Ralph Richard Banks: “How I know two parents are better than one”

Ralph Richard Banks: “How I know two parents are better than one”

Ralph Richard Banks, author of the fast-selling book, “Is Marriage for White People”

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My mother died when I was 9 years old. Just like that, I went from two parents to one. That morning, my father gathered me and my 3 siblings, and vowed, his hands trembling, his voice unsteady, that “we’ll make it. We are still a family.”

We did make it. My father, with help from an array of aunts and uncles, helped me to make it.

But it wasn’t easy. There were few home cooked meals. I learned early to wash my own clothes, how to make a sandwich, boil eggs, and, a favorite, fry baloney. Money was tight. I learned what to tell the guy from the electric company to keep the lights on.
These are the experiences that come to mind when someone asks me why I am concerned about the 70% of black children who are born to unmarried parents. Having experienced 1 parent and 2, I know which I’d prefer.

And so when No Wedding, No Womb strives to reduce the percentage of children born to unmarried parents, I readily join in that endeavor. That effort assumes, correctly, that the best situation for children is to be raised by both parents. When a child’s parents are not married they are less likely to stay together. And no matter how committed the parents are to their child, when they live apart, they have fewer resources to offer and are less able to be the parents the child needs.

But getting parents to be partners is not easy. There are good reasons that some black women don’t marry their child’s father, prominent among them that the father brings so little to the relationship that marriage might not seem worthwhile.  And for a man, having a child with one woman might not be sufficient reason to forego all other women, especially when there seem to be so many appealing black women around.

So what’s a woman to do when a man is either unwilling or unable to be the husband she wants and the father their child needs?

To start, she must know that she deserves better. And so does her child. No matter how widespread, how ordinary, it becomes to raise a child without a husband, we should not deceive ourselves: two parents are better than one. I can attest to that.

To find a man ready and willing to be the husband and father she deserves, a woman may need to wait, for the man and to have a child. She may need as well to open herself to men of all races, to embrace the possibility of finding a man outside of the race. Doing so does not abandon black men; it gives them more of a reason to commit to her.

About Professor Banks

Ralph Richard Banks is the Jackson Eli Reynolds Professor of Law at Stanford Law School, and the author of Is Marriage for White People? How the African American Marriage Decline Affects Everyone.

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