by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Your Black World
Keli Goff at TheLoop21 recently wrote about the pregnancy announcement of Beyonce Knowles. In her article, Goff argues that the announcement is a cause for celebration for the black family in America. She makes the interesting and valid point that Beyonce and Jay-Z have positioned themselves as effective role models by strapping on the wedding bands before popping out the kiddies. In Goff’s words:
“She is sending a message to girls everywhere, particularly girls of color who may feel like they don’t have a lot of options, that you can earn your own money, enter a relationship with a man because you want to not because you financially need to, and when he’s shown you he’s deserving, you can give him the privilege of making a lifetime commitment to you and then you will give him the gift of a child. Not only when you both feel ready to do it but when you know you’re both ready to be the best parents you can be.”
I love much of what Goff saying. She is speaking against the popularity of shows like Basketball Wives, which features a bunch of catty, “ghetto” women who’ve never actually been wives at any point in their lives. She also discusses the disturbing imagery being presented to young black girls (courtesy of BET and Vh-1), which teaches them that having a baby with a rapper, basketball player or “baller” is your ticket to success in life. I’ve heard the stories of the women who spend their time scouring after one big shot after another – most of these stories are depressing tales of infidelity, venereal disease, bankruptcy and drama. They tend to overlook all this on shows like “Basketball Wives.”
We can also consider what Beyonce’s pregnancy says about single black mothers who choose to pass up the wedding vows. I’m not sure if Goff would agree, but it’s hard to argue that there’s anything wrong with a woman choosing to have a child without attaching a man to her decision. Yes, you don’t have the second income in the household (hopefully, the non-custodial parent is paying child support), but given that half of all marriages end up in divorce, this says that at least half of the Americans who’ve gotten married should never have done so in the first place.
The bottom line is that children are in need of at least two things: Love and stability. If one parent gives a child the love and stable home that they need in order to grow into a healthy and whole human being, then we shouldn’t go thumping a bible over the person’s head. A woman doesn’t need to have a man to be complete, most of us hopefully agree with that statement. A parent with a solid plan is a good parent, no matter what people want to say about it.
Where I can see Goff’s point is that there is a fundamental need within the African American community for all of us to regain an appreciation for the idea of building and maintaining strong families. Far too many marriages end because people are not committed to making them work, for many of us have grown up in the land of “Me Me Me.” The words “Till death do us part” mean almost nothing at most marriage ceremonies and should be changed to “Till I grow tired of the monotony,” “Till we have a six-month period during which I believe that my needs aren’t being met,” or “Till I get sick of yo black ass.”
We also see too many children growing up without access to both parents because one parent has made the selfish decision to imperialize the child-rearing process. The joy of being the “hero parent” is often a selfish exercise designed to create an unhealthy codependency that marginalizes the non-custodial parent. The easiest way to get a child to love you forever is to convince them that you are the only one who cares.
When I started college, I was there to finish. Things didn’t always go right and I ran into several roadblocks along the way. But because I was committed to getting to the finish line, I would find a way around my problems. I was determined to see this thing through, no matter what, and quitting was simply not an option. One could argue that marriage is similar to getting through a really long version of college, law school or medical school: You can’t quit just because you are faced with a difficult test. The “classroom of life” presents quite a few seemingly insurmountable challenges and I would argue that if you can’t stand the heat, you should just stay out of the kitchen. Single-minded fascination with the romance of the wedding day leads to millions of Americans using marriage as a tool to ruin their lives.
The bottom line is that I could care less if Beyonce was married when she announced her pregnancy. More important is whether or not she and Jay-Z (aka Shawn Carter) are going to be good parents. If the answer to that question is “yes,” then we shouldn’t presume that two people being tied together for life is a prerequisite for being good parents. It’s all about having the freedom of choice.