…”I heard it all before”— lyrics from Sunshine Anderson hit R&B Song.
After all the head rolling, finger-snapping and “I told you so’s”, was anyone really surprised when the news broke: Hip Hop producer Swiss Beats had – gasp! – cheated on his gorgeous, Grammy Award winning, multi-platinum wife who had just, recently given birth to his child with a 19 year-old model and aspiring songstress? Less than a year after their story book wedding.
Ain’t that a…
But considering what most people already view as the unsavory of their union (he was still married to his first wife who was pregnant when he hooked up with Alicia). More than a few of us were quick to jump on our holier-than-thou high “serves” her right horse. But before you go there recall Jesus warning Matthew 7:1 “Judge not, that you not be judged.”
Dang…I’m just saying.
For the rest of us with a more down to earth outlook we greeted the unsavory news with a business as usual shrug. After all, Swiss Beats was a man, a rich, successful one at that so in most quarters he was seen to be doing what most men or at least too many do (think Bill Clinton).
But I’m just saying…
None of which minimizes the fact that Alicia is undoubtedly a “good catch”. An intelligent, attractive, accomplished, voluptuous young woman who could more than likely have pretty much any man she desired.
But in a world filled with far more educated, beautiful, successful black women then black men it’s still a buyer’s market as it relates to successful black men. No doubt Swiss Beats recognized his unique status and position as well as the options it gave him – options it seems he chose to exercise. No surprise there.
Even if worse came to worse and this popular celebrity couple joined countless others in – gasp – divorce court, what are the odds of Swiss Beats sitting at home lonely, heartbroken and unable to find a date? Exactly.
Yet when it comes to the dating, mating, and hating game that so many of us are familiar with, infidelity is only one of a long list of challenges facing black unions.
In 2004, half of all black men in their 20’s (prime marriage age) were unemployed and every year more black men are in prison than those entering or attending college. Currently twice as many black women earn college degrees as black men.
These dismal statistics have been narrowed down to three main culprits: joblessness, lack of education, and incarceration. As a result, the pool of successful, educated, marriage minded black women far exceeds that of black men all of which—result in the so called “Black Marriage Crisis.” A crisis defined by facts such as a forty year old college educated black woman having double the chance of NOT getting married as her white counterparts.
If reading this makes you once again think of the lyrics of Sunshine Anderson’s song “Heard it all before”, you’re right. You probably have.
What you probably haven’t heard is the fix: proposed by two men, Ralph Richards Banks, a black college Law professor from California, and Joe Darger, the white owner of a construction business in Salt Lake Valley, Utah. They have each presented two workable solutions to the problems plaguing black unions.
Mr. Banks solution is laid out in painstaking detail in his new book, “Is Marriage for White People”, in which he proposed that black women desiring to get married or be in meaningful relationships should stop limiting themselves to only dating black men .
He says, “You have a host of black women who are more successful than ever. But then there is this one area where all is not well; relationships. Your actions are fairly limited as long as you’re confined to successful black men. There’s not a whole lot of them, but there’s a whole lot of you.”
Banks goes on to say that “successful black men in particular benefit from a relationship market in which they are in short supply. The numbers imbalance gives black men the power to dictate the terms of their relationships with black women.” (This could’ve been what Swiss Beats was thinking when he decided to cheat on his beautiful, successful wife.)
The solution Mr. Banks advocates in his book has been gaining traction as articles and excerpts from his book have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Ebony and Essence Magazines.
Nevertheless, it’s the unconventional solution to the black marriage crisis advocated by Mr. Darger – polygamy – that’s the focus of this article. And I freely admit calling Mr. Darger an advocate is kind of a stretch in that he promotes the polygamous lifestyle the same way someone driving a Porsche promotes that particular luxury auto. That’s because Mr. Darger, who is 42 and a Mormon, is married to not one but 3 beautiful women, Valerie, 41, Vicki, 41 and Alana 42, and is the father of a combined 23 children ranging in age from 15 months to 20.
Before you get back on your high horse and start wagging your little finger, Mr. Darger, along with his three wives, learned their relationship style from the same place most of us learned ours: their parents as each was raised in a polygamous household.
Polygamy defined as a form of marriage in which a person has more than one spouse is not new to the world. Throughout the ages it has went by many different names in the bible it is called concubinage. (Gen 25:5, Deut 21:15-17) It was and is still widely practiced in the Middle East and some parts of Africa. Sobhuza II King of Swaziland had a hundred wives and more than two hundred children when he died in 1982. Polygamy is also practiced in the Philippines and parts of Polynesia.
According to experts throughout the world, polygamy has two primary functions: first and foremost to increase the wealth of the family and then to absorb the excess of marriageable women.
These two benefits make polygamy a viable option for the black community. When I was a kid I lived down the street from a large Hispanic- family that consisted of an elderly mother and father, several grown sons and daughters, along with their spouses and kids. A good fifteen adults and ten children inhabited the small yellow and white wood framed home.
A fact that often made the one or two teenage boys from the family who walked to school with us the butt of many insensitive teenage jokes. Yet from a purely economic standpoint, can you imagine the financial benefit that proceeds from such a living arrangement when at least ten or twelve of the adults are working? And there was only one set of bills for the entire household. Is it any wonder that within a few years that same family had purchased two additional homes in the neighborhood?
This is the type of synergy that African-Americans willing to embrace polygamy can expect. Imagine a family with a college-educated or even blue collar man and two wives who are both employed? Such a family would be much better-off financially than an ordinary two couple, two- income household. And with the ever increasing wealth gap between black and white Americans, it’s safe to say that African American families need all the help they can get.
But the greatest benefit to the community would be the absorption of marriageable women, women who would normally be unable to find suitable marriage partners, as the disparity between the number of marriage worthy black men and women has already been noted. Yet what would happen if many of the successful, educated, marriage-worthy black men who are available begin to marry more than one black woman?
For one it would eliminate a lot of the creeping and cheating that’s already going on. Outside of financial problems, infidelity is number two on the list of things that land many married couples in divorce court.
In one study, 75 percent of married men and 25 percent of married women admitted to having at least one extra-marital affair. And it’s not just married couples who are creeping. Another study conducted by the University of Chicago found that cheating was extremely wide spread in poor black neighborhoods with 1 in 5 men being involved with at least two or more women. Less anyone think it’s only the less successful brethren who are doing all the two-timing, the same study reported that cheating was even more wide spread among the successful college educated black men they interviewed, who were often viewed as the crème de la crème. A striking fact was that the women in these men’s lives were more willing to tolerate and put up with bad behavior than their less educated sisters, a few even expected it.
Perhaps this was the reason Usher’s 2004 CD Confessions in which he croons, “Just when I thought I said all I could say, my chic on the side said she got one on the way, these are my confessions”, sold 8 million albums in the US and more than 13 million worldwide. Did the fact that Usher was singing about what so many of us were already doing help make the album so successful? Who knows? But the truth is rather they realize it or not a large number of African Americans are already polygamous. Nearly everyone reading this knows at least one black person who is dealing with more than one intimate partner. So why not call a spade a spade?
What would happen if more African-Americans decided to embrace a polygamous lifestyle? I’ll tell you – not only would it cut down on all the creeping, cheating, and lying but it would allow more black fathers to be with their children. Something that would’ve happened in the case of NBA star Dwayne Wade if he could’ve remained married to his high-school sweetheart and mother of his sons, yet also entered into a relationship with Gabriel Union.
A lot of times when a man gets caught cheating, it’s with his ex or the mothers of his children, especially if she’s still single. Embracing polygamy will add structure to the down low dealings that are already taking place and in many cases be much more respectful to the women in a man’s life. How so?
In the typical scenario a man and woman met, fall in love and enter into what is supposed to be a committed relationship, and a lot of times it is for at least one of the partners. In many cases, the couple moves in together and if they haven’t already then they plan anticipate marriage along with a white picket fence at some future date if they’re lucky. But what often happens is that while they’re in the process of building the perfect life together, the wife/girlfriend learns through the grapevine that the husband/boyfriend is secretly seeing someone else, or a woman shows up on her doorstep with a infant in tow, or even worse, she gets a call from her OB/GYN that labs test show she has contracted an STD. Either way the outcome involves a lot of pain, heartbreak and tears and what was once seen as a promising relationship has received a death blow that many never recover from.
But for a couple willing to embrace polygamy, a man will meet a woman he’s interested in and instead of taking his wedding ring off and saying he’s single/or lying about how horrible his wife is and how he plans to leave her when the time is right, he can be honest with the woman (thus giving her the power of choice without being deceived). If she remains interested he can introduce her to his other wife/wives who will then have the chance to get to know the woman, inquire about her sexual history, and gauge if she would be a good fit for the family. If not, they could voice their concerns with their husband.
Of course there are many people who would be totally opposed to this type of lifestyle for a variety of reasons, the number one being the cultural aspect. Whether we realize it or not, we are all products of our culture and culturally the practice of polygamy is foreign to most African-Americans. There are also those who erroneously believe that polygamous families are one big freak show with the husband and wives all sleeping together in one continuous orgy, but nothing could be farther from the truth. In the Darger family, he spends a different night a week with each of his wives, they never sleep together or engage in any type of group sex. He says bluntly, “If that was what it was about, I would have mistresses. There’s easier ways to get sex. It’s about building relationships.”
Along those lines, he takes each of his wives out on private Friday night dates on a rotating schedule, which means that each wife gets at least one date every three weeks. A lot more quality time than many women in traditional marriages receive from their spouses.
Returning to the Swiss Beats/Alicia Keys fiasco, what would’ve happened if the couple would’ve had this type of relationship to where he could’ve come home and told his wife, “Baby, I met somebody that I want you to meet.” More than likely the outcome would’ve been radically different.
Apart from the “ick” factor, most people inherently associate with this form of marriage there are legal and religious aspect that have to be taken into consideration. While it’s doubtful that polygamy will ever be the “only” solution for the black marriage crisis, for those open to it, it could be “one” among many.