“Successful, Black and Lonely”

By Special Correspondent Nadra Kareem

Who am I praying finds love? In recent weeks, a white woman, a black woman, a Korean-American woman and a Chicana have all made the cut. You wouldn’t know that from reading “Successful, black and lonely,” though. This Washington Post article profiles Helena Andrews and her new book about single black women, “Bitch Is the New Black.” Reading the article, I felt underwhelmed and somewhat irritated, as the piece tells the familiar tale of black women with MBAs and designer clothes who just can’t find a man. Move over tragic mulatto myth, you’ve been replaced by the myth of the tragic black women who’s professionally successful but is doomed to grow old alone.

Believe me, I’ve read the grim statistics about black women and marriage. We are the group least likely to marry. But I’ve also read the New York Times report about how the United States now includes more single-headed households than ever. Loneliness is a problem that transcends racial groups, but for some reason, there’ve been a slew of articles in recent years that peg black women as especially lonely.

If the black community includes more singles than other groups, isn’t this because the community tends to be harder hit by all social “ills?” Take the economy. Americans are suffering across the board, but the unemployment rate for black Americans is twice that of white Americans. As a black newspaper publisher I know says, “If white folks got a cold, black folks got the flu.”

By not considering this phenomenon when reporting on marriage, the media ends up perpetuating stereotypes about black women and men, alike. Black women are bossy and intimidating. Black men need to get it together.

“Andrews writes about what it is like for a young, black woman dating in D.C., trying to find a mate who seems ever elusive,” states Post reporter DeNeen L. Brown. “The futile rituals are familiar: the dressing up, the eager cab ride over to the party, the hold-your-breath as you walk in, scanning the room quickly for any looks returned. …Then one by one, the men prove to be disappointments and disappointing: married, uninteresting or uninterested. …Andrews writes the truth of those nights. The truth is for too many, they never work out.”

Andrews is included among the women for whom matters of the heart “never work out,” but she’s not yet 30. Isn’t there ample time for her to work things out with somebody? Brown quotes her discussing a guy she calls “Cornrows.” The nickname says a lot considering that Brown has already described Andrews as having a perfectly coiffed bob. We know then that this is an awkward match, and Andrews does, too. She regards Cornrows as a potential winter fling but nothing more. Andrews, however, does applaud him for being able to speak in “coherent sentences.” See how this makes black women and men look as if they’re on completely different footing?

Andrews’ book, which will be made into a movie, originated from a blog she and a friend planned to launch about “why black women can’t find a man.” I’ve read so many articles that promote this idea, I can’t count them. They’ve become one big blur. The problem I have is that, while black women do face barriers in the search for love, not all of us are alone. The black woman with an advanced degree and a high-powered job? I know her, and she’s married. I n fact, I know more than one of her.  I also know more than one pair of black college sweethearts who went on to tie the knot, the black girl who went to an HBCU but dropped out and married the guy who fathered her two kids. I know single black women, too, but the married black women I know actually outnumber the single ones.

But so prevalent is the idea that black women can’t find a man because they’re too aggressive that an Asian American woman I know actually repeated this stereotype verbatim to me.  I was astonished, not only because I found the statement racist and sexist but because she’d completely overlooked her own singleness. And that’s exactly my problem with these types of articles. I can’t recall ever reading an article about lonely Asian women or lonely Latinas. But these women exist, too.

By painting black women as lonely and desperate, these articles reinforce the very stereotypes that create obstacles for black women in the dating scene. Black women are undesirable, demanding and overbearing, they suggest. Think I’m wrong? The Post article ends by pointing out that Andrews considers herself “ a mean girl,” unfazed when a colleague explains that people don’t say hi to her because she’s a bitch.