Archive for June 26th, 2011

Single Black Women

June 26, 2011

Stanford Law School Professor Ralph Richard Banks’ new book, “Is Marriage For White People? How the African American Marriage Decline Affects Everyone” is once again stirring the debate about the declining marriage rate among black women and what, if anything, should be done about it.

Although some are already looking at Banks’ book at yet another rehashing of the same old tired subject, I’m excited about the book’s upcoming release. Banks is a Harvard Law School classmate, and we’ve had several conversations about his motivations for writing the book, his research and his conclusions. Although I haven’t yet read the book, I’m hoping it provides an opportunity to take this discussion into a different direction.

Far too often, the discussion of single black women devolves into an analysis of what’s wrong with black women and why no one wants us. According to Satoshi Kanazawa’s infamous Psychology Today blog post, we’re not attractive. Jimi Izrael, in his book The Denzel Principle, said we’re too picky.  Even Banks concludes that we ought to consider interracial dating more than we do.

Apart from Kanazawa – whose article has been so thoroughly debunked it’s not even worth discussing anymore – the other suggestions are too simplistic. Perhaps some black women are too picky. Perhaps some black women should expand their dating horizons. But there’s no one-size-fits-all solution.

Personally, I believe women who want to get married, ultimately will find someone to marry. If a black woman chooses, for cultural and other reasons, to marry only within her race, that’s her choice, and she’s not wrong for making it. If a black woman only wants to date someone 6’5″, with shoulders like Dwight Howard, a smile like Blair Underwood and an income like Michael Jordan – well, good luck with that.

Black women who date and marry men of other races and ethnic groups do so without someone telling them that’s what they should be doing. Many black women are single by choice. And, of course, there are black women who date and marry women, not men.

In any case, I think we’re having the wrong discussion.

Take black female versus black male graduation rates, for example. Twice as many black women as black men graduate from college. Instead of looking at that figure and saying, “Oh no, who are black women going to marry?,” perhaps the more relevant question is, “What can we do to ensure more black men enter and graduate from college?”

There are so many unexplored social, socioeconomic, geopolitical, class and other issues tied up in the declining marriage rate question. I would love to see the discussion move towards a more fulsome exploration of these other factors, which have been present for decades and continue to negatively impact black and other communities of color.

Some have begged for the “single black women” topic to go away entirely. I’m not sure that’s the right answer. These are issues that deserve exploration and study – although “what’s wrong with black women” is not a question anyone ought to be asking. Setting up the discussion in this way is too polarizing. It winds up pitting black women against black men in a way that is entirely unhelpful and unproductive. Reframing the discussion to focus on what’s really underlying the statistics would help take some of the emotion out of it.

In any case, I’m hopeful this time around. I hope more black women are invited to participate in the conversation this time. I look forward to adding my voice. With more black women involved, we’re more likely to come up with solutions that go beyond “upgrade him” and “date a white guy.”