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Why is Black cohabitation stigmatized in our community?

Whites lead in trend and Blacks feel pressure

Carla St.Louis | 3/6/2014, 9 a.m.

"My aunt disapproved," she said. "She would say, 'We are rushing to move in because we have children' and 'we are moving too fast' but she would never give any suggestions to other options. She just preferred for us to be married because of her Christianity; she wanted us to get the approval of God. But my friends and mom considered [cohabiting] to be a good idea because we already have a family. My mom liked the fact that he stepped up to be a man. She felt like living together was a path to marriage — which we are planning right now."

"You must stay with a person first before marriage because you need to truly know that person. There are flaws some people just can't take," said Ganett.

Unlike the other couples polled, Ganett's church, Mount Zion AME Church supported their union.

"Our church is so supportive and loving of our relationship," she said. "I believe our church is more responsive to our relationship [compared to others] because we are actually serious. Our pastor is mentoring our relationship and he's providing counseling to prepare us for a sturdy marriage."

Community leaders speak

Pastor Ralph Ross of Mount Zion Baptist Church agreed with Mount Zion AME Church's handling of Ganett's relationship.

"If a couple is serious and cohabiting I believe they should marry," said Ross. "And they should to please God. Whenever a couple comes to me and talks about marriage, I talk about the difficulties of marriage [...] I think you should want to be married, committed to marriage and believe in marriage."

"When I was a child the three most important points were the home, school and church," he said in response to why the Black community favors marriage. "And what was said at home and school was reflective of the beliefs and ideas of the church. Those principles were passed on to generation to generation and so on."

"Somewhere along the lines of de-segregation/integration, we as a community began to embrace the dominant ideas in the white community, and it has become reflective of the 11 percent of couples who chose to cohabit," said Ross.

"The so-called welfare system has contributed to the destruction of marriages within the Black community," continued Ross. "When a mother is faced with two choices of 1) if she's married she'll receive less welfare assistance and 2) if she had more children she'd receive more assistance, it creates an environment where marriage is no longer valued or sought after [...]The children of those generations witnessed this, and in turn it created a generation of men who don't feel the need to take on their responsibilities because welfare was an option."

Carolyn "Kiani" Nesbitt, president and CEO of Concerned African Women, Inc. understands why couples are opting out of marriage.

"Marriage is unsuccessful in our community because of the expectations attached to the traditional roles of male to be the head of household by being the primary bread winner," she said.

"This role for our men is systematically hindered by well-known cultural biases and injustices," said Nesbitt. "Cohabitation allows the Black family structure to be maintained to a certain degree because its essentially still a two-parent household that provides companionship, reduced financial burden and acts as a stress reliever."

To read the U.S. Census Bureau's research in its entirety, log on to http://1.usa.gov/1gOpxEu.