“WE are Family!”: A response to #NWNW

October 9th, 2010 § 4 comments § permalink


Oh Liz,

This is indeed a layered topic and one that I had been pretty indifferent toward until you brought it to my attention a few days ago. But now, after having read several blog posts on the issue and having done a little research on the “No Wedding, No Womb” campaign, I can’t help but sit here with furrowed eyebrows and a clenched jaw.

In short, I think the #NWNW campaign is extremely offensive, misguided, and counterproductive. As you mentioned, it tackles a huge issue, but is overwhelmingly simplistic and offers a solution that is elitist, discriminatory, and inherently problematic. I guess I can respect Karazin’s motives (sigh), but this movement is fundamentally flawed for several reasons. Here are just a couple that have been floating around in my head:

1. The #NWNW campaign is not just heteronormative, it is downright heterosexist.

If the #NWNW campaign is advocating for strong two parent households and loving relationships why is there NO conversation about LGBTQ individuals in loving supportive relationships who have children or may want to have them in the future? Are they not important enough to be a part of the conversation? (Do you know what allows you to blatantly ignore or refuse to address issues that are pertinent to the everyday lives of others? When you can identify as a member of the privileged group.) Advocating for marriage before having children as a solution to the “crisis” facing the black family is a slap in the face to the millions of Black LGBTQ individuals in this country who are unable to get married because they are forbidden by law to do so. The campaign ignores the fact that the “traditional” notion of the familial unit within this country is constantly changing. By defining marriage as a union only between a man and a woman, #NWNW denies that familial structures within the black community have always been diverse and come in many different forms. It also turns this campaign into an elitist and moral one that promotes white middle-class heterosexual values (with religious undertones), and ties it with physical limitations on women’s choice and the female body. I mean, come on. Really, it’s just tacky.

2. The “Nuclear Black Family” is a myth.

“72 % of Black children are born out of wed-lock.”
OMG. Okaaaay. We get it. **rolls eyes** So, we like to quote statistics, huh? Well here are a few more for you:
-Suicide rates for African American adolescents have increased over 200% in the last decade
-African Americans comprise 40% of America’s homeless population and only 12% of the United States population
-Nearly half of all prisoners in the United States are African American
-Over 20% of African Americans do not have health insurance
-The poverty rate for Blacks is nearly twice that of whites
-Unemployment rates for Blacks are twice the national average
-In 2004, African Americans had the highest age-adjusted all-causes death rate of all races/ethnicities
Hurts your heart a bit doesn’t it (sigh).
I quote these statistics to make the point that looking at a statistic, some numbers, without context doesn’t allow you to have a deep and meaningful conversation about solutions. There is a whole lot afflicting the Black community and I just really don’t think that babies born to parents who aren’t married is the problem. It’s only a symptom of a host of institutional and infrastructural inequalities in this country namely health, socioeconomic, educational, and racial. Using marriage as a central focus to talk about the problems facing the Black community is moot. We need to be talking about strengthening individuals within our communities and advocating for the necessary state and federal aid, developmental programs, and support to do so.
And to be really real, the “Nuclear Black Family” is a myth, prevented by becoming a reality through many historical and structural forces i.e., chattel slavery (*Cues Paul Mooney* “FOUR HUNDRED YEARS”), Jim Crowe, employment discrimination, and the prison industrial complex to name a few. I’m not saying that a Black man and woman can’t be in a loving relationship and have and raise children together. Obviously, this can and does happen and it’s a beautiful, beautiful thing. BUT, historically and culturally Black families have existed in MANY different forms—the “standard” mom, dad, and 2.5 kids is just one of them. And however we may try to deny it, this society privileges certain familial structures over others and it is reflected in the ways that we think about family and in the denial of rights and support to individuals who do not fit into the mold. We can’t all be the Huxtables…I’m just sayin.
I agree with you that a conversation about healthy relationships is very important, especially for our youth, but I think it needs to be a separate one and not held in the context of #NWNW.
And just to let you know, I’ve already bought my ticket for the “’oh hell no!’ bandwagon” and I’m chiiiillin on board, sippin’ a glass of wine, and giving a FIERCE side-eye to this entire campaign.

“First Comes Love, then Comes Marriage, then Comes the Baby in the Baby Carriage.” #NWNW

October 8th, 2010 § 1 comment § permalink

So Amber,

I was reading the latest post on The Crunk Feminist Collective, a call for a “No Uncle No Uterus” campaign, and was thoroughly confused for a good minute till I realized it was a critique on another campaign, “NWNW.” And I had no idea what that was.

Thank goodness for Google. Turns out it means “No Wedding, No Womb” and is a campaign of 100+ bloggers writing in support of marriages before pregnancies in black communities.

And it’s apparently created a stir (I love the blogosphere). In my googling discoveries, I’ve found various critiques: one reporter writes, “Regardless, the bloggers associated with “No Wedding, No Womb” aren’t focused on the outcomes for children. The campaign is instead telling black women how they should act sexually. Reducing women to their childbearing capacity is right there in the title: Wombs are blocked off until matrimony.” Another writes, “While Karazin’s heart is in the right place, I have to agree that equating marriage with familial and economic stability is wistfully wrongheaded….I think what Karazin’s trying to get at, in our sound-bite culture, is that poor women, all women, need to value themselves enough to protect themselves from the avoidable pitfalls in their already difficult lives.”

Here I think are the critiques: having a campaign for marriage does not solve poverty; it does not address the institutional and historical causes for persistent poverty; it shames women and promotes a narrow view of family.

So first off, yes to all of the above. Making marriage the solution to poverty and violence is not a good solution. Marriage alone can not solve the inequitable policies hurting families (whatever those families look like). Nor does placing the responsibility solely on women solve anything. There is an element of “slut-shaming” to this, mostly because where are the men in this solution? What’s their responsibility?

But with all that said, I don’t necessarily want to jump on the “oh hell no!” bandwagon against NWNW. I wouldn’t sign up to blog for them, but when criticizing their campaign, neither do I want to deny that there is something going on when 72% of African American children are born out of wedlock. That “something” is not just one thing (or two or three), but I am hesitant to completely dismiss a discussion on marriage and relationships.

I don’t like it when ten year olds ask me “do you have kids?” before asking me if I’m married (or even have a boyfriend). I’ve written before about teenagers’ views on relationships and the brokenness of their understanding. Many of these teens come from families that do not have a solid two parent relationship – whether married or unmarried. In order to understand how to relate to one another, they need to see other strong relationships.

Let me be clear: there are hundreds of issues flying and dancing around this statistic. I think NWNW is too simplistic, lets men off the hook and ignores wider social and political problems. And really, it’s just another tired story about what black women need to do that CNN will probably run with analysis from a panel of “experts” (yay Steve Harvey!). And then there’s the whole issue of it being heteronormative…

But I do think it’s okay to ask (along with a million other questions), how do we solve gender/relationship/family issues on a personal and social level?

Let’s have a holistic approach to understanding the problems facing our children, young people and families. Let’s understand that marriage is only a good solution if it is healthy and stable – and fighting against that health and stability is sexism, racism, classism, all those damn “isms” and the policies that go with them.

And there are fantastic single moms and dads (aunts and uncles and grandparents) who raise healthy, supported children in this world. And there are married couples who don’t. For a variety of reasons. But, how do we address all those reasons? Is there just one campaign or solution?

No. It’s complicated. And so deep. I don’t know how to unravel it all….

My disclaimer: I’m posting this without feeling entirely comfortable with it. With every sentence I write, another sentence pops into my head that problematizes the one before. But since this blog is really a conversation, I’ll consider this post only the beginning.

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