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The New Normal:

African American
Divorce
Mia McDowell
Elizabeth Kent
English 1020 Section T
Monsters Theme
April 10, 2016

Table of Contents
Introduction/Preface
I.

Recipe: The Perfect African


American Divorce (pg. 5-6)
II. Recipe Explanation Page (pg. 7)
III. Diary of a Divorced Soul (pg. 8-9)
IV. Descriptive Paragraph: African
American Divorce The New
Epidemic (pg. 10-12)
V. Jet Magazine: Divorce in the African
American Community (pg. 13-14)
VI. Jet Magazine Explanation Page (pg.
15)
VII. Sunshine Times: Whats Love Got to
do with it: New Crisis in African
American Families? (pg. 16)
VIII. Interview with Judge Lynn Toler (pg.
17-18)
IX. Timeline Entry (pg. 19)
X. Timeline Explanation Page (pg. 20)
XI. Conclusion (pg. 21-22)
XII. Works Cited Page(s) (pg. 23-25)
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Introduction/Preface
Divorce in todays African American community is now the
new normal. Couples in the African American community are now
ending more marriages at an extreme alarming rate compared to
them jumping the broom. This research in no way relates to all
African American couples that are married, for some do go on to
have very successful marriages. In my entries for this project, all of
these entries are completely based on fact except the diary entry
which is fiction. All of my entries pretty much all tie in together
being that majority of my sources provided me with the same
information complementing each other in one way or another.
According to my many sources, there are many different
explanations that try to make sense of why this divorce rate
continues to increase. People in this community, particularly
women, tend to now focus solely on their careers and are now
becoming the main bread winners of their families. (Molina, Olga.
93.) This causes a strain in a relationship or marriage because it
can make a man feel inferior. People in the African American
community also tend to mock the unhealthy marriage patterns of
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their parents they witnessed growing up regardless of the slavery


and segregation their ancestors had to fight through to become one.
(Molina, Olga. 93.) The last reason, according to my sources, that
Ive realized has had an impact on the divorce rate in this
community would be some of the financial burdens African
Americans face in particular. (Molina, Olga. 93.) However, Once
upon a time, particularly during the time of slavery, African
Americans had to sneak around to make their union official and
even then it was not recognized legally. If you were not in a free
state slaves were not allowed to marry. (Simkin. 3.) Now marriage
amongst African Americans in their community have evolved
completely. Marriage in this community is now rapidly declining
and failing at an extremely alarming rate.

Recipe: The Perfect African American Divorce


Ingredients
1) Young Age, particularly under or in the early 20s
2) Financial Strain, meaning having or obtaining very low income
3) Unhealthy relationship problems or habits from your past relationships or either ones you
have witnessed your parents exhibit growing up
4) A negative mindset that seeking help from others such as therapists or pastors will make
you come off as being mentally ill or that seeking help is only for the crazy.
5) Low levels of education

Instructions
1) Let all problems build up and feel free to combine a few
2) Do not try to resolve any issues or try to work it out
3) Do not seek help from therapists or your local pastor
4) Bring with you to your current marriage baggage from your past such as unhealthy relationship
patterns or habits that you practiced in your previous relationships or ones that you may have
witnessed your divorced parents exhibit in or during your childhood.
5) Demonstrate those unhealthy relationships patterns as stated in number 5 to current marriage

6) Do not seek higher education or high wages or income, please stay stagnant
7) You may pick and choose which ingredients you would like to combine to make your own special
version of the perfect African American divorce

Once the ingredients combine and settle, you have created the perfect divorce. This recipe
typically serves about 70 percent of all African American married couples.
Note: Information from African Americans and Marriage article from Divorce 360
written by Don Moore.

Recipe Explanation Page


I decided to do a recipe entry because with recipes it lists the
ingredients and steps you should follow to achieve something. I feel
that divorce relates to that because there are somethings, which I
guess you can refer to as ingredients, which can lead to a divorce.
There also are steps that can take place that will cause a divorce as
well.
Some of the ingredients I think comes together to make a
successful divorce is financial strain, unhealthy relationship patterns,
and a negative mindset. According to my source I used for this entry,
which was African Americans and Marriage written by Don
Moore, these were some of the most common reasons for divorce in
the African American community. The instructions I used on my
recipe entry came from my sources as well, such as not trying to seek
help to resolve any of the problems in your marriage. I think this was
a great entry for this source.

Entry: Diary of a Divorced Soul

Dear Diary,
Going through this divorce is the most draining thing and process that I
have ever gone through. Me and my soon to be ex-husband have not been on
speaking terms after our big blow up Sunday at my moms house in front of
our children. Our daughter is really impacted by our constant bickering and
not having her fathers presence in our home. I pray that one day she will
understand why this had to happen like my older daughter has. I cried for
days after our fight on Sunday, I dropped off my girls at my moms house
because I need time to gather myself together and because I know it truly
takes a village to raise a child. That mindset might be what has me headed
to a divorce court today. Eddie hated that I included my family in our
martial problems and that they were so hands on with parenting our girls. I
really think that separated us and pulled us apart. Ever since weve split up I
have had to step up to the plate and become the main breadwinner for our

family. I have a new job with a higher paying wage. I thought of going to
therapy with Eddie to try and make it work but I know that he would never
agree. He grew up believing whatever happened at home behind closed doors,
should stay there behind closed doors and in the home. He also has the stigma
that seeking help makes you crazy. I really believe our marriage is over and
all I can do is pray.
Sincerely,
Lisa

P.S. Information paraphrased from Essence Magazine Source written by


Charreah Jackson

Descriptive Paragraph

African American Divorce The New


Epidemic
Divorce is defined as a legal separation of man and
wife and the dissolution of a marriage by legal processes.
(Lerner, Lee. 53.) Divorce can be a very trying and stressful
time in anyones life. Divorce can also have many different
effects on different people and those around them. More
than one million couples in the United States get divorced
every year and more than 75 percent of these families
contain children. (Griner, Maureen. Par. 1-2.) African
American divorces tend to make up at least 70 percent of
the entire divorce rate in the United States. The rate has
also tripled amongst African American couples in the past
3 years. (Griner, Maureen. Par. 3.) Marriage in the African

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American community tend to vary in terms of education


and income. (Lerner, Lee. 53)
Only 45 percent of African American families contain
married couples, compared to 80 percent of Caucasian
families and 70 percent Hispanic families. (Marriage in
African American Community. Par 9.) African American
couples with some form of college education marriages tend
to be most successful and last longer. The divorce rate in
the African American community increased significantly
between the years of 1970 and 2000. (Marriage in African
American Community. Par 7.) This is very disheartening
because a long time ago the only way African Americans
could symbolize their marriage was to jump a broom and
their marriages were not recognized publicly. Black women
tend to divorce at a rate nearly double the amount of
Caucasian and Hispanic women. (Marriage in African
American Community. Par 14.) It also has been proven
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that marriage contributes to the economic well-being of


African Americans compared to other races. (Overview.
Par 3.) Times have truly changed and marriage is no
longer as valuable as it once was. Like many others feel Im
sure, I am sadden by this and find it very disturbing.
Ancestors of ours went through so many obstacles and
trials to pave the way for African Americans to have the
right to marry and we do not appreciate all their efforts in
hindsight. I feel it took way too much for African American
unions to be recognized legally for people of that
community to just throw all of their marriages and
ancestors hard work away.
Note: Information from the National Healthy Marriage Resource Center Inc.
source written by Maureen Griner

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Barbie Love| Issue 11-7 | May 2015

Divorce in African American Community


Why is Divorce the New Normal?
Divorce amongst African American couples has become way more
common now in the community compared to couples that actually
seek to be married. More than half of all African American
marriages now end by divorce.

Top Reasons
African Americans inability to seek help from therapists
because of stigmas of being mentally ill in the community
High unemployment rates amongst the community and low
education levels
Incarceration
Domestic Violence
African American women are now becoming the main
breadwinners of the family
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Barbie Love| Issue 11-7 | May 2015


According to Lester Barclay, the renowned author of Amazons best seller The
African-American Guide to Divorce & Drama: Breaking Up without Breaking
Down divorces can had a tremendous impact on African American children in
particular if not handled correctly. He stated that couples going through the transition
should be clear and communicate with their children about what exactly is about to
happen to them. No communication between children and their parents during times
like this can do more damage than good. Some parents feel the less their children
know the better, in the African American community it is exactly the opposite.

Tips To Save Your Marriage

Go to counseling and have someone mediate you and your spouses


differences
Pursue achieving a high education or better wage helps to increase your
self-esteem individually and the better you feel about yourself personally
studies show the better your marriage will become
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Explanation Page for Jet magazine Entry


I decided to do a magazine entry because I felt it was
less formal. I really wanted to make one of my entries seem
way more sociable than others. I felt a magazine was a very
suitable entry to do that. I feel that doing a magazine article
would help my readers to understand my topic more and find
it more relatable at the same time. I thought it would seem
less boring than just having to digest some facts like some of
my other source entries, but more like having a conversation
with a friend.
The author of the book I used as my source for this entry
is Lester Barclay, who is actually a part of my entry
magazine article. The book discusses the divorce epidemic of
African Americans, why it has come about, and offers tips on
how to change this epidemic which is why my magazine
article is set up in that format.
I wanted my magazine article to not only give facts as I
said earlier but to also offer a solution such as my source did.
I took some tips or advice for my magazine article from the
book The African American Guide to Divorce and Drama:
Breaking up without breaking down written by Lester
Barclay. Some of these tips included going to counseling
which he stated in the book is frowned upon within the black
community. He also said in his novel that pursing higher
education and better wages can improve marriages as well. I
felt this source was very suitable to use for my magazine
article.

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Sunshine Times
Sarah Example | March 11 2014 | Issue 25-27

Breaking News Whats Love Got to Do with It: New crisis in


African American Families?
BIRMINGHAM Studies now show African American family structures
have changed drastically. Researchers find this finding disturbing being that
African Americans tend to have extremely strong family foundations that
stretch back for multiple generations.
African American marriages tend to really value the idea of getting married
not just being a union between them as a couple but also a commitment
between them, God, family, and the community. (Revell. 45.) Just like any
marriage it binds the two families of the bride and the groom as one.
According to studies and common findings, the very first disruption in the
African American family structure started way back in the days of slavery.
(Revell. 44.) Many families during this time was separated of course because
some were sold or traded away. According to these studies this disruption
ruined the family pattern for many years to come for following African
American generations. This split not only separated couples but parents
away from their children as well. (Revell, Maria. 45.)
Despite some families being split up during slavery, in the free northern
states marriage was very common and popular amongst African American
couple. It also shows that these marriages were pretty successful during
these times reflecting how important keeping the family together in the
African American community was at that time. However, studies now show
things differently. The marriage and divorce rate in the African American
community has changed dramatically and it does not seem to be making any
improvements anytime soon. The divorce rate has almost tripled, the number
of African American children in a one parent household has doubled, and 50
percent of households today in the African American community are ran
strictly by the women. (Revell, Maria. 47.)

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Interview with Judge Lynn Toler


Mia: Judge Toler, where did you get your start?
Judge Toler: I graduated from Harvard University and the
University of Pennsylvania Law School. Soon after, I began
practicing law in Cleveland in 1984.
Mia: Do you still believe in love even after all of the divorces you
have dissolved?
Judge Toler: I absolutely believe in love. Ive been married for 27
years and I still believe in pure old fashioned love. However, many
of us have different outlooks on what love is. Love is a beautiful
thing, but for some people it erases all of their logic.
Mia: What do you think makes a good marriage?
Judge Lynn Toler: It is very important that a couple communicates
and learn to not jump to conclusions. The two involved in the
marriage should also remember to invest in themselves even after
they get married to truly enjoy their marriage and journey together.
Mia: What race do you find in your courtroom more often than
others?
Judge Lynn Toler: African American couples tend to come before
me compared to all other married couples of other races.

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Mia: What do you think is the number one cause for this?
Judge Lynn Toler: Social media by far has come a long way and
sometimes it is for the worse. The things we do in private on our
cellphones tend to get some couples in trouble as well. In the
African American couples however, I find that their economic
realities are a big part of the reason they end up before me. They
tend to ignore them until they manifest in other parts of the
marriage.
Mia: Why does a couples financial standing impact the success of
their marriage?
Judge Lynn Toler: Because once you say I Do everything you
do together is a joint venture. You must make some decisions and
choices when it comes to your finances together from that point on.
Economic realities can be very stressful and can seriously put a
strain on any couple
Mia: What do you do in your spare time?
Judge Lynn Toler: I play tennis, paint, and write books. I have two
best sellers out currently and a third on the way.
Mia: Do you have any advice for these couples?
Judge Lynn Toler: It is very important that you invest in yourself
even after you are married. It is important to you go back to school
so that you can seek a higher education and receive higher wages
which will also help your financial situations in your marriage.
Note: Information gathered from actual interview source between Judge Lynn Toler and Tampa
Bay Times writer, Robbyn Mitchell.

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Timeline: African
American Marriage

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Timeline Explanation Page


I decided to do a timeline entry because I wanted to emphasize just how
much marriage patterns in the African American family has changed and just how
much the divorce rate has increased.
I started my timeline off in 1660, which according to my source Jumping
the Broom written by Robert Edgerton, was a time period when jumping the
broom was a very common and rich wedding tradition in the Asante tribe in Africa
as well as in Ghana.
Then, according to the African American History Timeline, the first major
disruption in the African American family structure was after the Massachusetts
legislature passed a law enabling citizens to sell the children of slave couples
which essentially broke the family apart.
I had some more timeline entries in between but fast forwarding to show the
major changes were in 2010. In 2010, 72% of African American babies were born
to unwed African American mothers, according to the source Black Struggles
with 72 percent unwed mothers rate written by Jesse Washington. This was a
major difference from what initially was common back in the 1660s.

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CONCLUSION
This project has taught me so much. I learned just high and
alarming the divorce rate in the African American community
really is. Doing my research on this topic also showed me why
so many people find this rate is so disheartening because being
that African American ancestors, such as slaves, had to truly
endure so much to have the right to marry and have their unions
legally recognized. Now it seems that divorce in the African
American community is now the new normal hence my title.
I learned multiple reasons during my research on why
divorce in the community is so common today. One of the main
causes for this misfortune is because of the financial strain or
burden most African American couples faces because of low
education levels. (Barclay. 39) It has been reported that in the
black community there are extreme high unemployment rates
amongst communities as well as high poverty levels. (Barclay.
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39) Domestic abuse as well as Incarceration as both leading


causes for divorce in the community as well. (Barclay. 38) In
summary, not only have the divorce rates in the African
American constantly sky rocketing as we speak, it does not seem
that anything will be changing anytime soon to improve that.
However, this research does not apply to all African American
couples that are married.

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Works Cited Page


African American History Timeline.1.
Barclay, Lester L. The African-American Guide to Divorce
& Drama: Breaking up without Breaking down. New York: Khari,
2013. Print.
Divorces Increase by Half. Family in Society: Essential Primary
Sources. Ed. K. Lee Lerner, Brenda Wilmoth Lerner, and
Adrienne Wilmoth Lerner. Detroit: Gale, 2006. 53-55. U.S.
History in Context. Web. 24 Mar. 2016.
Edgerton, Robert. Jumping the Broom. Par 1-3.
Griner, Maureen. African Americans and Black Community.
National Healthy Marriage Resource Center. National Healthy
Resource Center Inc. Web. 20. Feb. 2016.
Jackson, Charreah K. 9 Interesting Facts about Divorce for Black
Couples. Essence.com. Essence Magazine Communications, 03
July 2003. Web. 18 Feb. 2016.

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Works Cited Page (Continued pg. 2)


Mitchell, Robbyn. Divorce Court: Rules on Love: Judge Lynn
Toler of Divorce Court on Divorce and 21 century Romance.
Tampa Bay Times (St. Petersburg, FL.) 9 Feb 2016: 2. Opposing
Viewpoints in Context. Web. 11 Mar. 2016.
Molina, Olga. African American Womens Unique Divorce
Experiences. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage 32.2/4 (2000): 93
SocINDEX with Full Text. Web. 20 Feb. 2016.
Moore, Don. African Americans and Marriage. Divorce360.
Divorce360. Web. 18 Feb. 2016.
Raley, R. Kelly, Megan M. Sweeney, Danielle Wondra. The
Growing Racial and Ethnic Divide in U.S. Marriage Patterns.
Future of Children 25.2 (2015): 89-109. ERIC. Web. 20 Mar.
2016.
Revell, Maria A. Evolution of the African American Family.
International Journal of Childbirth Education October 27.4
(2012): 44-48. Alt HealthWatch. Web. 21 Mar. 2016.
Robinson, Denise. Black Couples & Divorce: Why is the Divorce
Rate for Blacks so High in the U.S. Divorce Saloon. Web. 20
Feb. 2016.
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Works Cited Page (Continued pg. 3)


Shiono, Patricia H. National Trends in Marriage, Divorce, and
Remarriage. Children and Divorce 1.4. (Spring 1994): 37-39.
Epidemiology of Divorce Full Text. Web. 21 Mar. 2016.
Slave Marriages. Par 3. Freedmen's Bureau Marriage Records Inc.
Spring 2005, Vol. 37, No. 1
Slave Marriages. Par. 5. Freedmen's Bureau Marriage Records Inc.
Spring 2005, Vol. 37, No. 1
Washington, Jesse. Blacks Struggle with 72 percent unwed mothers rate.
Par 8.
Warren, Justice. Loving vs. Virginia Case. Par 1.

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