- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 14, 2007

We all realize Oprah Winfrey’s incredible influence and that she cares deeply about girls and women, and about all living things. The last thing she would want to do is present damaging information. Her huge staff must have every informational resource available. That’s why the April 6 show totally baffled me.

Oprah sat on stage alone and discussed “news” items with the audience. The item that generated the most discussion was the statistic from the Jan. 7 New York Times article: “51 percent of women single.” Oprah explained that in America single women now outnumber married women for the first time ever. No explanation was given about how this number was calculated or that it has since been corrected, even by the New York Times: The author came up with the 51 percent, which was defined as women “living alone” and included women whose husbands were working out of state or out of the country; deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, Korea or elsewhere; or in prison. The 51 percent also included 10 million girls ages “15, 16 and 17” and women who outlived their husbands and are now “living alone” but after long marriages. It was presented on “Oprah” as though 51 percent of women aren’t marrying.

An audience member expressed concern saying she thought marriage was important for the community and for children and celebrity marriages and the devaluation of marriage might cause this trend of unmarried persons to grow. Oprah wasn’t concerned and said she saw the trend as “evolution.”

Oprah next introduced a 39-year old women who explained how happy she was single — enjoying life, dating and sex. The women then absolutely glowed as she talked about how wonderful her life was. This was greeted with applause. No mention of the fact that more than 90 percent of our daughters still say it is their goal to marry and have children. No one asked this woman how she felt about never having children.

Another “new” statistic was flashed on screen: “70 percent of black women are single.” Much discussion ensued about Oprah’s solution: Because of the huge disparity between the numbers of black women and available black men, black women should not wait around to marry a black man. That was the root of the problem. She said she has long preached they have to “get real” and be willing to marry non-black men.

An agitated black women explained she was very happily married to a black man, and exhorted black mothers to raise marriageable black sons, and then introduced her 33-year-old brother, whom she said was very marriageable. Another woman expressed her concern that the discussion was disparaging marriage and said how wonderful her marriage was and how important it was to her happiness.

Oprah allowed that, yes, there are some good black men and marriages but asked the woman: Aren’t you and aren’t all of us glad that we now have a choice? That back in the day, women had to be married to have lives. They went to college to find a husband. Now we don’t have to marry or have arranged marriages to have wonderful lives. And, then she repeated what she says so often, that she has a perfectly wonderful black man but it is her choice not to marry. On an earlier show, she had declared she would never marry because, a woman is in great danger of losing herself and her individuality in a marriage.

No one on the show mentioned the coincidence that 70 percent of black children are born out of wedlock — most, of course, fathered by black men. Only one concerned audience member mentioned marriage was good for raising children. Oprah countered “we all know it takes a village, a community, to raise children” — affirmed with much applause. No discussion or question about how many of the 70 percent of liberated, unmarried black women were struggling single mothers or the correlation with out-of-wedlock births. This is evolution? This is what choice is about?

Why would Oprah’s staff leave her out there dangling in the wind, presenting such misleading information? Why wouldn’t her staff give Oprah an updated explanation of the 51 percent statistic and, instead, just let her go on the air and look ignorant? Or, with her strong concern about helping girls, why wouldn’t they give Oprah the overwhelming research on the benefits of stable marriages on the future health, happiness and well-being of our girls and their children?

Why don’t they book Diann Dawson, director of the African American Healthy Marriage Initiative and sponsor of plays, hip- hop songs, and convener of research panels on strengthening Black Marriage? Why don’t they do a show on Nisa Muhammad’s crusading effort to found Black Marriage Day — established in 2002 and now celebrated annually in cities all across the country? Nisa, as a working, single mother of five kids, decided we can reverse the epidemic of out-of-wedlock births and struggling single mothers. She certainly deserves one of Oprah’s Angel Network contributions. Or Rozario Slack and Nisa, creators of the Basic Training program for Black Singles and Couples. Give them a chance to teach the basics on the show. Give Rozario a platform to talk about the “marriageability” of black men and give his “Message to Our Sons.”

Or feature Kay Hymowitz and her book “Marriage and Caste in America,” with its clear and logical explanation of what the growing “marriage gap” does to our children — that the great divide in health, wealth and well-being boils down to who marries and who doesn’t. Oprah should teach her audience the facts: Finish high school, marry before having a child, do not have a child until you are 20, and your chances of being poor are only 8 percent. That should be her mantra. It’s the real “secret.”

When she does shows about the sexual abuse of children, her staff should help her present the research on how much likelier children will be abused if they do not live with their biological father. The stats show we would get much further in reducing sexual abuse by keeping daddies in the home than by putting predators in jail.


Founder/Director of smartmarriages.com

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