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Dealing with the 72 Percent Unwed Mothers Rate

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Seventy two percent of Black babies born in 2008 were born to unwed mothers. Compare that to the 17 percent of Asians, 29 percent of Whites and 52 percent of Hispanics born to single moms in the same year. Journalist Jesse Washington highlighted this disparity in a recent article for the Washington Post, noting that statistics show that "children of unmarried mothers of any race are more likely to perform poorly in school, go to prison, use drugs, be poor as adults and have their own children out of wedlock." We've long been aware of the rate of single motherhood in the Black community, but we've only just begun to talk openly about it, Washington notes. Organizations like Hampton University's National Center on African American Marriages and Parenting have recently popped up. Movements like Marry Your Baby Daddy Day, Black Marriage Day and No Wedding, No Womb have gotten widespread attention -- both positive and negative. Granted this is a touchy subject. The topic of single motherhood quickly becomes a moral discussion instead of a social or economic one. Plus, who has the right to tell a woman she shouldn't have a baby if she wants to or that she ought to be married? And what about the constant debates over the last year about how many Black women are doomed for spinsterville because we can't find marriageable Black men? The thought is: first you tell us we're never getting married and then you tell us we can't have a baby out of wedlock. "If you can't get a husband who am I to tell you no, you can't be a mom?" asked ESSENCE Relationships Editor Demetria Lucas, who was interviewed for the story. "A lot of women resent the idea that you're telling me my chances of being married are like 1 in 2, it's a crapshoot right now, but whether I can have a family of my own is based on whether a guy asks me to marry him or not." How we got into this situation -- from the drug epidemic to the prisons packed with Black men and a welfare system that rewards single motherhood -- is just as complicated and touchy as the situation itself. And how do we recover from it? What is the answer for Black families? Do we get with the program and get married? Or do we carve a new way of thinking out of this current "stain" on our community? "Blacks as a group will never be equal while they have this situation going on, where the vast majority of children do not have fathers in the home married to their other, involved in their lives, investing in them investing in the next generation," University of Pennsylvania law professor and author of Race, Wrongs and Remedies: Group Justice in the 21st Century, Amy Wax -- who is White -- told Washington. "The 21st century for the Black community is about building human capital. That is the undone business. That is the unmet need. That is the completion of the civil rights mission."
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