Yet Another “Black Women Can’t Get Married” Story

Black women panel

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.

Sigh.

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.

—-

Earlier:

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

  • Quepasa

    Not trying to imply that there aren’t legitimate criticisms to the article, but  he is married to a black woman…

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  • http://twitter.com/DYomoah Doreen Yomoah

    As far as your last sentence, I am a black woman living in Ghana, and I would just like to say that absolutely does not apply here.

  • KTW

    The MSM isn’t the only party responsible for these stories. Has anyone read some of the Black Women’s Empowerment blogs? I find them really troubling.

    • Anonymous

      I agree. The whole “we need to date white men to get back at black men or because there is a marriage squeeze” was started by black women and our media. Essence magazine and other black female centric blogs and books started this. It was only a matter of time that the mainstream/white media followed. 

      Simply, I think some black women just want an excuse for their preference for white men and resentment towards black men , and are using this dubious “marriage squeeze” and supposed exodus of black men in the arms of white/non-black women. 

      • Andrade1910

        I think the same as you. Try reading the comment section on this BWE sites, its disturbing, the level of hate against black man and how they put white man on a pedestal…

        • Anonymous

          It is really embarrassing. I have in the past 3-4 years seen an up-tick in this mentality/movement. Be it in youtube videos or blogs. I think a couple of years ago there was the movie “something new.” I imagine that was one of several impetus to this. And when the two major characters (sanna lathan and Simon Baker) were on Oprah, you could tell Simon baker- the white love interest in the film was uncomfortable. I just cringe whenever I see black  women do this pedestal  placing. What is worse  is that IF it was black men doing this, the outrage from the same black women who frequent BWE sites would be LIVID. 

  • http://twitter.com/citizhateme Lady Shasha

    Why does interracial only = black/white in this article? 

  • nicthommi

    But why bother with the article? Normally, they just go on tirades about how mean and unfriendly black women, and how they tried SO hard to give those nasty harpies every chance to get with them before finally giving up to justify why they only date white or other non-black women.  Or my favorite is when they claim that black women all have a bunch of illegitimate kids (wow, wonder who put those inside her though?)
    You, black women and their silly expectations…

  • Anonymous

    Those last two assertions are not true. IR dating conversations are fraught in every community. I’ve personally moderated many of these, and if you think Asian Americans don’t have the same kind of drama, you haven’t been paying attention. Also, please refrain from painting all black people with the same brush. If you don’t like it in the article, don’t perpetuate the behavior.

  • Anonymous

    What really got me was the whole, “Black women don’t marry white men because they want chocolate babies.” As a woman of color in an interracial relationship who has serious concerns that my future children may not look like me (may, in fact, look completely white because I’m pretty light), I was really upset that this article trivialized that issue to the point that it sounded as if Black women just want their children “to be the right color,” as oppose to having concerns about: raising a child with someone who’s never experienced racism; having a child who will experience race in a completely different way, if at all; and how to avoid being mistaken for the baby sitter.

    If I’m completely alone in this, please let me know and I’ll align my views accordingly. Would make things a hell of a lot simpler if all I had to worry about was color-coordination.

    • Anonymous

      You aren’t alone. I was super concerned about this when seriously dating someone of a different race. Plus, I think wanting brown or “identifiably black” children is demonized, but non-black women wanting “hybrid vigor” children is praised as some sort of post racial pipe dream.

      • Weedie

        Interestingly enough, as a black woman who would love to have interracial children, I feel as though I’m demonized for THAT- clearly I’m ashamed of being black and what children that are more acceptable/desirable than I am. Guess we just can’t win! 

      • Anonymous

        Well that’s reverse-racism, duh.

        /sarcasm

        Also, Jesus, I am so done with the concept of “hybrid vigor” (read: the magical biracial child) I want to travel back to the Middle Ages and punch Mendel in the throat.

    • Anonymous

      I feel you, sister. And Black people, stop comparing the hue of your skin to food. Please. 

      I was offended at the “I want my kids to LOOK like”…….versus concerns about raising a healthy child who will grow up in an healthy, loving environment. I had a friend who was mistaken for a nanny when she shopped at the grocery store across the street from her house with her son. While she was rightly pissed, she learned how to pointedly correct the person without using profanity but still making them feel foolish. 

      Quandjebois, I have to say though, that people are going to judge you and your child  any which way they choose to do. As someone who has some reproductive challenges, I’d be happy just to have a child of my own, and aren’t too concerned about what ‘shade’ the kid ends up to having. 

      • Anonymous

        Oh definitely! If you’re not aware of that then you should re-consider becoming a parent. I just think that imagining how your partner’s skin color will affect your potential offspring’s life (both physically and in terms of child-rearing decisions) is not as ludicrous/shallow/straight-forward as the WSJ’s dumb “chocolate babies” comments made it sound.

        Also, as a resident of DC: The Chocolate City, I think I’ve become immune to how weird it is that we use that word to describe ourselves.

  • http://rvcbard.blogspot.com RVCBard

    I would like to humbly request that Media People put a moratorium on analyzing me and my pussy. Gyneocologists have never been so deep in my snatch.

  • http://rvcbard.blogspot.com RVCBard

    I would like to humbly request that Media People put a moratorium on analyzing me and my pussy. Gyneocologists have never been so deep in my snatch.

    • Facebook User

      But what about your twitter usage?

  • Gaara

    The funny thing is that the percentage of black women marrying interracially has trippled since 1980, yet the rate of unmarried black women has increased by 20% since that same time period.  So historically, the increase in interracial marriage has coincided with a decrease in marriage overall for black women.  It would seem that this is a great indication that marrying out is not a solution for any problem and should simply be treated as an individual choice.

  • Gaara

    The funny thing is that the percentage of black women marrying interracially has trippled since 1980, yet the rate of unmarried black women has increased by 20% since that same time period.  So historically, the increase in interracial marriage has coincided with a decrease in marriage overall for black women.  It would seem that this is a great indication that marrying out is not a solution for any problem and should simply be treated as an individual choice.

  • Anonymous

    See, when I keep seeing the same story in the media, I’m wondering if it’s not so much the media not getting enough of the Unmateable Black Woman so much as a meme being solidified, that Black women *are not* mateable–fuckable, yes, but certainly not people to be considered as partners beyond sex. I know that sounds like “conspiracy talk,” but I don’t think the machinations are that deep, like there’s a cabal of people just damned and determined to keep the sistahs from dating and are seriously working the media to achieve this.  But the net effect of these kinds of stories does “feel” like they have that effect, even though daily lives show a far different realities: that there are Black women who simply don’t want to marry, regardless of sexual identity; there are Black women who do date “outside the race,” regardless of sexual identity; there are Black women who *can’t* marry because of their sexual and/or gender identity.

    However, memes really aren’t interested in any other realities but their own, are they?

    • nicthommi

      I think that’s an awesome point because always mixed into the articles and the comments are people who are happy to share all of the “valid” reasons why they hate black women.  Those comments come from black men, white men, white women who date black men, and other black women who wish to express their disgust at the rest of the black women.   So some people who haven’t been initiated will definitely take all of that negative talk to heart. 

    • nicthommi

      I think that’s an awesome point because always mixed into the articles and the comments are people who are happy to share all of the “valid” reasons why they hate black women.  Those comments come from black men, white men, white women who date black men, and other black women who wish to express their disgust at the rest of the black women.   So some people who haven’t been initiated will definitely take all of that negative talk to heart. 

  • http://commentarybyval.blogspot.com/ Val

    It feels like this article was written 5 years ago and somehow lost and then they found it and decided to print it anyway.

    The American media has a long history of looking for the most negative angle possible for stories about African Americans. This article is just one of many in that vain. So as Chuck D said, Don’t believe the hype!

  • Keke

    Oh goodness!!  Not another “woe-to-the-single black woman-article.”  Have some of these experts examined the idea that some women *gasp* WANT to be single?!  I know lots of eligible Black women who simply have chosen to concentrate on other things and don’t want to be tied down.  But then…that would men that all Black women aren’t foaming at the mouth trying to land a man!  Wowzers!  But that goes totally against the idea that a woman isn’t complete without a man!  *le sigh*  I used to read these articles voraciously and bemoan the state of the black woman until I realized that a plethora of experiences were occurring right before me:  I was friends with and related to Black women who have been or were engaging in wonderful relationships.  So then I realized that the media was simply pandering to an old a tired trope.  I think what these articles refuse to say is that the best way to not be single is to NOT read these kinds of articles, go out and live life, have fun, date who you want and have no regrets.  

    • Kit M.

      Well, you know, black women _must_ aspire to the same marriage rate as white women. Because whatever white women are doing has to be the healthy, smart thing to do.

  • Anonymous

    A thousand times Thank You!  I know I can always come here for respite from this mess.  I don’t read half of these article articles that get published, but somehow they manage to make it in my inbox, and facebook feed, and anywhere else that I can be constantly annoyed. I quipped on facebook there’s got to be some secret speculative market tied to the journalism on this topic because why else would they continue to hash this out. 

    I fully support a “Black Women and Marriage Bingo Card”  and officially nominate “70% are single,” “Black men are gay, incarcerated, or dating white women,” and “White men in Europe love Black Women” as potential spots.

    • Morenaclara

       Make a spot that reads “Marry a white guy!” or  “Black women are Scary” .

      • http://rvcbard.blogspot.com RVCBard

        You also need to add, “Too educated” and “Stop asking for so much (like a HS diploma)”

      • http://rvcbard.blogspot.com RVCBard

        You also need to add, “Too educated” and “Stop asking for so much (like a HS diploma)”

    • http://www.mondaysbaby.com Monday’s Baby

      Don’t forget “You’re Too Educated to Find a (Black) Man”, “Date a ‘Blue Collar’ Man,” and/or “Single Mother by Force, not Choice.”

    • Anonymous

      Oh! And don’t forget to mention something about our hair “issues.” Maybe that should be in the “free space” spot?

  • Eva

    If I didn’t read these articles I would never know that black women were un-dateable.  It makes me wonder if the people who write these articles know any real black people at all.

    But why is marriage always presented as this nirvana, this heaven?  It never occurs to these “writers” that for many, many women, marriage is a living hell.  But they’d say, “at least she has a MAN.” 

    • kim

      So true.

      And what also annoys me about this is another (sort of) subliminal “White men will save you (from the fictitious problem)” underlying message.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ankhesenmie Ankhesen Mié
    • Nembi$$$

      Seriously you dislike IRR. Why even comment.

      • Anonymous

        Missing the point.

        • http://www.facebook.com/ankhesenmie Ankhesen Mié

          Totally missed my point.  Most likely on purpose.

  • Alex

    Makes me wonder how does the media benefit from promoting those myths. I should tell all the Black men I know “Did you know you’re not real, you’re scarce and an unicorn?”

    The classism, snobbery, self-hatred masked as giving advice, all of it stinks.  Everytime I run into such propoganda, I shut down the website or turn off the tv disgusted.