Stumping for Marriage: You’re Doin’ It Wrong.

I’ve long suspected that part of the reason that aspirational Negroes rail against ghetto folks is actually to reify that stereotype, and consequently give relatively banal middle class lifestyle choices the weight of much-needed social uplift. (It’s why you see portrayals in the media of professional black folks with traditional nuclear families reflexively celebrated as ‘positive’ and ‘affirmative’.)

A very sententious case in point:

From the synopsis:

From the creators of the award winning website Black and Married With Kids.com comes a ground breaking documentary set to challenge negative stereotypes surrounding marriage and family in the black community.

So marriage requires a lot of patience and work? You don’t say! I’m also not sure why any of what was said in the clip is unique to African-American marriages or which stereotypes it “challenges.”

But it sure will make a lot of people feel good about themselves.

59 thoughts on “Stumping for Marriage: You’re Doin’ It Wrong.

  1. Molly April 27, 2009 at 12:05 pm Reply

    Why are none of them same-sex couples?

    • G.D. April 27, 2009 at 12:10 pm Reply

      It’s a good question. I have some ideas: black people are largely socially conservatives and aren’t proponents of same-sex marriage, blah blah blah. If this is a pitch for marriage, they’re probably tailoring it to their assumed audience?

      Also, I think this whole thing is sort of reactionary, a response to black people’s supposed aversion to marriage (which the people in the clip strangely seem to think exists), and so their response is to cling more tightly to the nuclear model. Or something.

  2. young_ April 27, 2009 at 12:15 pm Reply

    Aren’t there legitimate reasons to celebrate/endorse black marriage? There are so many reasons to believe that, all other things equal, two married parents will have an easier time achieving and helping their children achieve positive outcomes than comparable single-parent families. There are also pernicious stereotypes and generalizations out there about the moral failings of black Americans that I think are also worth countering.

    • G.D. April 27, 2009 at 12:36 pm Reply

      we’ve had this conversation before, but it’s not clear that marriage provides positive outcomes for children as opposed that people who are middle-class with college educations and financial stability are more likely to be married in the first place. Those kids are being born into advantaged families.

  3. Molly April 27, 2009 at 12:20 pm Reply

    GD, why didnt Tyler Perry do each vignette playing both the man and his wife? lol

  4. young_ April 27, 2009 at 12:21 pm Reply

    Sorry GD- I missed your comment. I think the focus on opposite-sex couples is also a result of the concern that a lot of people feel toward the very high percentage of black children being raised in single-parent households.

  5. universeexpanding April 27, 2009 at 12:37 pm Reply

    So if we show enough images of black married couples all the single black people will be convinced it can work and get hitched, and all the white people will stop thinking that our families consist solely of single mothers on welfare and deadbeat dads? I’m not buying it. I agree with G.D. that this seems like yet another “black people vs. niggers” line of discourse designed to self-aggrandize.

  6. young_ April 27, 2009 at 12:57 pm Reply

    @GD: College-educated black folks are definitely more likely to get married, but (as far as the studies can tell) marriage also leads to improved outcomes for less educated and lower income people as well. In fact, it’s arguably even more important for them since the tangible benefit in having two parents who each earn $17,500 a year versus only having one, for example, is enormous. The apparent benefits of marraige even exist after controlling for income too though, probably because married couples literally have more hours available to spend monitoring and supervising their children.

    These studies obviously still can’t rule out the possibility that people who marry are different than those who don’t (i.e. there might be hard to measure personality differences, differences in life experiences, etc.) but I think the research is pretty clear that, whatever is going on, people who grow up in married households are generally better off, even when their parents aren’t affluent or highly-educated.

    @Universeexpanding: In isolation, I doubt that a video like this will change the thinking of all white people, but I wouldn’t underestimate the subtle effects of increased exposure to stereotype-challenging images and information. I’m sure there’s plenty of self-aggrandizing going on too, which annoys me, but that strikes me as a far more secondary issue. That tension will always be there, so long as middle-class people believe that assimilating more of their behaviors will lead to better outcome for less privileged black people.

    • G.D. April 27, 2009 at 1:20 pm Reply

      but it’s not clear that the marriages are not indicators of something else. The pooling of resources is no small thing, but it also assumes that their marriages are the reason for the stability of those families. Black people who are poor are less likely to get married because of the attendant instability of poor life.

      It’s not poverty + marriage = improved outcomes; it’s probably more like poverty + relative stability (from family, church, no pressing legal concerned, etc.) = a greater likelihood of being married in the first place.

  7. universeexpanding April 27, 2009 at 1:16 pm Reply

    If you flood people with enough images I suppose that you could see some positives over time but I guess what you posit as a secondary issue concerns me far more. I don’t think that “ghetto” people (god I hate that word) find people like the ones that are in this spot aspirational – I think it’s really easy to pick up on an “us vs. them” tone here. What I’m asking is, even if marriage is beneficial can a spot like this encourage people to get married. If the aim is simply to draw attention the existence of a married black middle class, how does that help everyone else?

  8. young_ April 27, 2009 at 1:38 pm Reply

    GD- I think that’s right but I don’t see why those two alternative explanations are mutually exclusive. Seems to me like people are probably more likely to get married because they already have more stable lives in various ways, but at the same time, people who get and stay married are also likely to live more stable lives.

    UE- I hate the pejorative use of “ghetto” too and the us v. them/ good blacks v. niggers has always bothered me too, whether it’s coming from W.E.B. DuBois, Chris Rock, or Bill Cosby. I definitely didn’t mean to suggest it was trivial. The more that I think about it, you’re probably right about the doubtful usefulness of this particular clip.

    But I also don’t think that the black marriage issue is just an issue for poor or uneducated black people. From what I recall, the disparities persist pretty high up the SES scale as well, so I’m not sure that there aren’t benefits to making middle-class black people think more about marriage too. All that being said, I can’t vouch for this clip or the overall project without more information.

  9. […] Notify me of follow-up comments via email. « Stumping for Marriage: You’re Doin’ It Wrong. […]

  10. Big Word April 27, 2009 at 9:05 pm Reply

    I think encouraging people to get married is a good thing. However, I think they really are going about it the wrong way because most of what I’ve read suggests that people who don’t get married aren’t doing so because they don’t think it’s good thing. Rather the institution just doesn’t fit in with their values and that fact ought to be recognized and respected by people who want to promote the mainstream version of marriage. I don’t say that to imply any sort of character deficiencies on the part of people who choose not to get married. It’s just the way it is. I would say for a large portion of young women growing up today becoming a mother is more important to them than becoming someone’s wife.

  11. thinking of a name April 27, 2009 at 10:43 pm Reply

    Wow. I have a whole different view on this. I don’t see this as an us verses them issue. I see this as a video that is marketed to people who are like minded to those in the video. I can only speak on my experience and two things really stand out to me. First, several of the people who I went to undergraduate school with and graduated college with some years ago are not married, not because they don’t want to be married, but because of issues with relationships. I see this video marketed at them. Second, there a people like me, who are married and generally happy but without reflection, as in there are not many images that represent my reality out there. I would get this video to look at another person’s relationship and hopefully find some sort of kinship there, look and see if others have gone through the things that maybe we have gone through and how others have overcome some obstacles. With this, as with everything else, I think that it comes down to an issue of balance. With whites there is an understanding and representation that you have both single and married people/parents within that community some that are positive and some not so positive. So why can’t there be the same balance of representation in the black community?

    As for the comment divorce is not an option, I understand it. You do all of your homework and kicking of tires before you get married, then as long as all parties represented themselves correctly before the marriage, then divorce is not an option because why would it need to be?

    • G.D. April 27, 2009 at 10:59 pm Reply

      Oh, I’m certain it’s marketed to people who share a similar outlook to the people in the video; the snippets we see are pretty aphoristic and trite and wouldn’t convince anyone who wasn’t already in their camp.

      The fundamental premises here are flimsy: black people need to be persuaded to be marriedand that marriages for middle-class black people need to be celebrated and emulated. Black Americans, in the aggregate, are social conservatives and pretty churched. They’re already proponents of marriage. Getting to the altar is just a lot more complicated than simply wanting to be there as your homies from college can attest.

      On the point of emulation: again, if you’re saying like-minded people, than this video’s pitch needs a bunch of caveats, right? It’s not for all black people who want to get married, but for black people who want a certain kind of marriage and live a particular kind of lifestyle.

      second, there a people like me, who are married and generally happy but without reflection, as in there are not many images that represent my reality out there. I would get this video to look at another person’s relationship and hopefully find some sort of kinship there, look and see if others have gone through the things that maybe we have gone through and how others have overcome some obstacles.

      I guess this is my question — and i don’t mean it to be glib: what issues and obstacles, specifically, do you face that are unique to your marriage because you’re a black couple? I’d appreciate you schooling me on this.

      the ‘divorce is not an option’ thing is a little bit simplistic, i think. no one’s hoping people have bad marriages and divorce, of course, but i am suggesting that divorces happen for legitimate reasons that often have nothing to do with people’s personal failings. People and circumstances change, in ways that can’t be accounted for at the outset. Conversely, a couple staying together is not a good measure for whether their marriage is healthy or fulfilling or functional.

  12. thinking of a name April 28, 2009 at 8:42 am Reply

    These are my random thoughts, as I don’t have time right now to make them pretty as you all do so well 🙂 ….

    So maybe I am being simplistic, but maybe you can explain to me what you mean by it is for black people who want to get married and live a particular kind of lifestyle? What types of different married life styles are there? Maybe I am just naive to this point. I believe that the idea and issues of marriage, in general, are universal.

    I am not sure that as an aggregate black Americans are social conservatives, maybe in theory but I am not sure about practice. So, I don’t know if blacks are already proponents of marriage.

    I don’t think that the idea that middle-class black marriages should be celebrated is a bad thing. I don’t think that celebrating black marriage, in general, is a bad thing.

    You ask what obstacles and issues are unique to being a black couple. Well, I know that this has to do with “class”, but there is a rather extreme feeling of loneliness, it is something that I have grown accustomed. I was the only one of my black friends and social peers whose parents were married and one of the few (less than half) of my white friends and peers whose parents were married. It was to the point that as a child I distinctly remember wishing my parents were divorced so that I could do what ever I wanted and get all types of toys and treats and trips and you name it – like my white friends did. When the Cosby Show came on I was so happy, because finally I saw a reflection of me and my family, but then people black and white began to criticize the show because it was not real, black people did not live like that, it was not reflective of true life … but it was reflective of true life, my life, but no one seemed to value it. So where do I fit in? It feels like being a unicorn. So those are the things that are brought into our marriage that are different, this feeling that as the women expressed you are not real, there must be some kind of catch, because people like me and my family don’t exist. Then, I get the feeling that there are some people that are waiting and wishing for this thing to fail, because them we won’t be riding so high on the horse, and then we can come down to earth and be like real people.

    Another interesting note, as some of you have children as they grow their experience may be more like mine as you all become the next generation of privilege.

    To your point on divorce is not an option: I do believe that there are marriage that end because things get hard at that moment, but if given a chance things can get better and if divorce was not an option at the time, it would have gotten better. I remember a particular point in my parent’s marriage when they went through a rough patch (before I wished them divorced) there was talk of separating. I wanted them to stay together, I even spoke to the both of them about it, I did not care if they were unhappy, I wanted them to be married for my benefit, period. My mother told me later that she stayed at that point because of her children, but they are still together now and happy, and their children are grown and gone.

    • universeexpanding April 28, 2009 at 9:53 am Reply

      I think you’re exaggerating when you say people don’t value the concept of black marriage or that people criticized representations such as the Cosby show because they thought black married couples were unicorns. People criticized certain hyperbolic aspects of the Cosbys – a doctor with a private practice and a wife who is a partner at a law firm with 5 kids? Living in a brownstone??? In New York????? Yeah right. There were socioeconomic things about the show that were unrealistic. But I think we all knew the show was supposed to be aspirational and we knew there were middle class black married couples.

      You sound bit patronizing when you suggest that some of our children may have experiences more like yours as we become the “next generation of privilege”. Does that privilege necessarily mean we will be married? Doesn’t the current social climate make it more likely that our “privilege” will be to structure our families in non-nuclear atypical ways which may or may not include marriage (hetero and homosexual), blended families of all kinds, college educated single parents, highly capable people living apart and coparenting. You’re assuming that procreating within a marriage will be a part of said “privilege” but I say a wider range of choices about that will.

      I think you’re defending your lifestyle – and that’s fine. I don’t begrudge you that. But it’s not everyone’s lifestyle. As for your notes on your parents marriage and how they avoided divorce; I am very happy your parents managed to work out their issues and are happy now. However, your anecdote does not mean that everyone who is considering divorce is refusing to “work it out” or are “giving up”. My parents were very happy for the first 15 years of their marriage but the last 3 were marred by infidelity, alcoholism and abuse. Now, my mom would have stayed until my father killed her…she wanted her marriage to work. Us kids had to tell her to leave. But I would never use my parents to show that all divorces are warranted, and you shouldn’t use your parents to show that they are not.

  13. young_ April 28, 2009 at 10:53 am Reply

    Although I completely agree that the slogan “divorce is not an option” can be a bad thing if taken too literally*, I think it is probably very positive if taken as a flexible, aspirational maxim. In fact, I’d argue that it might even be necessary to reinforce the stability and feeling of commitment and engagement in a healthy marriage. The fact is, American culture now makes it very acceptable for couples to give up on and walk away from their marriages without trying to preserve them, and I don’t think this is necessarily a good thing. From an individual freedom perspective, fine– everyone should be able to marry or unmarry to their heart’s content, but there are individual, family, and social consequences, and I think the “divorce is not an option” approach ensures that people really contemplate doing what they reasonably can to preserve their relationship instead of just becoming too self-absorbed, moving rashly and looking at the front door.

    *Maybe I’m being too generous, but I tend to think that the people (of our generation) who say things like that often don’t really countenance the possibilities of their spouses becoming abusive or flagrantly adulterous, for example.

    • G.D. April 28, 2009 at 10:56 am Reply

      The fact is, American culture now makes it very acceptable for couples to give up on and walk away from their marriages without trying to preserve them, and I don’t think this is necessarily a good thing.

      How do you even gauge something like this? How does anyone know whether or not people have tried to preserve their marriages, or whether those marriages were preservable? The only way to know about the inner workings of a marriage is to be in it, and so i think we should grant that the people in an individual marriage are better judges of its health than we could be.

    • universeexpanding April 28, 2009 at 11:25 am Reply

      To my mind “divorce isn’t an option” is a more persuasive argument for hesitating to become married than anything anything else. Half of all marriages fail. I am s child of divorced parents and I would like to avoid such trauma for myself and my children (should I have them) but I don’t know if that means I will get married and refuse to let my marriage fail. I think what’s more likely is that I will hesitate to get married in the first place. In addition I live somewhere FULL of young married black couples. The better part of my high school class is married with kids…and most of them are cheating on each other, some have gotten divorced, some have clearly changed since they got married and are regretting the decision. I’m not convinced about this whole marriage thing except from a financial standpoint – lord knows my single salary is peanuts. But that’s a different conversation.

  14. young_ April 28, 2009 at 11:02 am Reply

    There’s no way to know or guage these things but I strongly disagree with the suggestion that we should assume every divorced couple made the right decision just because they know their relationship better than we do. Do you disagree that some people take marriage a lot more seriously than others and work a lot harder to keep it healthy, stable and fulfilling? That some people have much more constructive reactions to marital angst/disatisfaction and go to much greater lengths to repair them (particularly counselling), when others would have just given up?

    • G.D. April 28, 2009 at 11:14 am Reply

      it’s pretty presumptuous to assume that we know better than they do whether their union is something that can or should be maintained. going to counseling and working on your marriage are good-faith efforts at resolving your marriage, but they cannot guarantee that a couple’s issues get resolved. Maybe the underlying issues are just not resolvable. Maybe they got married for the wrong reasons. Who knows?

      I think what you’re suggesting is that people approach marriage with a certain degree of seriousness and sobriety, a minimum of dedication to sticking things out. I bet most people who get married assume that those things are true about their relationships, and I doubt they make the decision to end their marriages without sufficient cause or motivation. But they’re the only people who can be the arbiters of that.

  15. young_ April 28, 2009 at 11:08 am Reply

    btw, I suspect that a lot of marriages end up in divorce because one partner gives up and gradually abandons the relationship over time, until divorce seems like the only logical solution. People who adapt “divorce is not an option” as a (flexible) personal philosophical approach to marriage may be more willing to work on their situation after the first signs of problems, because their marriage is something that is very valuable to them and that they want to proactively work to preserve and improve.

  16. thinking of a name April 28, 2009 at 11:19 am Reply

    I was asked a question and I gave an answer based on my experiences. I don’t have to defend my lifestyle to anyone, why should I, I am happy and secure with myself. I do, however, try to understand, and learn from, perspectives that may be different from my own.

    When I said that your children would be of privilege I was making no correlation with marriage. I just noted that there is a lot of discussion of privilege on this site and it is often, in my opinion, viewed as a bad thing but I was just wondering if anyone else had noted that a lot of people on here will have children of privilege.

    I did not, nor have I ever stated, that my lifestyle is for everyone. Once again, I was asked a question and gave an answer, based on my experiences. I also did not say ALL marriages where people are considering divorce.

    Once again, in my experience, the idea that there was a family like the Cosby Show was not seen as a real life scenario.

    I joined the conversation to give my perspective on this and other issues and also to understand where other people are coming from and possibly learn a thing or two, but if you would rather have a conversation where everyone agrees and lives the same lifestyles or use me as a model Bible thumping social conservative pro-marriage villain (which I don’t think I am) that likes to run through these threads then I will just keep it moving.

    • thinking of a name April 28, 2009 at 11:22 am Reply

      The above was a response to universeexpanding.

    • universeexpanding April 28, 2009 at 11:30 am Reply

      No-one is attacking you. You gave your take and I gave mine. No-one villified you or called you bible-thumping. You’re knee-jerking right now and you *are* being defensive. I said I felt you were being patronizing and I also feel you are simplifying issues pertaining to divorce. You wanted to know where other people are coming from and now you do…evidently you don’t like it.

    • quadmoniker April 28, 2009 at 11:46 am Reply

      TOAN:
      I’m going to jump in here just in the general spirit of the site. I can’t speak for G.D. or anyone else who started it, but I think one of the ideas was to have tough, active and in-depth debate on the kinds of topics you might not always see discussed intelligently in the public sphere. And, usually, people don’t have opportunities to actually debate.

      With that in mind, know that people will disagree with you at times and will tell you about it. Don’t feel like you’re being attacked. I didn’t see UE attacking you. I saw her disagreeing with you, and saying there were some logical flaws in your argument. Take it as an opportunity to make your argument stronger.

    • G.D. April 28, 2009 at 8:32 pm Reply

      Wow. you inserted a whole lot of stuff — ‘bible thumping pro-marriage villain’ — that no one suggested.

      Please, keep commenting. But it seems like you read UE’s response as some sort of ad hominem attack, when it wasn’t.

      • thinking of a name April 28, 2009 at 10:07 pm Reply

        Since there seems to be a lot of discussion that is pertaining to my comments let me clarify some things. First, I can take an opinion, idea, or thought that is different from mine. Although I do not agree I will respect it as valid to who ever thought, wrote or said it. Actually, I enjoy this and learn a lot from it. Second, I can take a criticism, if I could not I would have changed careers a long time ago and I most certainly would not be commenting on a post in a blog where clearly I might be in the minority with my ideas and thoughts and probably express them differently than most on this blog. If I was not open to that criticism I would be commenting on a site where the majority of views mirrored mine.

        What I can not take and did not like about the response was that it was my experience and how can someone tell me that my experience is wrong? Did you live it? What I cannot take is an overly close reading concerning marriage and how I see all marriage when clearly that was not what was stated. I don’t remember stating privilege and hetero nuclear family in the same sentence nor do I remember stating that my life style was the only possible way or that every marriage that ends in divorce was because people didn’t try hard enough to work it out, but there it was in the reply.

        I was asked by GD what I thought was different about being a black married couple and I gave my experience with background and that was all.

  17. young_ April 28, 2009 at 11:40 am Reply

    I agree with Universeexpanding’s point that “Divorce is not an option” is also an important reason why people need to seriously think about marriage before entering it (and perhaps a big counterargument to the religion prof’s WaPo article discussed in the other PB marriage post).

    And for the record, I think that deciding who and when to marry or unmarry is far less important than deciding who to have children with (and when). I just wanted to throw that out there because most of my views about the importance/benefits of marriage stem from the fact that I’m pretty convinced that it’s generally conducive to a whole range of better outcomes for children and that divorce generally promotes a number of negative outcomes for children.

  18. young_ April 28, 2009 at 11:52 am Reply

    I should probably stay out of it but having been part of the discussion too, I feel compelled to type my two cents. Just keeping it real, I was initially a little surprised by the tone of UE’s response to Thinking of a Name too. I didn’t think Thinking got ‘vilified’ like he claimed, but it definitely didn’t come across as someone just breaking down someone’s arguments and exposing their logical flaws.

    For whatever that’s worth, just my unsolicited two cents…

    • universeexpanding April 28, 2009 at 12:04 pm Reply

      * Shrugs * TOAN is allowed to get upset – that’s her perogative, but that’s definitely not what I set out to do. I do disagree with her, strongly even, but I didn’t call her names or suggest that she’s wrong to live the life she lives. It’s just not everyone’s life. As quad was saying that’s what this site is about. We strive to be dispassionate in laying out why we disagree, and while I have feelings about this topic based on my life I don’t feel like anything I said was a personal attack on TOAN.

  19. Tiffany In Houston April 28, 2009 at 8:13 pm Reply

    I happen to agree with TOAN and while I certainly enjoy the discourse and intelligence of the site participants, I have to say the general tone of the posters keeps me from commenting. I don’t necessarily feel this is a safe space for us Negroes who might tend to think a bit more traditionally but still consider themselves progressive enough to want to stretch a bit.

    Just my 14 cents.

    • G.D. April 28, 2009 at 8:19 pm Reply

      That’s fair; i think few of us identify as traditionalists. But I also don’t think any of the responses to TOAN were out of line or harsh, although she (?) clearly took the response to her argument pretty personally.

      still. you care to elaborate on what gets your goat about PB?

    • shani-o April 28, 2009 at 9:20 pm Reply

      I don’t think it’s fair to blame our ‘general tone’ for why you read but don’t comment. For the record, all of the contributors here don’t agree with each other. And there are several commenters who jump into discussions, don’t agree with us, and keep coming back. I thought TOAN was one, but it seems s/he got sensitive because a poorly formed argument was called out as such.

      Anyway, why does this blog need to be a safe space for people who don’t want to think about what they say before they say it? (And I certainly don’t say that to be bitchy, I say it as a person who has been pounded here a few times for doing just that.)

      • young_ April 28, 2009 at 10:12 pm Reply

        For the record, I don’t follow… I don’t see how TOAN had a “poorly formed argument” (or any particular “argument” really) so much as a handful of observations/opinions– in response to a question– that were no less reasonable than the various arguments proffered by the anti- “marriage stumping” majority here.

        • shani-o April 29, 2009 at 5:23 am Reply

          We argue a lot here…so anything anyone says is fair game for discussion/debate. As the about page says, “PostBourgie is a running, semi-orderly conversation about class and politics and media and gender and whatever else we can think of.” We try not to bring our personal observations to the table as evidence of larger truths.

          You say TOAN’s opinions were reasonable, and they were. But in the context of the discussion, his/her observations and opinions were purely personal and anecdotal, and not really a logical answer to ‘what problems are unique to being a black couple?’ UE pointed that out.

          I think we’ve all made that mistake at some point, but the key is, when one gets called out on it: either sit back or try to hone the argument. Don’t accuse the people who point out logical flaws of wanting everyone to agree with them, or not tolerating dissent from ‘traditionalists.’ We are all about dissent here, as long as the dissenters can back it up.

          • young_ April 29, 2009 at 5:49 am Reply

            I argue a lot too (when I want to procrastinate). And i would argue that the following paragraph is directly responsive to GD’s question about what challenges might be unique to black couples. Just to recap…

            GD: “I guess this is my question — and i don’t mean it to be glib: what issues and obstacles, specifically, do YOU face that are unique to YOUR MARRIAGE because you’re a black couple? I’d appreciate you schooling me on this.” (emphasis added)

            TOAN: “You ask what obstacles and issues are unique to being a black couple. Well, I know that this has to do with “class”, but there is a rather extreme feeling of loneliness, it is something that I have grown accustomed. I was the only one of my black friends and social peers whose parents were married and one of the few (less than half) of my white friends and peers whose parents were married. It was to the point that as a child I distinctly remember wishing my parents were divorced so that I could do what ever I wanted and get all types of toys and treats and trips and you name it – like my white friends did. When the Cosby Show came on I was so happy, because finally I saw a reflection of me and my family, but then people black and white began to criticize the show because it was not real, black people did not live like that, it was not reflective of true life … but it was reflective of true life, my life, but no one seemed to value it. So where do I fit in? It feels like being a unicorn. So those are the things that are brought into our marriage that are different, this feeling that as the women expressed you are not real, there must be some kind of catch, because people like me and my family don’t exist. Then, I get the feeling that there are some people that are waiting and wishing for this thing to fail, because them we won’t be riding so high on the horse, and then we can come down to earth and be like real people.”

            Seems pretty responsive and specific to GD’s question to me… So I still don’t see what people seem to think she got “called out on”. And it seems very unconstructive and, frankly, implausible (and self-congratulatory), to dismiss TOAN’s reaction as that of a sore loser who is just crestfallen because her flimsy arguments have been smashed to pieces by UE’s superior logic and rhetoric. Maybe TOAN misinterpreted something in construing UE’s message as an ad hominem attack, but everyone jumping in and telling TOAN that she’s just mad because she got served–when she very clearly disagrees that she got served and believes that she is offended about something else–just doesn’t seem all that compelling.

            • shani-o April 29, 2009 at 7:54 am Reply

              Okay. I’ll just repeat the following and leave it at that:

              But in the context of the discussion, his/her observations and opinions were purely personal and anecdotal, and not really a logical answer to ‘what problems are unique to being a black couple?’ UE pointed that out.

              • Tiffany In Houston April 29, 2009 at 10:59 am Reply

                So who is the arbiter of what a ‘logical answer’ is?? To comment do folks need to start footnoting and having bibliographies here?? Isn’t the point of the discussion to get opinions? I’m confused here.

                What makes UE’s argument more right or wrong than TOAN’s?? Or vice versa. They both make cogent points to me.

                • quadmoniker April 29, 2009 at 11:33 am Reply

                  The answer is, we all are. It’s not like anyone deletes comments they feel are illogical. We leave them up. Some people comment and say they disagree. Some people comment and say they agree. It’s not as if UE’s disagreement has any more weight than TOAN’s comment with which she disagreed.

                  People don’t need to footnote, BUT if you want people to agree with you, then you should back your comments up with SOMETHING more than one or two anecdotes. If you don’t care whether anyone agrees, then why does UE’s comment bother anyone?

                  • G.D. April 29, 2009 at 12:10 pm Reply

                    i think that’s it.

                    TOAN said “i don’t think black people are socially conservative in practice,” and didn’t bother explaining what she meant by any of that, and it’s a statement that begs for explication.

                    she made a comment along the lines of “our]kids being the next generation of privilege, and would live lives like [hers]” and again, it wasn’t at all clear what she meant by privilege, in this instance, or even what she meant by lives like hers.

                    how can an argument be logical or strong if it isn’t even clear?

      • Tiffany In Houston April 29, 2009 at 10:52 am Reply

        I’ll address this to both GD and Shani-O since I made the comment. I don’t feel safe commenting here not because I don’t know how to THINK but because sometimes the commentary can be a bit too extra. The snarkiness can really be irritating at times.

        I am a HBCU graduate, who is Baptist, in a sorority and who would like to be in a traditional marriage. I am not necessarily in favor of gay marriage but have no issue with civil unions. My views are consistent with a lot of black folks, but not all. I don’t think that I am really your audience as it seems the contributors are all ultra progressive. But I am a person who thinks, wishes to grow and though I may not change my mind on how I think about certain things I am certainly wise enough to know that there are two sides to every argument and that it behooves me to get knowledge from all sources.

        A debate about a poorly constructed argument is one thing, being an asshole during said debate is altogether another.

        But that’s just my opinion.

        • quadmoniker April 29, 2009 at 11:29 am Reply

          That’s sad for me that you don’t want to comment, because I like most when I disagree with people. It gives me a chance to fine-tune my argument, or to be won over by theirs.

          That being said, I think UE’s problem with TOAN’s post was that it extrapolated from personal experience (which is totally fine to share) to a broader idea of how people should think about marriage without enough dots for UE to connect the ideas together.

          However, I can totally understand how we might seem like intellectual bullies. I can speak for myself and tell you that my debates are loud and long, and it comes from having grown up in an ultra-conservative area where I had to be loudest and longest to be heard. It’s really not personal.

          I wish there was a way to ensure that everyone felt comfortable commenting AND being disagreed with, sometimes vociferously. I don’t read UE’s post as being rude or asshole-ish. Maybe that’s just a difference of opinion. Do you have any ideas on how we can strike a balance?

        • G.D. April 29, 2009 at 11:51 am Reply

          to which you’re entitled, obviously.

          (i don’t know if being in favor of gay marriage — a pretty uncontroversial stance on the coasts, btw — makes us “ultraprogressive.” But I get that our general inclination toward liberalism might be a bit much for center-right black folks — who, it’s worth noting, represent the majority of black people.)

          “My views are consistent with a lot of black folks, but not all.”

          I mean, I suppose that’s true of any of us, right? But it’s worth noting, that one of our posters is an unapologetic Christian who blogs about her faith often, another is an AKA who went to Howard who long identified as a conservative, and another of our posters isn’t even black. It’s just factually inaccurate to paint us as a bunch of uniformly strident black lefties.

          On the “safe space” bit: there’s a whole conversation about balance here that we could have, if we wanted. Suffice it to say, there are plenty of blogs run by black folks that would have cosigned the above video, and that’s certainly their prerogative. But that’s just not our bag, and as this blog’s proprietor, I really don’t think it needs to be.

          We’d like you to comment. And if you have specific examples of our unbridled assholery that you’d like to point out to us and how we could better handle it, we’d welcome it.

          But at the same time — and this is gonna sound assholish, though that’s not my intention — no one’s making you read this blog, either, you know?

          • Tiffany In Houston April 29, 2009 at 12:14 pm Reply

            GD: LOL Point taken about reading the blog.

            Maybe that’s my personal hang up. The tone is what I seem to be having mad issue with. Sometimes.

            I thought I’d been reading here long enough to catch the flavor of the contributors. Maybe not.

            And I certainly don’t think the blog needs to be an echo chamber, no not at all. That’s not growth, that’s just incestous.

            • G.D. April 29, 2009 at 12:36 pm Reply

              And I certainly don’t think the blog needs to be an echo chamber, no not at all. That’s not growth, that’s just incestous.

              All the more reason for you to comment regularly. 😉

            • shani-o April 29, 2009 at 12:55 pm Reply

              I really hope this isn’t your last comment, TIH. 🙂

              And please believe, I’ve gotten riled up a few times here and had to take the discussion off-line or step away. I think it’s only natural to get really passionate when talking about social issues, because these discussions tend to hit people where they live, literally and figuratively.

              I guess my advice to wary commenters who share your hesitation would be: just jump in. We bark sometimes, but I think most of us really value the commenters who disagree, because they keep it interesting. I’d rather have one stridently argumentative comment (with good backup) than ten “Ooh, I know that’s right!” comments.

  20. Winslowalrob April 28, 2009 at 8:50 pm Reply

    An a totally unrelated topic, I had to look up the word “sententious “… I feel so ignorant.

  21. cicely April 28, 2009 at 10:14 pm Reply

    i read every day but rarely comment, mostly due to time constraints. i love the site: the various and sometimes conflicting viewpoints; the commitment to critical thinking and argument refinement; and, of course, mad jokes. postbourgie seems to me to be a place that welcomes hearing the ideas of all kinda folx, and part of that welcome is not coddling grown people when their arguments don’t hold together; me, i feel respected by it.

    that being said…it seems like there are a few different things going on in TOAN’s post. the unicorn thing, which i feel; earlier today i was telling my partner i was sick of feeling like a unicorn, like my…brand, if you will, of blackness is this bizarre and singular thing. i tend to chalk that up to the erroneous concept and numerous representations of negritude as this monolithic thing. if not totally monolithic, then some kind of ill “theme and variations”. i feel like this video, in seeking to expose the fact that black people really do go to college and get married and have kids or whatever, just perpetuates the “us vs. them” thing, as so many pointed out. and i think the “us vs. them” and the “monolithic negritude” thing are related. this idea of, “well, we always see the bad, let’s show the good” often comes off to me as “please don’t make us stay in the box with them! we’re normal. just like you!” and it’s not hard to guess who the “you” is…

    the second issue i saw in TOAN’s stuff was admirably explicated by UE. i am sometimes guilty of thinking that my experience is the norm, but whenever i go there, i get into trouble.

    thirdly, perhaps there’re some semantic differences at play, too…. if you’re still reading TOAN, what is the definition and ideal of marriage that you find to be universal? also, what did you meant by privilege? when i read it, i questioned whether you meant in terms of institutional oppression, or more like, a driver’s license at 16?

  22. thinking of a name April 29, 2009 at 12:41 pm Reply

    That being said, I think UE’s problem with TOAN’s post was that it extrapolated from personal experience (which is totally fine to share) to a broader idea of how people should think about marriage without enough dots for UE to connect the ideas together.

    WRONG!

    I was asked a question by GD pertaining to MY SPECIFIC black marriage (being that I am both black and married I guess it would be logical to ask about my marriage being different. Good! We can move on to the next point) to which I answered BASED ON MY EXPERIENCE (I don’t know what else I would base it on really. Maybe I should look up some studies on or pertaining to black marriages and get statistics from said study that I was not a part of in describing MY marriage. Or better yet, why don’t I go out and get funding to do said study to answer this particular question pertaining to my specific marriage … Oh, but then I would probably have to get the necessary credentials to carry out such a study and hire staff and, oh yeah, find a sample of at least let’s say 100 TOADs, yeah, that’s a good number. Devote a couple of years to is, sounds good. Oh yeah, I forgot, there is only one TOAD so that won’t work …). Now, if he was asking about ALL black marriages, then that was not my interpretation, but he did not write “ALL black marriage” he wrote “YOUR black marriage”. Maybe this was some sort of subtle subconscious me verses you type of speak, hmmm, hadn’t thought about that …

    I don’t know what to say other than that. I guess what the majority is stating and want me to accept is that I have been called out for my lack of logical argument and acted in a knee jerk manor to not being coddled and to that I say … okay, sure, why not.

    • quadmoniker April 29, 2009 at 12:51 pm Reply

      Fair enough. Perhaps I misread it. My point was this: you asserted your assumptions and beliefs rather strongly, then seemed to get mad when UE just as strongly disagreed with you. That’s just not the way it works.

    • G.D. April 29, 2009 at 12:51 pm Reply

      please try to reply so that your reply is threaded to the comment you’re responding to.

    • shani-o April 29, 2009 at 1:03 pm Reply

      Thanks for coming back…but the part where he said “because you’re a black couple” is what stands out to me. It’s not a question about your marriage and only your marriage, it’s a question that asks what issues in your marriage are specific to being black.

  23. thinking of a name April 29, 2009 at 1:12 pm Reply

    please try to reply so that your reply is threaded to the comment you’re responding to.

    I would love nothing better than to do that, however, at some points the reply option does not work for me and I am forced to start a new threat at the bottom … like now.

  24. thinking of a name April 29, 2009 at 1:20 pm Reply

    For some reason reply is not working for me!!!

    SHANI-O:
    Thanks for coming back…but the part where he said “because you’re a black couple” is what stands out to me. It’s not a question about your marriage and only your marriage, it’s a question that asks what issues in your marriage are specific to being black.

    That’s fine, and I can handle that argument and I could have revisited the question and given a more defined answer or maybe I would have thought about it and come to the conclusion that, you know what, there really isn’t anything different about my black marriage. This is a completely different response than the one I got.

    However, I am afraid, that at this point and time, I don’t have the energy or inclination to go any further into this specific topic.

    • shani-o April 29, 2009 at 1:42 pm Reply

      Fair enough. I’m a little over it myself. But do stick around.

  25. […] the rest of the “Stumping for Marriage “ posts here and […]

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