#913. Walking Their Daughter Down the Aisle

Have you ever seen the film Father of the Bride? Steve Martin plays George Banks, an owner of a shoe company in Los Angeles, California, whose daughter marries into a rich Bel-Air family. Wait… in this idealized version of America (LA has virtually no Hispanics in this film), free trade and cheap labor don’t exist as George Banks is able to employ hundreds and pay good salaries while third world nations are deprived of 5-cents-an-hour labor.

Just ask New Balance how profit margins are working by staying in America and not using cheap labor (via free trade) like Nike:

At the factory here owned by New Balance, the last major athletic shoe brand to manufacture footwear in the United States, even workers on the shop floor recognize that in purely economic terms, the operation doesn’t make sense.

The company could make far more money if, like Nike and Adidas, it shifted virtually all of these jobs to low-wage countries.
So employees try each shift to make it up. Conversations on the shop floor are sparse at best, and the tasks at each workstation have been stripped of waste and precisely timed. Workers cut leather for a pair of shoes in 88 seconds, handle precise stitching in 37 seconds, and glue soles to uppers even faster.
“The company already could make more money by going overseas and they know it,” said Scott Boulette, 35, a burly team leader who has his son’s name tattooed in Gothic letters down his left forearm. “So we hustle.”
Now, however, comes what may be an insurmountable challenge. The Obama administration is negotiating a free-trade agreement with Vietnam and seven other countries, and it is unclear whether the plant can stand up to a flood of shoes from that country, already one of the leading exporters of footwear to the United States.
Watching Father of the Bride – either the Steve Martin version or the Spencer Tracy one – is to get a glimpse at another country, where a vibrant nation actually existed. It was a beautiful white wedding, like most weddings tend to be in America. Then again, when your average wedding costs $25,000 and your average Black family – of which only 28 percent of Black children are born into a married household – exists thanks to the benevolence of the state, how could a picture-perfect wedding transpire?

Okay, the government could start paying for white weddings for Black people, since a disparate impact does exist between Black people and white people when it comes to weddings. The Washington Post tells us:

“Marriage is for white people.” 

That’s what one of my students told me some years back when I taught a career exploration class for sixth-graders at an elementary school in Southeast Washington. I was pleasantly surprised when the boys in the class stated that being a good father was a very important goal to them, more meaningful than making money or having a fancy title. 

“That’s wonderful!” I told my class. “I think I’ll invite some couples in to talk about being married and rearing children.” 

“Oh, no,” objected one student. “We’re not interested in the part about marriage. Only about how to be good fathers.” 

And that’s when the other boy chimed in, speaking as if the words left a nasty taste in his mouth: “Marriage is for white people.” 

He’s right. At least statistically. The marriage rate for African Americans has been dropping since the 1960s, and today, we have the lowest marriage rate of any racial group in the United States. In 2001, according to the U.S. Census, 43.3 percent of black men and 41.9 percent of black women in America had never been married, in contrast to 27.4 percent and 20.7 percent respectively for whites. African American women are the least likely in our society to marry. In the period between 1970 and 2001, the overall marriage rate in the United States declined by 17 percent; but for blacks, it fell by 34 percent. Such statistics have caused Howard University relationship therapist Audrey Chapman to point out that African Americans are the most uncoupled people in the country. 

How have we gotten here? What has shifted in African American customs, in our community, in our consciousness, that has made marriage seem unnecessary or unattainable? 

Although slavery was an atrocious social system, men and women back then nonetheless often succeeded in establishing working families. In his account of slave life and culture, “Roll, Jordan, Roll,” historian Eugene D. Genovese wrote: “A slave in Georgia prevailed on his master to sell him to Jamaica so that he could find his wife, despite warnings that his chances of finding her on so large an island were remote. . . . Another slave in Virginia chopped his left hand off with a hatchet to prevent being sold away from his son.” I was stunned to learn that a black child was more likely to grow up living with both parents during slavery days than he or she is today, according to sociologist Andrew J. Cherlin.

How can slavery be called an atrocious social system when it offered the opportunity for the creation of happy, stable Black family structures, something the state has been woeful at creating and maintaining since the inception of Black-Run America (BRA) in the mid-1960s?

Black illegitimacy rates weren’t that bad in the 1960s when The Negro Family: The Case for National Action was published. The power of BRA was too great for such analytical thinking at this point, and the warnings of that report were ignored. Now, we have this:

Since Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D.-N.Y.) 35 years ago called black fatherlessness “the fundamental weakness of the Negro community,” the subject has been hot to the touch. But, new statistics show that an estimated “80 percent of all African-American children will spend part of their childhood living apart from their fathers.” Seventy percent of African-American children are born to unmarried mothers and 40 percent of all children regardless of race, live in homes without fathers, according to the Morehouse statement.

Worse, fewer and fewer men of any race desire waiting for Black women at the altar. Reasons for this have yet to be confirmed, but theories are circulating around the Internet and Psychology Today.

A white wedding will always elude Black women (primarily because of either an absent father, a lack of funds, a deceased father: the victim of Black-on-Black violence, or that father being incarcerated) and excuses will constantly be made for why this is, as this CNN article perfectly illustrates:

My aspirations for both a career and family were set at the age of 12. I knew I could accomplish what Mrs. Allen, my fifth- and seventh-grade teacher, had. But as I approach 30 and measure the goals I had at 12 against the reality of life, the only thing I can check off that list is a college education.


I am a statistic.

And there are millions more like me. Forty-five percent of black women in America have never been married, compared with 23 percent of white women, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey in 2006. Articles like the one published in the Washington Post two years ago could lead me to believe that it’s because “Marriage is for White People.”

The difference between Mrs. Allen and me: She was white.

The numbers, undeniably, are not in my favor. But they have never been. Born black, raised in a single-parent home and primarily educated in low-performing public schools, I am not supposed to be a success story. But giving weight to statistics in my personal life only contributes to a culture of fear surrounding marriage.

Black women are in trouble. Before the implementation of BRA’s agenda in the 60s, Black families were somewhat stable – though far below that of white households – and the prospects of a picturesque wedding complete with a walk down the aisle where conceivably there. Now, the coming to fruition of such a beautiful dream are bleak:

In 1963 when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech, more than 70 percent of all Black families were headed by married couples. In 2002 that number was 48 percent.

An even more alarming statistic is the increase in the number of both Black men and women who have never been married. Nearly 45 percent of Black men have never married and 42 percent of Black women have never married. More to the point, an increasing number of Black women will never get married. The percentage of Black women who are married declined from 62 percent to 31 percent between 1950 and 2002.

Stuff Black People Don’t Like includes walking their daughter down the aisle; when the overwhelming majority of Black males don’t even stick around to see the birth of their child, why would any of them wait around for the honor of walking their daughter down an aisle?

It is our hope that the government steps in to rectify this historic inequity and starts paying for Black weddings, so that this historic and important day in a young woman’s life can be replicated in the Black community. Sadly, it is only in times of bondage and slavery that Black people can create such happy and stable homes.

So implement the George Banks Wedding Act to make sure that disparate impact no longer is seen in the world of weddings. Black women need all the self-esteem they can get; let’s all chip in and pay for that perfect wedding!



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