July 29th, 2008
08:20 AM ET

Black and married: No, marriage isn't just for white people

Program Note: In CNN’s Black in America, Soledad O’Brien examines the successes, struggles and complex issues faced by black men, women and families, 40 years after the death of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. We continue the discussion on the blog with insight and commentary related to the investigation.
Editor's Note: Camille Wright Felton is a copy editor at CNN. After reading one of our articles, 'Black and single: Is marriage really for white people? 'Camille wrote a follow up response, from another perspective. She shares her view with us.


Camille Wright Felton
Copy editor, CNN.COM

I'm an African-American woman who's married to an African-American man.

Some people might consider me to be a rare find. I don't feel like an anomaly, but statistically, I am. According to U.S. Census records, I'm one of about 30% of black women who are married. My husband and I will be celebrating our 17th wedding anniversary in August. We live in a suburb of Atlanta, with our two kids and a dog, in a house with a picket fence.

Just the other day we were having a discussion about relationships with a group of married and single friends. Someone asked us if we had any advice to give. I really don't. I don't think I have any special secret. I certainly can't tell anyone how or where to find a husband. We were kids when we met in church, and we started dating years later when I was in college. We may have a solid marriage because we're following the examples we grew up with, just as people say single parents are emulating the example of their single parents. My husband's parents have been married for more than 40 years. My parents are no longer together, but they didn't split until I was grown and had a family. All of our siblings are married to African Americans.

I don't mean to make it sound like I've had some Cosby Show-like background. I absolutely don’t take my husband or our marriage and family for granted. There are single parents on both sides of our families. I hear single friends, both black and white, talk about dating, and I'm glad I'm not single. That's not to say I feel superior to or sorry for single women, or men for that matter. If you're single and okay with that, then I am, too. If you really want to be married, and you know what you want, then I wish you luck. I congratulate my single friends when they buy their first homes by themselves. I admit I envy them when they can drop everything to travel, or take a great job they've wanted. I've never asked anyone why they're still single. It's none of my business. They probably know the statistics, just like I know the statistics about how often marriages end in divorce.

I also know that having a successful marriage isn't something that's reserved for white people.

Filed under: Black in America
soundoff (223 Responses)
  1. Darnet

    Darnet July 29th, 2008 1:20 pm ET

    I am soo sick of society looking down at black unmarried couples as immoral and living in sin. Marriage guarantees you nothing! To tell you the truth, I have seen more married dysfunctional couples than most unmarried couples. Case in point, my girl friend and I were once homeless together. Through it all, we stock together for 16 wonderful years – the best years of our life. During the time we were homeless, we had our first child, and we both went to collage and graduated with honors. We found good jobs, made 2 more beautiful kinds and we send all 3 of our children to private school starting from K-1. Our kids never saw inside of a public school. We also bought a beautiful single family house, and we live in the suburbs of Boston not been married. We accomplished all this not married, and was never once on welfare or received food stamps. O! – did I mention we both grew up in a single family house? Yes! We both did. My mom was not there. She ran away. Her dad was not there. He died when she was 4 years old.

    There are people in America who like to get on the high horse to lecture the black community – especially the young black community – about marriage who are themselves are going through their 2nd to 5th divorce. So please save us the lecture on marriage.

    The point I am trying to make here is marriage is not the real problem within the black community. The problem with the black community is that we don’t stick together, communicate and work as a team for our ideals and goals as a community.

    Alicia and I believe marriage is from the heart, and every black person can also accomplish the same things with a little determination, not accepting no as the final answer, and also willing to fight for what you believed to be yours. Nevertheless, I felt the report was bias, and promoted the stereo types of the black community.

    July 29, 2008 at 5:18 pm |
  2. Jay

    Ok, let us examine the black man’s choices for marriage.

    Behind door #1. You can choose a black woman who loves you for everything you can give her. When you get pay, she expects you to give up your entire check. She want to spend it anyway she likes and you just keep working to support her shopping habits, nice cars every year, bling bling and vacations. The day you talk to her about her shopping or stop supporting her care free life stile, you become a bum. She then calls you a no good bum, and then uses the black woman favorite word, “I don’t need any man! I don’t need you”. She then dial 911 and tell them you beat her- or even worse, you raped her. You now find yourself locked up on some bum charge to which the system is more that happy to house you. She then fines herself another sucker while you are sitting in jail trying to figure out what just happen. You life is over bro! You lose!

    Behind door # 2. You have gone to collage, graduated with honors, worked 3 time as hard in Corp America just to prove you can do the job and still be seen as Affirmative Action Hire. Now you have everything you need and plan on finding a successful black woman and find out you now have a bigger problem. If the black woman you are seeking feel she have just as much as you or more, she don’t want you. She thinks you have nothing to offer. So you get yourself a white woman, and when the black woman see you with a white women who loves you for who you are, the black woman has a problem with that. You can’t win!

    Behind door #3. A sheep. No drama, no wild spending of your hard earns money, no noise in your house, and you get to keep you sanity. Ya Boy! I will take my chances with a sheep any day.

    July 29, 2008 at 5:14 pm |
  3. Gonz

    Come on people, listen to the lyrics of pop songs on the radio today that are sung by the black community! The songs sung by black males all too often objectify women as nothing more than sexual toys. And the songs sung by black women respond to this by dismissing men as predating animals that are not worth their time. The lyrics are frequently obscene and liberally use the "N" word to refer to each other. What does that community expect for an outcome? Forget about honor, respect and obey, its not going to happen.

    July 29, 2008 at 4:50 pm |
  4. April From LA

    I am so frustrated and honestly, ANGRY that so many white people seem to not believe that being white offers them opportunities and accessibility that blacks don't. Or maybe I should put it another way...SOME white people really don't believe that institutionalized racism exist, and they in fact, benefit from it whether they believe it's right or not. YES WHITE PEOPLE! YOU HAVE AN ADVANTAGE!! You may not have noticed it or even accepted it BUT you have it! The whole "I never owned slaves" argument is just ridiculous. The fact is that a black man/woman with a 4-year degree is equal to a white man/woman with a high school diploma in the professional arena. Trust me, I work with nothing but white people, who are on the same career level as me, with high school diploma's while I have a 4-year degree. And they're making more money than me too!!

    Now, when it comes to relationships and marriage, the black american perspective and struggles are different from those of other races. IMO, we are the culture of extremes. Either we have a high level or low level of something. It's unbalanced and I think BIA showed that in its statistics. It's harder for successful black women to find suitable mates than their white counterparts. It's a fact.

    As a 28 year old single black woman with a 4-year degree from Howard University who owns her own home, has 2 cars and earns 6 figures a year in Fashion, I can say with all honesty and certainty that finding a black male with a similar background WHO EVEN WANTS TO BE in a relationship is almost impossible. Forget marriage! I'm talking about a monogomous, committed relationship! The quality just isn't there. The desire for black men to be in a relationship is almost non-existent. It's really sad. They either want to "date" numerous women at once or expect the woman to "take care of them" and I'm not talking about cooking and cleaning. I'm taking about paying the bills, paying for dinner or outings and so on. The choices are just pathetic! So look out white men 'cause here I come!

    July 29, 2008 at 4:35 pm |
  5. Michele Claybrook-Lucas

    Sadly, "Black in America" only fanned the flames of the stereotypes that exist for black Americans. True, there are unwed mothers, absent fathers, welfare recipients, drug abusers and ex-cons however, there are quite a few black Americans that live "main stream" lives. Yes, we' like to pay our bills, make a living, create stable homes, get education. There are far too many reasons why things go awry and we end up on a CNN special looking foolish.

    Soledad O's program appeared to be slanted towards the negative – that's disappointing because the real story is that we're making progress. Yeah, we're still getting married (I'm married to a wonderful black man) and some black men are going to college and becoming gainfully employed. But there are quite a few brothers out there that are holding down steady jobs, have good values and want stable relationships that haven't gone to college. Oh, but those guys weren't interviewed.

    I don't think that we'll ever find answers to some pressing social questions if we keep focusing on the negative. I applaud the young Harvard professor who is committing his life to finding answers – not exploiting others misfortunes.

    "Black in America" was exploitative (especially the segment on the 1 year old his father hadn't seen her in months, her mom was pregnant with twins by another man, and oh by the way, her dad has another baby by someone else. What was that about? This is a clear example of highlighting a "problem" and not offering solutions (or conselling as needed in this case.)

    Lastly, let's stop fanning the flames of light skin versus dark skin. It's really silly and colonialist. There's a memo going around: the massa let the "darkies" in the big house with the light folks and everybody can work together now.

    Perhaps we need to accept each other as we are, help one another when we're difficient, and stop looking for reasons to not like one another. Okay...I'll wake up from my dream now.

    July 29, 2008 at 4:09 pm |
  6. DC

    It is a soo true. It is a man’s world but a woman’s court. Not to mention we get financially gang rape every time by the court system, the ex-wife and her attorney, especially if you have any kind of money. When a woman is finished with you in the court system, you are considered luck if you have enough money to afford cotton balls after the financial bleeding.

    July 29, 2008 at 2:23 pm |
  7. eric

    "My point is that is maturity and responsibility and passion hit a delta and the right thing happens for marriage. It’s not a black, yellow, or white thing. It’s a precious gift that isn’t driven by socia economics but a maturity, spiritual condition".

    Finally someone who knows and speaks the truth. Thanks Moogie_101

    July 29, 2008 at 2:11 pm |
  8. Jim

    Marriage isn't just for white people? Truly prejudiced rhetoric.

    July 29, 2008 at 2:09 pm |
  9. Dee

    As a Black man,

    DAMM STOP WITH THE ISSUES, everything we do, its always about race, if your in love, you bring race into, if not the same thing. When are BLACK WOMEN, gonna learn if you concern yourself with being a woman, and stop relating every unfortunte event in your life to the color of your skin, and just realize, there women of all races, that face the same issues with dating you face, You might just find real happiness in you life.

    And maybe, if you stop placing so much concern, on your material world "i.e" Educational backgroung, Job Status, Bank Accounts, and other things that has little, or nothing to do with LOVE, isn`t that the reason I wanna wake up with you and also, stop wanting marriage as something you put on your resume, just maybe you might actully give youself a better shot.

    As for me I have my own, I don`t need you for those things, so I dont concern myself with that, as for black men we are tired of our BLACK Women, in the media complaining and putting down, Maybe thats one of the reasons why so many of you are so unsuccessful.


    Ya killin us

    July 29, 2008 at 1:54 pm |
  10. Ally

    To K, good point!

    We (Black folks in general) need to support each other.
    When I see my "sisters" and "brother" out there, I bid them "hello" and "good day", or complement their attire or hand a mother a book for their child.
    We need to show our folks that they have some sort of support from the public, as little as you think it may seem, it goes a long way for some folks that are just down and on their last dollar.
    I do this in hopes of people passing it along to others.
    When I came to this country I did not see nor feel the support between "African American" in general. Someone mentioned "the Cosbys" which I believe is a reality waiting to happen to many "African American" families if they would work at it, and it is a lot of work. It is VERY possible to happen.
    Too many are quick and ready to separate, run away, leave or make it alone. And as far as marriage goes, some unprivileged "African American" males have the nerve to ask for "prenups".
    We need much support, as a family, community and government.

    July 29, 2008 at 1:32 pm |
  11. MS

    Arlene G:

    Allow me to differ respectfully – I think marriage has nothing (or little) to do with love. Its a commitment to another human being to support him/her in good or bad times, a responsibility towards the children to raise them to be good citizens. Most married folks know that the love and romance die a few years after marriage. What keeps marriages together is the shared responsibility, both financial and emotional, and the shared goals for retirement.

    I do think that single people who do not shoulder their share of the burden of raising the posterity should be taxed more. Anyways, I digress from the topic, there are some very good discussions above, eye openers to me in many csaes. Thank you, all, for sharing the views. Best regards, – M.S.

    July 29, 2008 at 1:30 pm |
  12. Darnet

    Well said Ken!!! It is a man's world but a woman's court.

    July 29, 2008 at 1:21 pm |
  13. Ken

    To Mary: Good for you that you were married 30 years. Congratulations. But you and your husband were only able to stay together because both partners chose to stay married. When one partner chooses to leave, thanks to "no fault" divorce laws there is pretty much nothing the other person can do about it nom atter how much they want to remain married. And when that happens, it is almost always the husband who loses everything of value. He is the one who typically loses his children, his house, his income, 401(K), pension, child support, alimony, any voice in how his children are raised, and so on.

    Seventy percent of divorce petitions are filed by the wife, and fifty percent of first marriages end in divorce. Seventy percent of second marrriages end in divorce. Ninety percent of divorces with children result in the father losing his children. The odds are going to have to get better before you will see men being willing to participate in marriage as they did in the past.

    July 29, 2008 at 1:10 pm |
  14. Ally

    I personally don't consider myself "African American" but Black (a whole other topic altogether) since I was born in another country in the Caribbean. However since I migrated here years ago I can't help but feel the pinch, pain and some suffering that comes with being an "African American". I am usually quick to clear the difference between being called "African American" and Black when opportunity permits.
    I have been divorced from an "African American" because of his, what I would personally describe (from what I've observed) as, typical male "African American" ways.
    Every "African American" male I met thereafter was just about the same. The good ones are VERY rare, hard to find and sadly get profiled with the lesser qualified "African American" males.
    After a diligent search, I found my guy; another Caribbean, black male. We both live in America and it turns out that his search for a compatible companion had also failed, in the area of "African American" females, as they too seem to have their own specific profiles, where, again, the good ones are buried deep and lost with the lesser qualified.

    July 29, 2008 at 12:57 pm |
  15. Johhny B.

    To Daniel Sea:

    BRAVO! I am glad that others see this hyphenated nonsense has got to stop. Why does a race have to separate itself with a hyphen (an incorrect hyphen none-the-less). I was born in California and I am a white man. Can I segregate myself even further by calling myself an "American-American" or better yet "White-American"?

    This is absolute reverse discrimination.

    July 29, 2008 at 12:54 pm |
  16. KB the realist

    I'm a 28yr old Black woman who's been married going on 4yrs to a black man we currently have no children but are happy. My husband comes from the home of a broken marriage but the man was not his father and my mom waited until she was 40 to marry and is curently married. I think it's sad that it's 2008 and in this country the Jim Crow theory is still in effect to the point we're debating whether people of color "deserve" to be married or whether marriage is for blacks or whites. Marriage is for people who are tired of the dating scene and really want to settle down, people who find that special someone (regardless of their color) and want to commit their lives to them. Color should not even be a factor because the marital vows don't recognize race and i feel like the person who took the time to write this crap should be fired because there are more paper worty stories going on right now like how as a society we will go on ebay and spend thousands of dollars on auctions for junk when there are people out here sleeping under bridges, going hungry at night and having to steal to survive. Stories like this deserve to be debated and gain the attention of the media and govenrment. So who cares if blacks or whites are better for marriage...if you're married you know it's just a blessing to survive marriage from one anniversary to the next. From "tired of ignorant societal views on much of nothing"

    July 29, 2008 at 12:27 pm |
  17. jack

    and by the way, I'm not making an excuse for any Black man in America to do the things that they do, but the way that black men have been treated have contributed to the actions of Black Men...........

    July 29, 2008 at 12:18 pm |
  18. Pedro

    First off, the whole "Black In America" story needed to be told. Usually a story like this would be broadcasted on CSPAN and would not get the exposure that's needed to enlighten the country on what it means to be "Black In America" Right now we are suffering through some of the most difficult times of our culture. One of the most dangerous issues is the state of our families.

    I am a 30yrs old black man who has been married now for 5yrs. No children out of wedlock and successful without a college degree. I think my parents being married and happy together had everything to do with that. My father's father wasn't there for him and he wanted better for me.

    I do feel sorry for black women. There is a limited quantity of men with no children, no criminal record and with a job. It's an epidemic... plain and simple...

    July 29, 2008 at 12:14 pm |
  19. K

    This is not a race issue, so please don't make it one. Divorce, adultry and men searching for "greener pastures" has plagued all races and cultures almost from the dawn of time. Th good news is that this can be fixed. My parents have been married almost 75 years. My siblings 40, 35 and 26 respectively. This is what dad taught us and what we live by:
    1. Men, man up and shoulder your responsibilities as fathers and husbands. The sins of the father is perpetuated in his children. Don't quit on your wives and families. Quitting is easy. It makes it easier for your family to quit on you.
    2. Keep your vows. Looking for greener pastures only changes one set of problems for another. Love is a decision. Stick with it. When life gets tough, get tougher. There is no greater satisfaction than of seeing your determination and struggle bring love and happiness to full bloom in the lives of your family. Nothing worthwhile ever was achieved without a struggle and struggle makes us stronger.
    3. Set the example of integrity for your kids and hold your self accountable for your family's happiness. In the end, the only thing a man has, is his word. If your word is gold, you will be treasured.
    4. Don't stop courting and dating your wife. Treat her like you did when you first met and are trying to get her to fall in live with you...and she will, over and over and over.
    6. Listen to your wife. If you tune her out, you tell her she is not important, not valued and she doesn't count. Reread # 4.
    5. Communicate. Grunts and sighs do not count. Weddings do not include vows of silence.
    There are 5 things that all spouses need: Words of encouragement, quality time, doing things for them, gift giving and physical touch.

    July 29, 2008 at 12:06 pm |
  20. jack

    Everybody must remember that the comments being made are only opinions and thoughts, which everybody is entitled to have.......the article is only based on statistics, not reality......if everyone in the whole world was interviewed about this, we all will find out that everybody is in the same boat of some sort......it's a shame how a mere man can change or may I say TRY and change GOD'S plan for mankind........Jessica made a comment that black women surpasses black men, that's only because black men are more stronger than black women, because if, for example a black woman was given a high position, she could be controlled more easily verses a black man........whether a person wants to accept the fact that we all came from one person and that's GOD, then they will forever be lost.......God breathed into man and he became a living soul and whatever color of skin God wanted to give to whoever, that was his decision and not man.......whoever would hate someone because of their skin has a problem with the person who made them who is God.......in the Bible it states that God is Love and whoever hates his brother abides in death and has no part in the kingdom of heaven.......it's all a trick of the enemy to blind people minds.......no one regardless of the color of their skin is better than the next, we all should be humble enough the God saw fit to put us here on earth and to do good towards pleasing him and that's by Loving everyone in marriage, friend, foe, co-worker or whatever.......People need to stop given into this stuff......it just keep HATRED STIRRED UP INSIDE

    July 29, 2008 at 12:01 pm |
  21. Monica

    Black people have lived in this country for hundreds of years. Don't you think that it is time for you to become AMERICANS and strive to have your piece of the 'Ameican Pie'? I am from the islands, and I am striving for my piece of that pie.
    Marriage is life. It is a natural transition from childhood to adolescence to adulthood. Just the way one makes the choice to go or not to go to college; one makes the choice to be married or not. Whatever you want in life you have to go for it, focus on it, and strive to get. It does not matter whether you are Black, White or other. Marriage is not inherent to any one race of people....it is for all of us who want it. It is LIFE, let us enjoy it!!!

    July 29, 2008 at 11:52 am |
  22. Paul Chichester

    Re:Daniel... "What amazes me is that the woman in the article and many people responding here indicate that they are “African American” When in fact, they are not."

    Daniel, first let me say I don't care if you call me black, African-American, or any other "acceptable" term related to my race. With that said, you are wrong. The term African-American, much like Irish-American, or Asian-American, is not meant to downplay or denigrate the "American" part of it. It is simply a matter of one's ancestral origins, and the terms allow us in this "melting pot" to celebrate our ancestry as well as our current, proud status as Americans. My parents are black people born and raised in South America. But if you notice, I have a British last name. That's because my father's ancestors got to South America the same way most of North-America's black ancestors got here. They were slaves brought from Africa in the slave trade, and then were given names by those who enslaved them. Now don't let me get into that. I don't consider my name a slave name, it's my family name and I'm proud of it. I am proud to be an American, and I for one, have had wonderful opportunities as an American. But I am indeed a descendant of Africans, and I should be proud of that as well, just as you should take great pride in your Irish ancestry.

    July 29, 2008 at 11:48 am |
  23. john williams

    Thankfully. Yet my worry is for the messages that the young (under 30) are getting. The media's they are viewing and listening to don't seem to give them much hope. And attacking the liberal TV or the money of the music industry is almost futile.

    Camile mentioned several significant factors, though briefly, that probably have become a lesser impact on our youth – Church, education, examples, stable family history – these "traditional" things are being down-played as old and out-of-date in the "progressive" world-view many are trying to promote. But these thing worked and can work if the focus returned to such.

    Yes the statistics are ridiculous, now, what, 7 of 10 black children are born bastards, and the white percentage is rising to nearly 40%. More mates for black women are still in prison than in college, grandparents are spending their latter years raising kids again, that dream of the 'picket fence' gets foggy-er and foggy-er for many.

    Even the definition of marriage has come under attack. Family is "re-defined" to keep up with trends of the socials "norms" of the politically correct. America has a 90% disapproval rate of it's Congress. Our black leaders don't have a consistent agenda anymore – who are they anyway? Could any of those under 30's tell you?
    I say get back to what worked, it'll take another generation to get it all back in place -but Church works, examples work, education works, unified families work. And men that a woman can believe in would really help ....

    July 29, 2008 at 11:45 am |
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