“WE are Family!”: A response to #NWNW

October 9th, 2010 § 4 comments


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.

§ 4 Responses to “WE are Family!”: A response to #NWNW"

  • Thanks for this. I can certainly understand why LGBT feel left out of the #NWNW conversation, but trust me, it was not for lack of trying to recruit them. We did however, address this issue with NWNW participant and LGBT writer and advocate Arielle Loren, which appeared in “Clutch” http://clutchmagonline.com/lifeculture/feature/out-of-wedlock-births-it’s-not-simply-about-marriage-baby-mamas/

    The LGBT community has and continues to be invited to the conversation. So far, Arielle, who is a hetero advocate for LGBT, is leading the charge. Gay people have kids too, and since NWNW is about the kids, of course their input is necessary!

    As for the slavery argument: I have to disagree with that one. After emancipation, freed slave married in droves. It is a historical fact:http://ashp.cuny.edu/nowandthen/2010/08/freedom-to-marry-then-and-now/

    And remarkably, over 70% of black children were raised by two parent households at the time of the MLK “I Have a Dream Speech” 40 years later, what in Hades happened??

    Thanks for letting me have my say.

    Christelyn D. Karazin
    NWNW

  • Amber says:

    Christelyn,

    Thanks for commenting and sharing your thoughts.

    I can respect your efforts to reach out to the LGBTQ community. I do think, however, that in this campaign, which focuses on marriage, the lack of conversation surrounding same-sex marriage within the context of #NWNW is disheartening. In the blog post you linked above, “Freedom to Marry Then and Now,” Nahmias draws an interesting parallel between slaves and LGBTQ individuals being disallowed to marry, and therefore unable to demonstrate full citizenship. In order to make the campaign more inclusive, I think that a more visible acknowledgement of LGBTQ individuals with children or who may want to have children could be better incorporated into the mission statement and therefore, a more active part of the conversation. It is about the kids, but it also has to be about the parents who are raising the kids, and not just those parents who fit into a heterosexual model.

    Also, I don’t think you can completely discount the effect of slavery on Black families. Marriage alone does not constitute a stable familial structure. The lasting economic effects that slavery had on the lives of Black folks in the period after Reconstruction should also be considered. The poverty that Blacks faced during and after this period cancelled out many of the economic advantages that marriage could have offered. Black families have been struggling for a long time. So, I think instead of asking, “what’s happened?” since 1963, we need to be asking “what’s been happening?” in our community, and this country, for centuries. There is most definitely a lot to consider.

    Amber
    That's So Deep

  • Anonymous says:

    Amber,
    So, I secretly read your blog all the time and LOVE IT. I accidentally just clicked “agree to disagree” which is not what I meant at all. I mean AMEN! And DEEP! Loved this post! Love it!
    Lesley from Wesleyan

  • Amber says:

    Lesley!!

    It's good to hear from you and thanks for the compliment! No worries about the reactions tab, lol…I'm just glad you enjoy reading and took the time to comment! Definitely made my day. :)

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