Interracial marriage and single black women: African-American dating issues come home for the holidays

Tiya Miles is a MacArthur Fellowship “genius” grant recipient and lauded professor at the University of Michigan. Most would assume her intellect and accomplishments would place her above the petty concerns of average folk. Yet, like many black women, she is not immune to the twitch of anger evinced at the site of a black man with a white woman.

Writing for The Huffington Post, Miles penned a moving essay about this phenomenon: Black Women, Interracial Dating, and Marriage: What’s Love Got to Do With It?

Hers is a tale of seeing first hand the black men in her family routinely select white women as mates. This rattles her even though she is married to a Native American.

Bracing for more interracial couplings

Miles brings the statistics about interracial marriage and black men to life by relating this trend to a typical, yet important, dating ritual: taking a serious partner home for the holidays.

Bracing herself for Thanksgiving, she anticipates more black male loved ones choosing to “date out.”

“With Thanksgiving just around the corner, I cannot help but dwell on who might be coming to dinner,” Miles writes. “Last holiday season gave me plenty of food for thought on this all too familiar and often uncomfortable racially-tinged question. One of my male relatives brought home a date for Thanksgiving who could have been Barbie’s twin sister.”

She assures readers: she has nothing against these women. In many ways, it’s not about them. Instead the background history that has rendered black women undesirable as partners needs to be brought to light.

Why are black women the least desirable?

“Romantic attraction is subject to the larger social forces of racial prestige and stigma that swirl all around us, and in this environment, black women are losing out,” she states. This prestige and stigma includes the history of black men being penalized for socializing with white women, making them that much more desirable. On top of that, the traditional perception of black women as coarse and promiscuous is one Miles believes has not changed.

Are people impacted by this socialization without realizing it? Miles says yes.

“These racial and gender preferences and the reasons behind them may not be conscious to people in the dating world, who, by and large, would probably decry bias against black women,” the professor of history asserts. “Nevertheless, these preferences have real effects. While more black men date and marry white women than ever before, more black women cannot even get a first ‘chat’ on Internet dating sites.”

In truth, according to the most recent census, 25 percent of the marriages of black men in 2010 were interracial. At the same time, black women are the least likely of all women to get married.

Readers discuss interracial love

People have blamed the glamorization of white women and degradation of black women for these trends, while some in the comments for Miles’ article blame black women for being standoffish.

“In my personal experience, I find many black women doing the ignoring, rather than being ignored,” stated the commentor kiwiprosecutor, a self-described white man.

Others question whether Miles is correct in her judgement, because who one chooses for marriage should ultimately be a matter of the soul.

“I struggle to agree with anything said in this article, even though it appears the author has backed up her position with statistics,” was the take of Xylemic. “To me, choosing a long term partner comes down to values more than anything else.”

One black woman spoke up as a voice of empowerment amid these bitter discussions.

“It’s a new day for black women,” affirmed moonchild71. “We are free to date who we choose regardless of color or race. Interracial relationships exist legally in this country due to the love of a white man for a black woman, so much so that he took it all the way to the Supreme Court. Black woman need to value themselves more, open their eyes and recognize their power as desirable women.”

This commentor refers to the landmark Loving v. Virginia case, which did in fact make interracial marriage possible in the United States. But that was in 1967. Today, black women are still the least likely to date interracially, let alone marry.

Solutions to the “single black woman” problem

As depressing as these realities might be, it was not Miles’ intent to rehash the same issue of the “single black woman” problem that has been discussed in the news repeatedly.

She wants to get to the bottom of a problem that renders her fellow black women without anyone to take home for the holidays.

“The driving force is,” Miles writes, “…my awareness of all of the (straight) African American women — beautiful, smart, good women, some of them my own family and friends — who might not have a honey to bring home this Thanksgiving holiday because they cannot find a date, even as rising numbers of eligible African American men will be wooing white women.”

Is the solution to date and marry interracially as Miles has done? Or for black women to seek mates overseas as others in the comments have suggested? As a single black woman myself, these questions remain important, even if they have been dissected a thousand times.

It’s only natural that the holidays, a time for reflection and family, would bring them up for consideration for the 1,001st round of consideration.

Follow Alexis Garrett Stodghill on Twitter at @lexisb.