Conservative’s Cluelessness Makes Black Audiences Miss the Message

Conservative’s Cluelessness Makes Black Audiences Miss the Message

As usual, extreme conservatives alienate the very people who could help them carry an important message.

Author : Christelyn Karazin

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Christelyn is married with four children.

Originally posted on Family Scholars, blog for the Institute for American Values

I read, along with millions of others, about ”The Marriage Vow–A Declaration of Dependence upon Marriage and Family” that was signed by Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.

Taken on it’s face, a “declaration of dependence upon marriage and family” is a positive step in the right direction when it comes to government officials participating in community initiatives to promote marriage and family, because from a policy (and common sense) perspective, study after study shows that children raised by two parents do better in school, have less behavioral problems, and are less likely to use drugs and drop out of school.  Married couples tend to be healthier and wealthier.  It’s good policy to promote marriage.

But here’s where the declaration fell flat on it’s face, and I fear that any real chance of the black community getting on board with this pledge was thwarted by this language:

Slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA’s first African-American President.

If this initiative expected any support from black churches, moderate to conservative blacks, community and other pro-family organizations that could have HELPED them spread a potentially positive message just evaporated in a puff of smoke.

I am befuddled that “The Family Leader” could get the American history so disastrously wrong.  Black slaves were not allowed to be married.  While they had their own “symbolic marriage,” by jumping over a broom, which signifies two people leaving one life and jumping into a new one together, that was as close as African slaves could get to marriage.  Black men were used as studs, and black women were treated as brood mares, and their offspring were separated and sold.  How anyone is government unaware to this well-documented truth completely boggles my mind.

And that’s where “The Family Leader” blew it.  Now I fear, nothing they could ever say could get black people who are pro-marriage and pro-family on board to support them, which is sad.  Black people have by far the highest out-of-wedlock rate (73%) than any other race in America.  They’ve since removed the language, but it’s way to late.  The horse is out of the barn.

When policy makers and organizations use ignorant language like this, you miss the opportunity and marginalize yourselves.  What the organization should have said is that the black family was the strongest after slavery, when they had the highest marriage rate.  At the time Martin Luther King Jr. did his “I Have a Dream” speech, over 70% of black children were being raised by a married mother and father.  That’s what “The Family Leader” should have said.

But it’s too late.  Now no one who should be listening will be listening.  And that’s a shame.

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User Comments

  1. Roslyn Holcomb
    July 12, 2011

    Uhhh, they don’t want black folk onboard with their message. All this pro-family, anti-abortion meme is about WHITE women, not black. These folk couldn’t care if black women were exterminated. They just want to use us as an object lesson to keep white women in their place.


    • Joannie N.
      August 2, 2011

      I hardly think that this is about keeping anyone in their place….
      Personally, I believe it’s about reigniting the principles and values that make AMERICA great….Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness….ultimately preserving independence for all….as long as we’re fractionalized into ‘special interest’ constituency blocks, we lose sight of how unique our Constitution and country are….liberation of cohorts has damaged our greater good and threatens the independence, self determination and potential for personal growth for all of us. The author was dead on in her analysis…good to hear some sense, thank you.


  2. Enrique Cardova
    July 17, 2011

    The statement by the Institute for American Values is basically correct.
    While the black family was treated brutally during slavery, it is a fact that in the American South, the two-parent family for black slaves was the norm. Indeed credible estimates suggest that some two million slave marriages took place between 1820 to 1860- with 29% of these broken up by the system, a bitter human loss. Still this does not erase the fact that black folk recognized marriages, and that most of those were two-parent. (see Slavery and freedom: an interpretation of the Old South By James Oakes 1998). When the system was not breaking these up, such unions were recognized by many white plantation masters. In fact some planters encouraged slave marriage out of not merely a profit motive but the paternalistic Victorian morality of the day. Indeed some planter sponsored marriages were accompanied by well defined ritual, and were performed not only at the “big house” but sometimes in churches. attendees received extra rations and time off. Some planters also used the threat of the whip to discourage divorce.

    See also the classic study “Time On the Cross”. QUOTE: “The belief that slave-breeding, sexual exploitation, and promiscuity destroyed the black family is a myth. The family was the basic unit of social organization under slavery. It was to the economic interest of planters to encourage the stability of slave families and most of them did so. Most slave sales were either of whole families or of individuals who were at an age when it would have been normal for them to have left the family.”
    (—Robert William Fogel, Stanley L. Engerman . 1995. Time on the cross: the economics of American Negro slavery.)


    The above critique being delivered, I think you are on the right track in stressing the importance of marriage, and commend your efforts. Here is some data you can use in your work. It shows that most black folk were already monogamous when they landed on US shores and did not need white “role models” to teach them about monogamy. It also shows that for 50 years black folk actually posted HIGHER marriage rates than whites in the US and their OOW rates were LOWER in 1960 that today’s US whites and that of supposedly pace setting lily white Swedes and other Nordics. Keep up the good work.


    Data by credible scholars show that Africans did not need
    any white “role models” to teach them about monogamy.

    [i]“For slaves however, monogamous marriages
    represented something more than succumbing
    to the demands of demography, plantation
    discipline and the values of masters. To understand
    this requires a closer look at African marriage patterns.
    Once again, the testimony of the Amistad slaves in valuable. .
    Sixteen or the thirty-six interviewed Amistad mutineers
    were married, and of these only one, Fabanna, a middle-aged
    Mende slave, was polygamous… Testimony concerning martial
    practices in eighteenth-century Sierra Leone corroborates
    the Amistad evidence. An English trader in 1788 reported that
    “tho polygamy is allowed in ye Country it
    is practiced only by the rich.” Such data
    stress a point long obvious to
    anthropologists; wherever polygamy has
    been or is the “preferred” marital form,
    monogamy is acceptable and probably
    common because of limits imposed by
    demographic and economic factors.
    Slaves coming from Africa, then, had
    experiences encompassing both
    polygamy and monogamy and thus need
    not have relied on their master’ example
    to institute monogamy, Indeed, most
    male slave imports, normally young
    adults who had not had time to
    accumulate much wealth, had practiced
    only monogamy in Africa prior to
    capture. When confronted by the
    severely limiting demographic and social
    conditions in America, they tended to
    replicate their monogamous but not their
    polygamous tribal experiences. Owners
    in the southern mainland simply
    reinforced this tendency.

    Albermarle Sound slaveowners, Brickell observed,
    became involved in the martial
    arrangements of their slaves only to give
    permission for such unions or when no
    children had been born within a year. In
    the latter case planters might “oblige”
    slave women “to take a second, third,
    fourth, fifth, or more Husbands or Bed
    Fellows; a fruitful Woman amongst
    them being very much valued by the
    Planters, and a numerous Issue esteemed
    the greatest Riches in this Country.”

    –Marvin L. Michael Kay, Lorin Lee
    Cary. (1999) Slavery in North Carolina,
    1748-1775. 160-161


  3. melanie
    July 17, 2011

    I think we need to really look into the American educations system because the reading comprehension level is really poor. Nowhere in that statement did it say black marriages…it talked about black families, black children, and the devastation done to the black families by slavery. The currnet plight of the black family has NOTHING to do with slavery. What were black families like right after slavery….in the 1880s…in 1900….in the 1920s…the 1950s etc…Black families were VERY stable then…so how can slavery have negatively impacted black families since the 1960s and beyond, but not the black marriages and families closer to slavery times. Black families were more stable closer to slavery times even with the problems and struggles. People LOVE to blame slavery for their own bad choices and act like ‘they couldn’t help it’. What this statement is trying to say is that even with all the challenges of slavery black children had a better chance of being with their two parents than they do now. WHat does that say…that children were better as slaves…NO!! But can’t we see that their is NO excuse for that statement being true!!!That is a disgrace!!!! Of course the statement should not have used the slavery image because blacks don;t want to hear that message and will look for any excuse to call republicans racists…they will use the fact that people cannot read and understand what has been stated…..if blacks won’t listen to bill cosby say the obvious then what makes Bachman and others think that any blacks will listen to them. WHy bother. I have personally given up on trying to shake black people into consciousness. At this rate we will no longer be relevant and all individual black people can do is make the best life you can and make sure your own children have a proper future…as a group we are through…the unfortunate thing is that it didn’t have to be this way…we have survived so many things and help build this wonderful country….


    • Tarren
      July 24, 2011

      “yet sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household” Perhaps you should examine your reading comprehension. The quote clearly states [children] born INTO slavery were more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household. Anybody who has any knowledge about African American history and slavery would know that this simply was NOT the case. Families were purposely torn apart and sold against their will to other slave owners. Everybody knows that slaves (who were considered to be 3/4ths of a person) were most certainly NOT allowed to get married, therefore there was no two-parent household for children born into slavery to be raised by. This statement is not saying that despite the ills of slavery, the black family was stronger. This statement is simply slinging mud at the president by making the ridiculous implication that black children were better off as slaves than they are living in this country during the Obama presidency. Please keep in mind who the author of this pledge is and the types of people they request to sign it. They most certainly do NOT have the interests of the black family in mind. Period.

      Furthermore, while the black family was in fact stronger in the years following slavery, this was not even addressed in the pledge. Rather than focusing on the positives of what was the black family in those times where Blacks were eager to be married and to raise families, the author of this pledge chooses to focus on a time where black were considered to be less than human in order to imply that our lives under the Obama presidency is just soooo terrible.

      Please recognize that we live in a time where racism is hidden in loaded language, disguised in implications and stereotypical assumptions


      • Browncow
        July 25, 2011

        “who were considered to be 3/4ths of a person”

        3/5ths of a person. Let’s not give the people of the time more credit than they’re worth, eh? It’s 3/5ths. Not trying to be contentious, just want the facts to be straight.


  4. Steve Florman
    August 17, 2011

    Regardless of the truth of the issue – several of your commenters have pointed out, correctly, that the black family was more stable during the slave period than it is now even though marriage, as you rightly point out, was not legally recognized – regardless of that, the language used in that declaration was nothing short of criminally stupid. They either tried to capture a very subtle distinction in what is essentially a PR statement (always a dangerous game, subtlety in a press release) or they simply didn’t think things through very well, discounting the possibility that any black voters might not be looking for alternatives to the Democratic party.

    Michele Bachmann, who represents my Minnesota district and most of whose constituents are white (95+%) and fairly affluent, has never been known for her sensitivity to subtle distinctions.

    You raise a good issue. In your view, what can politicians do to provide incentives for black families to stay together? Despite the ravages of slavery, black Americans came together after emancipation to build very strong families – demonstrably stronger than many of those of whites. What happened, and how can that be regained?


    • Christelyn Karazin
      August 17, 2011

      Steve, a cluster-storm of things happened, and it mostly occured during the Johnson administration’s War of Poverty. What can politians do? Stop penalizing families who need benefits for being married and working below-poverty-level jobs. Politians also need to grow some gonads and call it out for what it is–a MAJOR problem that affects everyone economically. If you don’t see the problem, then you’re part of it.