Single Black Women

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.”

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6 Responses to “Single Black Women”

  1. Sistergirl Says:

    I Black Men. Every woman in my family have been able to find one. Our men are employed–not all are college educated but no one ismarried to a slacker. Some family members met their mate at college, while volunteering, through friends, walking down the street and yes even in church.

    I really don’t know what the problem is for some women. Are they too unreasonable, spoiled or just a pain to be around? Some women are with too many single women ALL the time. A man won’t approach a women in a pack, loud women, etc. Some women seem to be playing the single, independent, feminist role so hard they do not even know how to attach men after a while.

    I’m sorry 40 seems a little too late to finally want to get married for the first time. You are too stuck in your ways.

  2. Carolyn Edgar on NPR’s “Tell Me More” « Carolyn A. Edgar Says:

    […] Carolyn A. Edgar Notes of a lawyer, writer, and single mom « Single Black Women […]

  3. Mykeia Says:

    Listened to you on NPR and thought your comments were insightful, honest and great.

  4. Bliss Says:

    My sistas, let us embrace who WE are before we seek approval in the eyes of another.

    I hear so many woman say, “I’m bored”, “I’m lonely”, or “I need a man”.

    Let’s work on being the best “me” we can be. Let’s love ourselves from the inside out!

    Lounge in your yard with a glass of cold tea while reading a good book, learn a new language, learn to play an instrument, take a nature stroll with a sista-friend — and do it with the intent of enriching SELF, not in an attempt to go become more for a man.

    Let us be these things for OURselves, with thoughts of making OURselves happy.

    And if a good man comes along, he’ll be the icing on our already delicious cake!

    God bless!

  5. Carolyn Edgar on NPR’s “Tell Me More” | Carolyn Edgar Says:

    […] African American Marriage Decline Affects Everyone.” I discussed this book in my post “Single Black Women,” and I am one of several women Banks interviewed for the book. This subject continues to […]

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