June is Economic Empowerment Month at United Black America. As we come to the collective realization that the American economy has changed forever, African-Americans find ourselves particularly vulnerable. This month, we will offer strategies and tactics on all things financial and economic. Stay up to date and subscribe to our email list here.
Yes, you read that right. I AM suggesting polygamy as one solution to solving some of Black America’s problems. This is the first time we here at United Black America have touched on the subject, but it wont be the last. And since June is Economic Empowerment month, I ask the question “Can polygamy be a means to economic empowerment for African-Americans?” Lets do the knowledge
Where Have All the Good Men Gone?
In this article written by Tim Harford for Slate Magazine, one can look to America’s Prison Industrial complex to realize the plight of the imprisoned man and the single Black woman:
A little over one in 100 American men are in prison—but there are several states where one in five young black men are behind bars. Since most women marry men of a similar age, and of the same race and in the same state, there are some groups of women who face a dramatic shortfall of marriage partners.
Economist Kerwin Charles has recently studied the plight of these women. Their problem is not merely that some who would want to marry won’t be able to. It’s that the available men—those not in prison—suddenly have more bargaining power.
Goodbye to doing the dishes and paying the rent; hello to mistresses and wham, bam, thank you ma’am. The women whose potential partners have had their ranks thinned by prison are less likely to marry, and when they do marry, are likely to marry a man less educated than they are.
Meanwhile, the remaining men, finding a surfeit of marriage partners, suddenly seem in no hurry to marry. And why would they?The women’s response makes sense: girl power. The women affected do everything to make the most of single life, including staying at school for longer and hunting for more paid work.
The American prison system hasn’t left them much choice.When men are taken out of the marriage market by war or by prison, women suffer.
Its no secret that in the Black community there is an imbalance. Black men have been the primary target of America’s war on drugs, mis-education and exclusion from academic opportunities, and the child support system. The results have been the rise of single parent households, more Black women in higher education than Black men, and the economic disparity that results.
Polygamy provides the Black community with an opportunity to reunify and restore the effectiveness of the family unit, improve their opportunities for higher education, and reduce their expenses. Before I argue for polygamy, a brief history of monogamy is needed.
A Brief History of Monogamy
Many Christians will point to the Bible’s Adam and Eve as the standard for monogamy. After all, God gave Adam only one wife, right? Unfortunately, the Bible may have been inspired by the word of God, but it has been manipulated over the generations by so-called “holy men” to control the masses.
You see, back in the early days of Christianity, the illiterate masses couldnt read the Bible for themselves. These believers had no choice but to take the word of priests and the Pope at face value. These priests and Popes distorted the word of God is some pretty extreme ways, particularly when it came to marital relationships. In the Middle Ages, it was common for Catholic priests to have multiple wives and even mistresses. This presented a problem for the church: when a priest died, rather than his inheritance going back to the church, it was distributed to his many wives, mistresses, and children. To protect the church’s inheritance, Pope Benedict VIII banned all marriage for priests in 1022 AD. Later, in 1139, Pope Innocent II voided all marriages of priests, and new priests had to divorce their wives. All of this was done for the sole purpose of protecting the money and property of the church.
With priests forced into celibacy, sexual abstinence was held up as the new standard for holiness. Sex became unclean and sinful. Marriage was considered a necessary evil that helped guard men against fornication (yea, right) , but was restricted to monogamous relationships. Thus, we can see how the concept of monogamy arose from manipulation at the hands of the early Christian church.
This isnt an attack on the church, but it is an attack on the men who manipulated it for their own prosperity.
The form of monogamous Christianity that we practice today is a ROMANIZED version, as opposed to the Hebraic (Hebrew) version of Christianity that was openly polygamous. When the early Christian church separated from and renounced the Jews, the way of the patriarchal Hebrew founders were also renounced – thus, so was Biblical polygamy.
To conclude, the early Christian Hebrew traditions were polygamous, and monogamy was introduced to spite Jewish traditions and to protect the Church’s money.
To prove this, lets look at some Biblical Scriptures that reveal the Hebraic view of the subject:
Polygamy in the Bible
· Lamech had two wives, Adah and Zillah (Genesis 4:19), Esau had five wives, Judith and Basemath (Genesis 26:34), Mahalath (Genesis 28:9), Jacob had four wives, Leah (Genesis 29:23), Rachel (Genesis 29:28), Bilhah (Genesis 30:4), and Zilpah (Genesis 30:9). David had several wives, including Micah (1 Samuel 18:27), Ahinoam, Abigail, Maacah, Haggith, Abital and Eglah (2 Samuel 3:2-5)
The Bible also provides guidance concerning multiple or plural wives:
· Exodus 21:10-11 – If he take him another [wife]; her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish. And if he do not these three unto her, then shall she go out free without money. (Note: Read Exodus 21:7-11 to get the full context). In this scripture, YAH deals with a man, who has married his servant. Specifically, YAH say, if that man marries another wife after the servant, he is not to diminish his first wife’s food, clothing or marital rights. More importantly, the scripture shows the YAH not only permitted polygyny, but also gave laws governing multiple wives.
· Deuteronomy 25:5 – “If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husband’s brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of a husband’s brother unto her.” In this passage, YAH commands a living brother to marry his deceased’s brother’s wife, if the deceased brother dies without living children or a son.The marriage status of the living brother is not addressed; therefore, we do not know if this brother is already married or not. He could be single, but he could also be married. Regardless, he is required to marry his deceased brother’s wife and in verses 6 it says that any firstborn of this marriage is to inherit and be named after the deceased brother. (The purpose of this law was to keep land in the family and to protect young widows of child-bearing age.) Thus, we have a command from YAH allowing a man to engage in polygyny.
· Deuteronomy 21:15-17 – “If a man have two wives, one beloved, and another hated, and they have born him children, [both] the beloved and the hated; and [if] the firstborn son be hers that was hated: Then it shall be, when he maketh his sons to inherit [that] which he hath, [that] he may not make the son of the beloved firstborn before the son of the hated, [which is indeed] the firstborn: But he shall acknowledge the son of the hated [for] the firstborn, by giving him a double portion of all that he hath: for he [is] the beginning of his strength; the right of the firstborn [is] his.” This law does NOT condemn the man who has two wives. Rather, it instructs him on how he is to deal with the children born from his two wives.
· Leviticus 18:18 – “Neither shalt thou take a wife to her sister, to vex [her], to uncover her nakedness, beside the other in her life [time].” In the scripture, YAH forbids a man to marry his wife’s sister, while his wife is alive.
Now that you know the truth, let me give you some practical, modern day reasons why polygamy should be revisited by African-Americans:
Polygamous Families Move as a Unit
It is more economically effective to operate as a unit than as an individual. The lone single African-American mother faces dangerous pitfalls in America. If she isnt trapped in a system of welfare, then she is trapped in a never-ending cycle of work, childcare costs, bills, and more work. Ultimately, she never gets ahead, misses her opportunity to complete her education while she is still young, and is routinely absent from her child’s life.
By thinking of polygamy in terms of a strong family unit, the lone woman can move more effectively towards her goals, while still playing an important part as a mother and supervisor for her children.
Polygamy Increases the Learning Opportunities of the Family Unit
For example, in a household of three women and one man, with two members of the family working, the other two members have the time and space to finish their education. Once these two members have earned advanced degrees, their earning potential skyrockets. They can now occupy positions as bread winners, while the other two then finish their education. With four advanced degree holders in the household (versus none in most African-American cases), the earning capacity of the family unit is un-fuckwithable.
Expenses are reduced
Many believe that having more mouths to feed in the home would increase expenses, but the numbers prove otherwise. Women in the household can reduce their beauty expenses with the help and skill of one another. If children are involved, childcare expenses are eradicated, saving as much as $1,ooo per month. Transportation fees for each individual are reduced with the help of carpooling. Laundry fees – which may seem minor until they are added up – can also be reduced per individual by combining loads. Debts and liabilities are displaced, and in polygamous family units, the spending power of the unit is combined to handle the debts of the individual.
Making Polygamy Work
Polygamy has been a natural way of life since mankind left the cradle of Africa, and in parts of America, it still is. According to researchers at Brigham Young University, there are 30,000 to 50,000 people currently living a polygamist lifestyle in the United States, and a separate study reported on NPR estimates that 50,000 to 100,000 Muslims in America may be quietly living polygamist lives. A worldwide ethnographic survey of 849 human societies show 708 whose customs are polygynous (more than 1 wife), 4 polyandrous (more than 1 husband) and only 137 monogamous.
Before you get all excited about what you think polygamy could be, let me be clear on what it is not:
Polygamy is not an endless orgy
Just as in monogamous marriages, wives have the right to refuse sex with their husbands, and they also have the right to refuse bisexual activities with their sister-wives. Playas, you arent gonna be able to come home from work, kick back with a cigar, and watch your wives pleasure each other. It doesnt work that way. While it is true that polygamy reduces the infidelity of all parties involved, if you are considering a polygamous family lifestyle for the sexual opportunity then you are starting out on the wrong foot.
Polygamy is not a “wife collection”, or a “sugar-daddy gold mine”
Some of you playa’s think that polygamy is an opportunity to collect a harem of beautiful sistas to keep for yourselves. Its not. For starters, women in polygamous family units are NOT objects, nor should they be considered extra hands to get work done around the house.
Women, your husband should be a man of resources, but y0u shouldnt view the unit as an opportunity to dig some gold. Polygamy is a pact made between members of the household to work together as a team of romantically involved conscious beings. Despite the scope of this article, polygamy shouldnt be seen exclusively as an economic opportunity. It is both a responsibility to your community and a duty to your spouses and sister-wives.
Polygamy is not easy
To make a polygamous family unit work, every member of the unit must play a part. While one husband attends school, it may fall to two other wives to work while one maintains the integrity of the home. While two wives may be full time college students, the other two members of the unit must work to support them and give them the space they need to finish school.
The problems in polygamous units are the same as the problems in monogamous families – conflict occurs, time away from the family may be needed, communication problems must be mediated. Men and women with poor communication and relationship skills, or a poor work ethic, are not qualified for polygamy.
If you would like more information on polygamy from a Black Conscious perspective, check out “Sister Wife”, a 2000 documentary that follows the Black Hebrew Israelites, an African American community that immigrated to Israel and practices polygamy. The men can have up to seven wives. The film follows a couple that’s been married for 21 years as they decide to take on another wife.
Also, check out this podcast from the African History Network Show that discusses polygamy in detail.