I am participating in a conference sponsored by Southern Carolina Parents Involved in Education. As I look out over the audience of high school and middle school abstinence educators, I see what I usually see among pro-family, pro-life groups: The audience is easily two-thirds women.
Long ago, I concluded that the pro-life movement is the new women’s movement. But at this conference, I noticed that half the audience is African-American. Is the abstinence education movement the new civil rights movement? I think it may be.
The teachers and guidance counselors came to this conference to learn how to be more effective abstinence educators. They are worried about the high-risk behavior of their youth. They don’t like it that abortion is the leading cause of death in black America.
Black women had more than 200,000 abortions in 2004, more than the combined deaths from the top 10 causes of death among already-born blacks. These African-American teachers don’t like it that nearly three-quarters of American black children are born out of wedlock. They aren’t impressed by “alternative family forms.”
One gentleman stood up and told us about a proudly-pregnant 13-year-old girl, whose mother and grandmother had come in for counseling with her. They had been teen mothers themselves. They were delighted by her pregnancy, despite her youth, her isolation from the baby’s father and her inability to support herself.
Memo to the Lifestyle Left: Nobody in this largely black audience was “celebrating diversity” of family forms.
Joining me on the program was Dr. Linda Malone-Colon, chairwoman of the Department of Psychology at Hampton University, a traditionally black university in Virginia. She stressed the social significance of marriage and the importance of fathers. Political correctness didn’t stop her from saying that marriage should be the preferred context for sexual activity and for child-rearing. As I watched the reactions of the participants, I couldn’t help but think of some of the college students I’ve talked to over the years.
The undergraduates and law students at some of America’s top universities think themselves entitled to unlimited sex. They see no problem with shacking up with their significant others in their dorm rooms.
When I inform the college students that these behaviors prior to marriage increase, not decrease, the probability of divorce, they are completely nonplussed.
Some smarty-pants will always inform me that all those results are due to “selection bias”: that is, people who cohabit before marriage are more likely to get divorced, whether they cohabit or not. The unstated message of my thin-skinned college students is, “I will have a college education and a good income. Those people in the data who live together are all low-income losers, who would get divorced anyhow. Don’t bug me.”
As I said, these privileged college students came to mind when I listened to the South Carolina African-American middle school and high school teachers agonize over their students.
These decent men and women are trying to help those “low-income losers,” who are at higher risk for every bad outcome, including out of wedlock childbearing, and divorce in the unlikely event that they ever marry. The college students, who no doubt pride themselves on their open-mindedness and tolerance, are completely deluded about the cultural impact of their actions.
The poor students of these teachers in South Carolina are the ones whose lives are being ruined by too much sex, too early in life, with too many partners, in contexts that have no chance of supporting the pregnancies that inevitably result.
These teachers are on the front lines of dealing with the problems created by the sexual revolution. One middle school teacher, overwhelmed by dealing with the chaos of their student’s lives, made the immortal statement, “We teach in our spare time.”
The undisputed social science fact is that marriage is the best context for both sex and child-rearing. Marriage becomes more important the farther down the income ladder you go. I concede that maybe some of my college student audiences will dodge the bullet and get away with their sexual messing around.
But I issue them this challenge: Black America has made significant progress since the first civil rights movement. Today, any significant improvements in black well-being will have to include a renewal of marriage and the restoration of black fathers to the family. The participants of the civil rights movement of the 1960s risked their lives for the betterment of blacks.
The choice for the idealist youth of today is clear: Make the sacrifices involved in sexual self-restraint and be part of the solution. Or endorse the culture of sexual license that systematically harms the poor, the minorities and the uneducated.
The opponents of marriage are this generation’s equivalent of the foot-dragging, blocking-the-doorway barrier to the next round of black uplift.
And the promoters of traditional sexual morality, marriage and the family are this generation’s Freedom Riders.
Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D. is the author of "Smart Sex: Finding Life-long Love in a Hook-up World."
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