Thursday, July 24, 2008

Ethnicity and Marriage

Is Marriage Really for White People

I appreciate the series of stories CNN is running about what it means to be black in the U.S. This one jumped out at me today.

Here is my thought: It can be a lot harder for blacks in America to feel content and settled enough to create a stable family unit.

Part of it is internal. We look to role models to emulate and at times may feel at a loss for who to follow. Often times our identity is fixated on the concept of struggle. We're always fighting to get somewhere hoping to enjoy a better day. Not everyone succeeds. There are times when it is easier to point at mistakes we see other blacks make than reflect on the successes among our people.

Yes, we have opportunities but fully seizing them requires shaking off any disbelief in our capabilities. We have to tell ourselves we can make it happen even when the rest of the world says you are going to fail.

I come from a family where both my parents are still together though they do a fair amount of arguing. Dad just turned 80 and Mom will be 75 in August. We're not perfect folks, but we all do what we can to make things work.

My folks come from a far different generation and it can be hard to communicate what my perspective is to them at times. In particular, my dad doesn't always see how different the landscape is for someone to get established now.

I won't say it is harder for a man to stake his claim to some land and start a family, each generation sees its unique challenges. But it is different. There are new rules to making it work today. And winning the lottery is not realistic.

Have I thought about wife, kids, etc? Yes. Do I know how to make all those things happen? Still working on it.

While working on my book I started thinking about the factors that go into the psyche of black males. There is no universal answer but I came up with what I call The Broken Hunter mentality.

In a hunter-gatherer model, many times the society is based around frequent searching for new grounds to forage and catch game. There may be a circuit of migration the society but there is a predilection towards roaming the land. The entire family unit is built towards mobility should the land not provide the sustenance it needs.

The Broken Hunter looks for his sustenance but has trouble including others in his efforts. He may be focused on getting enough to feed himself, clothe himself and find shelter to rest his own head down. Perhaps he never saw another man look after a family unit and does not see he must compromise and make plans that emphasize the well-being of others.

A Broken Hunter may look at the gamut of challenges before him and think it is hard enough to take care of himself. Thinking more broadly may put his wants at risk. That's where you find the hustlers and deal makers who are looking at an endgame that benefits themselves above others. He may even believe he is doing right by others with the small contributions he makes. What the Broken Hunter does not realize is that no one wants to settle for the nibbles of game he leaves. A family demands a full feast of emotion and security.

You can't establish a household while still running game with the boys. You have to get out of the hunt and cultivate your tomorrow. This is not to say stop being aggressive. You must steer that energy toward creating a platform where a family can work. You have to find ways to establish security for yourself and those you say are your family. If you don't, you will feel compelled to constantly run, track and prowl for some new source of replenishment. That kind of thinking makes a wife and even a family appear cumbersome. The hunter is broken. He can only take care of himself, if that.

Being a Broken Hunter does not work in our current society. Not really. It keeps you on the fringe always wishing you had something more.

One can argue that the Broken Hunter is pushed to operate under these circumstances, that these are the options available to him and he is just following what others do.

In the end, the Broken Hunter may be ill-suited for marriage.

Am I a Broken Hunter? I have been but I am working on it.

1 comment:

HNIC said...

Wow, thats a deep one.

I am 100% in aggrrment with you about the generation gap.
My godfather started his family by opening up the news paper and applying to the first 4 jobs he saw in person. his wife didnt need to work and he was able to afford a 2 kids a dog 2 cars and a HOUSE... not a 1 bedroom apt, not a condo, not a co-op like us black men have to do today.
I tried my hand at the family building thing. The money needed to get what dad had is just way out of my reach.
For me to have a compareable lifestyle to my father when he was my age I would have to make 177k/year without overtime.

The broken hunter does describe alot of black people in general. I know its become a large problem for the corporate sista who is now taking up the role as head of our community.
This can be seen by the number of black women who make over 37,000 annual that are married droping yet the number of black men who make over 37k annual is not.

most dates I have been on this year, financial success is the key component most were looking for in a male counterpart. What alarmed me were the number of women I have met this year who admit they left old boyfriends and husbands because "they could do better" or their men were "deadweight/deadbeats" to them. The constant need to upgrade and look for the next best thing seems to be very strong.

Black males are also the 2nd most likely in america to interracially couple or get married. So, our sense of nesting and loving is actually getting very good.

Flame and Bone

When I was made from fire
Poured into the tender vessel of caution
That keeps my smoke from rising
Quickly did I discover that apart from crisp drizzles or falling snow
The world chilled my touched
Walking the narrow cornered gap between girders and cut stone
One learns to tuck his shoulders in or risk
Jostling a neighbor passing by rapt with want
For a clear path without the distraction
Of another man's boiling eyes
The tip of a finger
That oldest of all weapons
Grown deadlier and pristine in its invention
Gathers a mote of a cinder on its bare flesh
And turns pondering how best to scratch the impious itch
Prying open the tender seam
Where the oil of thought dews
Offering a new wick to ignite
Squirming alive as a salamander of mischief
That yearns for a taste of air it is so ready to devour
The steam of breath betrays me
Before the glint of orange spreads
In popping bright waves
Eroding the fibers feeding it
Leaving naught but ash
As my shell of quietude falls away