It never ends.
Reader AnoninPhilly sent us a link to the latest in the woe-are-unwed-black-women articles from the Wall Street Journal, this one titled “An Interracial Fix for Black Marriage.” Sing along if you know the words:
Audrey belongs to the most unmarried group of people in the U.S.: black women. Nearly 70% of black women are unmarried, and the racial gap in marriage spans the socioeconomic spectrum, from the urban poor to well-off suburban professionals. Three in 10 college-educated black women haven’t married by age 40; their white peers are less than half as likely to have remained unwed.
But since it’s the WSJ, the idea of the market is the main angle of the story.
I came away convinced of two facts: Black women confront the worst relationship market of any group because of economic and cultural forces that are not of their own making; and they have needlessly worsened their situation by limiting themselves to black men. I also arrived at a startling conclusion: Black women can best promote black marriage by opening themselves to relationships with men of other races.
Audrey and other black women confront a social scene in which desirable black men are scarce.
Part of the problem is incarceration. More than two million men are now imprisoned in the U.S., and roughly 40% of them are African-American. At any given time, more than 10% of black men in their 20s or 30s—prime marrying ages—are in jail or prison.
Educationally, black men also lag. There are roughly 1.4 million black women now in college, compared to just 900,000 black men. By graduation, black women outnumber men 2-to-1. Among graduate-school students, in 2008 there were 125,000 African-American women but only 58,000 African-American men. That same year, black women received more than three out of every five law or medical degrees awarded to African-Americans.
These problems translate into dimmer economic prospects for black men, and the less a man earns, the less likely he is to marry. That’s how the relationship market operates. Marriage is a matter of love and commitment, but it is also an exchange. A black man without a job or the likelihood of landing one cannot offer a woman enough to make that exchange worthwhile.
At this point, we need a Black Women and Marriage Bingo Card.
Comments are predictably vile. A little more than I expected (quite a few “I’m not like those other Negroes!”), but that may just be the crowd over there.
As a writer, I wonder how these articles keep getting published. News has a definite cycle – try writing about a study two weeks after it first releases. If you don’t have a new and timely angle, your editor will tell you that it’s been done and to move on. Yet, it appears that no matter how many of these articles are written, editors are never tired of single black women stories. (Especially considering how discussions of incarceration, the wealth gap, and other issues that are often cited in these articles as causes disappear after twenty four hours in the news cycle.)
If you listen to the media, it would seem that no matter who she is, a black woman, by dint of birth, can’t beg, borrow, or steal a man. And yes, it’s always a man. Because black women are only queer because they can’t find a man. And because no partnered black women exist, they are not interviewed for these articles. And if there is a partnered black woman, and she’s with a man that is working class, she will be told she is settling – despite having no kind of information on why this person actually chose their partner. (And, again, the flip side of these articles is always “black men are slacking so women can’t find partners” – a pernicious reinforcement of stereotypes about black men which is often missed in the glee to bash black women for the crime of singleness.)
In addition to shitting on working class men of all colors, the WSJ article finally concludes that interracial relationships should be entered into…because it increases your negotiating power:
By opening themselves to relationships with men of other races, black women would also lessen the power disparity that depresses the African-American marriage rate.
Okay, stop, stop, stop, stop. Stop the damn band. Let’s get a few things clear here:
- Interracial relationships should not be pawns in larger games of intra-racial gotcha.
- Interracial relationships should not be entered into because you feel you have no other options. Seriously, what the fuck? We are talking about people in relationships. This isn’t like not being able to afford an iPad and settling for a Kindle. There is another person involved.
- Attraction and relationships are complicated, and our preferences are influenced by societal messages. Interracial relationships are also complicated, because of what both people are bringing to the table and what is involved. All these “what you need to do is” articles fail to compelling grapple with the whys behind people’s dating behavior. Much is made of black women not wanting to explain their hair; less is made of the problems that arise when someone who is anti-racist starts dating someone who sees themselves as “beyond race.”
Mainstream conversations on IR dating leave much to be desired – but this particular drumbeat of “single black women get a white man!” needs to be retired.
White men deserve better than to be someone else’s last resort.
Black women deserve better than to be dictated to about how to handle their romantic lives from people who are basing their ideas on one part research to three parts stereotype.
And everyone deserves a better conversation on relationships, ethnicity, and race.
Sex In The Diamond District: Race, Love, And Relationships In Washington
Social Capital and Denying the Pain of Black Women
Interracial Dating: Interracial Dating with a Vengeance
Interracial Dating: “Beyond Race” versus “Anti-Racist Dating”
Black Women Can’t Find A Man? Blame The Church! [Rant]
Quoted: Jeff Yang on Interracial Dating
Rise of the Hot Jewish Girl? Details Continues the Objectification
The Flip Side of A Fetish
Geishas and Whores