For all of the banal, short sighted, and outright stupid narratives out there about black life, the one that irks me most ironically affects me the least.
We’ve all heard about it. The trite tale of the beautiful, educated, upwardly mobile black woman that has attained every single ideal goal in life, minus one major factor: a black man to marry. Apparently, these women are everywhere, hence article after article dissecting why they’re all single and what they need to do in order to avoid — gasp — dying alone. They seem to need books, too. Oh and the occasional special episode of their favorite reality show to boot.
By now you would imagine that given both black women and black men — of varying ages, classes, sexual orientations, and levels of intellect — have chimed in with their own largely unsolicited advice on the matter that we could collectively move on, or at the very least, elevate the conversation. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened, leaving my wonderful single female friends to continue to be subjected to this same paranoia-themed discussion.
This month the Wall Street Journal published a story entitled “An Interracial Fix For Black Marriage.” The piece is on — you guessed it — why black women should look into dating white guys in order to spare themselves the shame of being spinsters. The article was penned by Stanford Law School professor Ralph Richard Banks, who not so coincidentally has a book on the same subject called Is Marriage for White People?: How the African-American Marriage Decline Affects Everyone.
Banks concludes: “Black women confront the worst relationship market of any group.” His solution: “Black women can best promote black marriage by opening themselves to relationships with men of other races.”
If this sounds familiar it’s because the Washington Post profiled another a writer with the same talking point and a book to push last year. Like the backlash against Banks’ work, not everyone was moved by Karyn Langhorne Folan’s story of divorcing a “devastatingly handsome” black man and finding new love later on with a white man who Folan claimed on first instinct wasn’t “the kind of white guy I could be physically attracted to.”
Professing her frustration with “media types prescribing surface-level solutions to the so-called man shortage,” writer Whitney Teal explained, “Viewing white men as the last resort is equally unfair, to both black women and white men, but factors heavily into these types of trend pieces.”
As for black women in general, Teal noted: “We’re not freak anthropological creatures from the planet Lonely and we don’t need our perceived problems magnified.”
Indeed, much of these articles don’t appear to be genuine yearnings for black women to open their minds (they shouldn’t be singled out for such anyway); rather, they read as works confirming its creator’s own desperation be it for publicity, profit, or desire to offer some shallow quick-fix to a perceived problem. It’s becoming increasingly pathetic.
When I read VIBE Vixen’s “Should Black Women Looking To Marry Consider Bisexual Men?” all I could do was wince. As a gay man, I find this suggestion as a solution to increase one’s marriage pool as problematic as I do preposterous. At this rate it won’t be long before some writer opines that black women should order a husband abroad. Or encourage them to repeat “Salagadoola mechicka boola bibbidi-bobbidi-boo” around men and hope for the best.
Finally, there’s new research suggesting that there less reasons to be as pressed a Panini over the media generated hysteria.
Ivory A. Toldson, Ph.D., and Bryant Marks, Ph.D. break down some of the figures used in recent years to build on this idea that black women better find themselves a nice white or now bisexual guy or face the prospects of buying their own promise ring.
Their findings revealed, “When analyzing the black women who are 35 and older, the percent who have never been married drops to 25 percent, indicating that a solid majority of black women get married before they turn 35.” However, they noted, “the total percent of unmarried black women is still twice more than for white women who are 35 and older.”
As for as there being 1.9 million more black women than black men: “The same data show 4.6 million more white women than white men. With this statement, they are exercising arrogant ignorance or deceptive omission to sell the story.”
Here’s to hoping members of the press learn to start exercising some restraint.