No less than five of my girlfriends sent me links yesterday to a New York Times story boasting a headline that made us all giddy: Two-Parent Black Families Showing Gains. It seems that the Census Bureau, in all its infinite bean counting, scratched up numbers showing that nearly 40% of black children in America now live with two parents, up from just 35% in 2004 a phenomenal gain, indeed. I swear, my girls and I were doing virtual high-fives over the piece; you would have thought it said, Black Love Is Possible Throw Your Ring Fingers In the Air And Say It Like You Really Care: ˜I's Married Now!'

For sure, these new numbers are a cause for celebration, no?

Well not so fast.

While the story lauded the stats as evidence of an emerging black middle class, it went on to use demographers to throw hella shade on the significance of the shift. Maybe, one said, the number increased because we're including immigrants. They may not really be married just shacking, another said. Well, yet another boasted, it might be higher now, but wait until the economy hits them in the wallet those numbers will drop quicker than you can say, I want a divorce.

Well damn. They sure know how to slay a buzz.

It seemed that every crazy scenario they tossed up explained away the obvious one staring us in the face that maybe, just maybe, there's a remote possibility that black people are, oh, I dunno, actually falling in love, getting married, and raising their babies together. Is that at all possible?

I'm certain it is. I actually wrote about it not too long ago for, as my family celebrated my in-laws' 50th wedding anniversary. In the piece, I noted that I'm surrounded by loving, stable, married folks who live in wedded bliss (or pretty darn close to it).

But if you don't spend a whole lot of time around a community of thriving, happy black couples, you wouldn't necessarily know this, now would you? I guess if your introduction to the concept of black matrimony is through statistical surveys and news stories about the vast numbers of unmarried black women in single-parent families if that's all you know the black community to have then it would be hard for you to conjure up images of newly black married couples out there, huh?

Blame the media (I don't say this lightly, seeing as I am the media). Because all you ever see on TV and in the newspapers and magazines is a constant barrage of negative images of us this constant message that the inner-city black experience is the common every day experience of all black folks. That this is the status quo the default. That anything different from the image of black folks as poor/unmarried,/just-off-welfare/still on parole/under-educated scourges on society is, for sure, an anomaly, unless you're talking about O.J., R. Kelly, Kobe Bryant, Bobby and Whitney, or *insert any other successful, dysfunctional black celebrity you can think of and their failed attempts at healthy relationships here.*

I can see how conjuring up images that fall outside the default is difficult for a lot of people, especially if all you have to go by is the aforementioned madness. With that as an image, it's kinda hard to envision two happy and functioning black people finding each other and actually standing up in front of their aunties and cousins and mamas and them and saying, I do.

Dig it: In my world? The default is a happy marriage. Not taking anything away from my girls who are single or who are raising their beautiful babies all by their strong selves; I’m surrounded by sisters who are doing a fine job of raising their kids by themselves, and certainly making us married folk realize that there’s more than one definition of “family.” But I'm also surrounded by happily married black people. So it's really easy for me to think of those new Census Bureau stats in a the-glass-is-half-full kinda way to imagine that an increase in the numbers of children being raised in two-parent households means more black people are getting married. Or at least on their way to the altar.

Imagine that.

For the demographers who dismiss the numbers: Take a good hard look at the picture up top. That's black love.

We ain't perfect, my Nick and I. But we're trying toiling in the trenches, doing our best to make this thing work.

That's love. It has no color. And your explanations are no good here.

Photo credit: Alison Rosa

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  1. Wonderful post! I was just reading a report by the Fatherhood Initiative estimating that the cost of fathers being absent from the home is around $100 billion dollars…to taxpayers. It’s an interesting take on the whole issue. And, of course, Black folk are costing our disproportionate share. So, to taxpayers and to this single woman, mother of one, who wants to believe that there is such a thing as a healthy, enduring, statistic-agnostic thing as a good Black marriage, I celebrate with you!

    While you know that I also believe that my family, albeit a co-parenting family, flawed but still “toiling in the trenches doing our best to make this thing work,” is also healthy and something other than broken or dysfunctional, I love Black folk who do what it takes to make a marriage work not for the sake of the marriage but because it uplifts them in ways you may not know outside of a relationship like that.

    Thanks for claiming this victory for us and for children, Denene!

  2. Jewelry Rockstar

    I am glad you wrote this. I am always saying to my husband that all around me I see happy married couples just like us. Sometimes I think I am crazy or insulated because the stats never bear our what I see. Well now I know that the numbers are increasing, even though that number is still below half.

  3. Just beautiful. My hubby and I need to take a pic like that!

    When we got married, it was crazy how many of our friends had NEVER been to a wedding before. They had no idea of the order of events, how to dress for it, how receptions worked – NOTHING. I was beyond shocked. But I guess that’s the reality for (a lot of) people.


  4. Married my high school sweetheart while we were still in college. 10.5 years and four babies later, we’re still going strong and still in love.

    I remember that picture!

  5. One more thing. Where did you find The Snowy Day?! That was my favorite book as a child! I must have it!

  6. Christie-A Work In Progress

    Can you see me? I am standing up in the middle of my bed applauding and screaming woo-hoo, you go girl! This was informative and rather shocking but I love how you brought it home! Let’s hear it for real Black Love!!

  7. Nice post. I have my theories on the destruction of the Black family and the perception of the Black family (too much to get into here) but I feel, rather I know, that a change is indeed here. Your blog is certainly part of that change.

  8. I am so glad you make this point. No, I did not grow up around positive role models of black couples. However, it doesn't mean they don't exist. Niether does it mean that I have to follow in those footsteps of my role models. I may have to struggle more so than those who have the positive role models, but there is better than what I was raised with.

    I feel it is terrible that black people in the singing/rapping industry have portryed such a harsh example of what is supposed to be our culture. Sure we have difficult experiences, but why do we have to portray them as taking over out lives with such anger and violence?

    Our women are called b****es and whoes. The women support such titles by the videos that show them basically having sex as they exploit themselves! Their rear ends and breasts used to lure these men.

    With these role models in the media, it poses a challenge for our young people to see an appropriate relationship between man and woman. Young girls want to be "sexy" and young boys want to be "hard". Children today are not interested in the Huxables.

    Few children today are monitored by their caregivers as to what is or is not appropriate. I think what saved me was the village of extended family that provided me with wisdom when home life was so broken. Many young people don't have it & when they do, they seldom listen.

    It would be so nice if our artists would use their spot light to uplift our black people in a much more positive way. They achieve such by watching these videos.

  9. Right now, I am a little bitter with my experience. I am truly thankful for how my life has turned out despite my divorce. However, I’m not sure I can go forward into another relationship.

    Since my divorce in 1996, I vowed to commit to my children until they are grown and on their own. I have about 5 more years for that to occur. I’ve been tossing thoughts around as to what I will do with my life when the time finally arrives.

    It is so inspiring to read these entries about black relationships. I feel I can make choices to make my experience better. I have to admit, it is scary for me.

  10. Jacqueline Lewis

    This is a great post. My husband and I have been married 20 years in 2011, with two wonderful young men, 8 and 12. I have many friends who are married, and enjoying each other. I think until we change what is propogated in the media, most people of other races, still see us as broken. We live and love like everyone else.

  11. EbonyLoveAndMarriage

    One thing I want to remind EVERYONE OF… the group of people who seem to find great delight and satisfaction in widely publishing NEGATIVE STATISTICS about us have been doing so for over 500 years.. in medical journals, religious writings, science documents,history books, sermons, and even smut publications.
    This is how they, the global minority remain in power over the non-white majority… so when you say: "showing that nearly 40% of black children in America now live with two parents, up from just 35% in 2004—a phenomenal gain, indeed."—I SERIOUSLY want to urge you to reconsider the way you interpreted their "black fornecating single parent savage statistics"…MANY of the black children born today are living with TWO parents! 70% of black children being born to UNmarried parents, does NOT translate into Black father not being in the home/ picture.. it translates into BLACK MEN & WOMEN.. like many other ethnic groups in the USA (who aren't the focus of white supremacist propaganda rt. now) ARE SHACKING UP!! Living together without marriage. That does not erase the fathers who are raising the children from the picture. IT JUST MEANS, they are NOT married, not that they aren't together.

    Lets make a habit of analyzing the propaganda & not running with the "worst possible conclusion" baton. After all, we are dealing with our enemy – those who have never loved us or seen us as equal.

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