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Ethics & Religion
Column #2,097
October 20, 2021
Blacks Must Consider Marriage
By Mike McManus

Nearly 80% of married mothers are white, but only 6.1% are black. Some 70% of married fathers are white, but only 5.1% are black.

Married mothers are 60% more likely to breastfeed than unmarried mothers.

What can be done to change these trends?

First, it is encouraging that when the "Black Lives Matter" surfaced, more than 80% of blacks were supportive in 2020 as were 70% of Hispanics and nearly half of whites.

What's not encouraging is the growth of unmarried child-bearing. In 1970 only 5% of white births were to unmarried women compared to 37% of blacks. That margin has widened to 28% of white births in 2018 to unmarried women vs. 69% of black births.

In actual numbers, 399,000 babies were born to unmarried mothers in 1970 vs.1.5 million births to unmarried women in 2016. That's more than a four-fold growth.

I know of no proven strategies to increase black marriages, but would like to suggest two.

First, there are successful black young men in community colleges who could be recruited to help. Collin Powell, (who died this week), was the first black Secretary of State. He was the son of an immigrant Jamaican couple in the South Bronx. He went to City College where he joined the ROTC to become an Army officer.

There are many similar young men in community colleges across America who could be recruited to inspire promising high school students to take classes on the value of lasting marriage and the joy of raising children committed to serving others.

The NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) might seek foundation funding to oversee such efforts. Black Lives Matter groups could also be recruited to help. One important target of their work should be young black mothers, few of whom are married.

Another major source of help could be the black church. The African Methodist Episcopal Church has 9,000 congregations with 2.8 million members. The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church with 3,400 congregations has 1,750,000 additional members.

First, black pastors should make a case from the pulpit on the importance - and on the benefits -- of lasting marriages. However, to be credible, black clergy should be honest in stating their disappointment with the fact only 5% to 6% of African Americans are married. Those are shocking numbers.

However, pastors can doubtless point to a few couples in the congregation who are in long-term marriages. These model couples might be invited to speak about what they see as the advantages of marriages that have lasted three or four decades.

Those couples could be trained to mentor young couples considering marriage. My wife and I have trained 40,000 couples in 10,000 churches in 230 cities to help prepare couples for a lifelong marriage. We trained Mentor Couples to administer a premarital inventory called PREPARE-ENRICH which asks couples whether they agree or disagree with 150 statements like these:

1. "There are times when I am bothered by my partner's jealousy."

2. "When we are having a problem, my partner often give me the silent treatment."

Our Mentor Couples meet for six evenings to discuss these issues. About a tenth of couples decide not to marry. But of 60 couples my wife and I personally prepared for marriage, we know of only one divorce in 20 years.

How can troubled marriages be saved? In my book, Marriage Savers: Helping Your Friends and Family Avoid Divorce, I tell the story of Rev. Dick McGinnis who asked his Jacksonville congregation if there were any couples whose marriages were once in crisis, but have been healed. Perhaps they would be willing to meet with couples in current crisis, with a problem similar to their own, such as adultery.

Seven couples stepped forward. Over five years they met with 40 couples in crisis and saved 38 of them!

Black churches should consider training Mentor Couples to help prepare couples for a lifelong marriage and to save those in crisis.

It is time to rebuild marriage in the black community. Marriage is a crucial step to give black men and women hope for the future.

Copyright (c)2021 Michael J. McManus, a syndicated columnist and past president of Marriage Savers. To read past columns, go to Hit Search for any topic.


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