too.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 9 months ago

"I think the excuse that blacks had their culture destroyed by slavery many generations ago doesn't wash. The problem isn't history."

Since your account of history ends somewhere around 1865, I can understand why you'd think that.

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devobrun 3 years, 9 months ago

Huh? My account of history regularly includes the 1960s, bozo. You remember those times don't you? Free love, free the blacks, freedom from the old white men in black horn-rimmed glasses wielding the bible and talking about traditional values. Remember those 1960s, bozo?

Remember when it was immoral to have sex outside of marriage? OK, it was happening all over the place and the hippies railed against the hypocrisy.

So I'm railing against the modern hypocrisy, now. The notion that "expert systems" and models of behavior and "programs" and philosophies and other replacements for religion are effective in building a viable culture. They ain't workin', bozo.

The numbers above are stark, bozo. The hypocrisy is clear. Somebody on the left must question their own authority. Might they be wrong about morality? Might the freedom without responsibility be bad for our youth? Shouldn't we adults behave better and expect better from our kids? Like take full responsibility for our babies.

I know some kids who grew up in hippie homes who love the structure and discipline that private school gives them. It is safer and easier to learn and grow when you don't have gangs running the school. Maybe mothers and fathers should be given a reason to behave better rather than rewarding them for their irresponsibility.

I don't say these things in the name of Jesus, bozo. I am not a member of any organized religion. But the numbers don't lie, bozo. Our culture has been failing those who need direction for 45 years now. Reform begins by admitting mistakes.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 9 months ago

"I think the excuse that blacks had their culture destroyed by slavery many generations ago doesn't wash. The problem isn't history."

"Huh? My account of history regularly includes the 1960s, bozo."

Clearly not in this instance.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 9 months ago

Sorry, but nostalgia for the good ole days implies that there were some. I don't buy it.

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Liberty275 3 years, 9 months ago

The jews had their culture virtually and utterly more completely destroyed in 194X Are 72% of our jewish mothers unwed?

Can you understand why you didn't think of that?

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 9 months ago

Clearly, you nailed it. Jews killed Jesus, but we need them for the Armageddon thing. Black people-- still mud people.

I really need to bone up on my Christian Identity training. It's been slipping lately.

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Liberty275 3 years, 9 months ago

The jews had their culture virtually and utterly more completely destroyed in 194X Are 72% of our jewish mothers unwed?

Can you understand why you didn't think of that?

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KEITHMILES05 3 years, 9 months ago

At least these 2 woman are doing something about their situation instead of justifying the current times we live in. I applaud them and those ridiculing them should be ashamed.

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Kelly Johnson 3 years, 9 months ago

How about some public pressure on men to keep their body parts in their pants and/or not abandon the families they create?

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Liberty275 3 years, 9 months ago

Your first clause reeks of sexism. Why aren't you calling for women to keep their body parts inside their thongs?

Your second clause is well reasoned.

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Butterflies 3 years, 9 months ago

AP is profiling again. This is a choice that these women made. It's their body and they chose to have a baby. It's not the man's fault unless they forced themselves on the women. Why in the world is this a problem.

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lawrencechick 3 years, 9 months ago

'Children of unmarried mothers of any race are more likely to perform poorly in school, go to prison, use drugs, be poor as adults, and have their own children out of wedlock."

That's the problem Butterflies, I hope you're joking.

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whats_going_on 3 years, 9 months ago

so what IS the solution. Or do I dare ask :\

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BigPrune 3 years, 9 months ago

Perhaps the already high divorce rate and the acceptance and ease of divorce discourage these women from taking the plunge of marriage in the first place. Since 85% of divorces are filed by women, perhaps a study on the outcome of children from broken homes should be intertwined with the statistics of children from black women who had them out of wedlock.

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