“Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married Too?” has been disparaged in many reviews as over-the-top and melodramatic. To counter the critics, we must remember that Tyler’s portrayals of black life are not necessarily complex, but they are rich. Rich in that Perry presents interesting portraits that make people think more deeply about the status of the African American community at this time. Tyler’s films at the very least hold up a mirror to black men and women that can get us talking about things that desperately need discussing — even if that mirror resembles one found in a fun house. Tyler’s latest movie tackles the sticky issue of black marriage, raising the proverbial Medusa’s head into the light for closer examination.
Let’s face it. Problems between black men and women persist, and there seems to be very little that anyone can do about it. We have all read the statistics about marriage and out of wedlock births, so there is no reason to reiterate that depressing news here. We have read enough Essence articles, watched enough news specials, and analyzed the situation for long enough with our friends to know what the issues between black men and women are, and that they run deep. And yet, despite all the problems that persist between the sexes, love between us remains.
The fact of the matter is, despite all the prevailing reports, we do get married. The 2001 U.S. census found that only 43.3% of African-American men and 41.9% of African-American women had never been married. But that means that close to 60% of members of both sexes had gotten married at some point in their lives. That’s a clear majority. When you look at it that way, this is really a cause for celebration.
With all of the emotional baggage, class-based divisions, negative socialization, and tremendous social pressures that have worked together with destructive force against our family units from the time of slavery on, it’s really a miracle that black men and women get together at all. Tyler Perry’s movie reminds us that no matter what the obstacles are, black love remains alive. The obstacles to love he places in his film may seem extreme on screen, but they are apt representations of the intense circumstances that should have destroyed that possibility of black love permanently — but didn’t. As statistics show, love between blacks is actually more likely than not. So the question remains?
Why do we get married?
A man and woman both in their forties with children from other relationships (who don’t want more) going down to city hall to pledge their undying love. A career woman on her third marriage, taking vows to adore the working class man who has won her heart. A couple in their seventies, the man a widower and the bride wearing white. Two young people who met in college and waited five years to take their eternal pledge. This is just a short list of the scenes of black marriage that I have witnessed over the past few years. There is something so diverse in these stories and yet something so common that we almost overlook as the main ingredient of black love.
Our deepest human connections come from the commonalities of our culture and our social roots. As black women, we are the weavers that connect the fibers that make up our collective social fabric. It is in our nature to create and nurture the life in our communities — and most black men appreciate the particular style with which we do our nurturing. The best soil for this nurturing is stable, lasting love. We get married to fulfill that basic human need for deep connection, but for the black community our love is also a matter of survival.
Black love is a love that has endured every form of adversity. The power of our emotional bonds is what helped us overcome incredible levels of oppression. There is no way that the issues we face during modern times could wash that level of love away. That life-sustaining connection is an unbreakable bond. We get married to perpetuate it. Even when we marry outside of our race, this strength of emotion is passed on through the love of the black parent for their child. Black love is so strong that you can’t ever break away from it.
Why do we get married? Because black love is the ultimate culmination and celebration of black life.