Loss: Black family life

Offbeat sociologist Jeremy Rifkin once explained why America's black family structure disintegrated:Up through World War II, he said, blue-collar industries needed armies of laborers to unload ships, dig ditches, carry construction materials, dig coal, push wheelbarrows, load trucks and railway cars, etc. Multitudes of black men supported families from this work. Then mechanization blossomed in the postwar years. Forklifts, conveyor belts, ditching machines, coal-cutters, end-loaders and the like wiped out millions of manual jobs.Black men, at the bottom of the economic totem pole, were laid off in droves. Many were left adrift in slums with little to do except drink and feel worthless. Numbers of black women soon tired of the situation and began living without men, raising families alone on their meager incomes. Matriarchy grew.Now, a black Stanford University law professor has spelled out consequences in today's society. Ralph Richard Banks wrote a new book, Is Marriage for White People: How the African American Marriage Decline Affects Everyone.
"Over the past half-century," the book says, "African Americans have become the most unmarried people in our nation. By far. We are the least likely to marry and the most likely to divorce. We maintain fewer committed and enduring relationships than any other group. Not since slavery have black men and women been as unpartnered as we are now."Until the middle of the 20th century, Banks says, 90 percent of black women married. But today, two-thirds are unwed -- double the rate for white women. It's worse for college-educated black females, because they outnumber black male college grads 2-to-1. As a result, 70 percent of all black children are born to single mothers.Successful black women simply can't find enough equals as marriage prospects. Around one-fourth of black males have police records from America's lopsided justice system -- which leaves them almost unemployable. Those who find work mostly get blue-collar jobs, making them psychologically mismatched with professional wives, a formula for divorce.It's a dilemma. Author Banks says the best cure is for single black women to date equal white men who can support families. Why not? America's racial apartheid is disappearing. Intermarriage -- once illegal -- may be a final step of integration.Equality is the heart of democracy. That principle should apply to wedlock. If educated black women can solve their predicament through mixed marriage, more power to them.
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