If you're a black woman in America and you want to get married, statistics indicate that you're likely to have a hard time of it. Almost seventy percent of American black women are unmarried. Over half of black women's marriages to black men end in divorce.
This deeply concerns Wall Street Journal columnist Ralph Richard Banks. He notes,
Black women who do marry often end up with black men who are less accomplished than they are. They are more likely than any other group of women to earn more than their husbands. More than half of college-educated black wives are better educated than their husbands.
The pool's not only less accomplished, but it's also smaller.
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.
One might think that it would make sense to examine the factors- economic, social, cultural- that lead to black men being locked up for a long period of time and acknowledge that the difficulty that black women have in finding a romantic partner is a sad side effect of a set of depressing circumstances; a crap cocktail of institutionalized racism in the legal system as well as culturally enforced standards of beauty that idealizes European features. We could use the suffering of black women and, by extension, the black American family, as a starting point in a discussion about reforming law enforcement and the American penal system, as well as cultural attitudes about beauty and attraction.
Or, we could just tell black women that they should just start going out with white guys. Yes, black ladies: white men will solve all your problems.
But what about racism? Surveys of dating sites have revealed that many non-black men say they aren't interested in dating a black woman. That's okay, says Banks.
But that's not the whole story. Even if a majority of white men are uninterested in dating black women, that still leaves more than enough eligible white men for every single black woman in America. Moreover, many major urban areas have large numbers of Asian, Indian, Middle Eastern and Latino men, some of whom, according to at least one study of Internet dating, are more responsive to black women than are black men.
Banks presents several oppositions to his far fetched suggestion that women just decide to be attracted to something different than what they're interested in; namely, some black women don't want to have to exhaustively re-explain day-to-day realities of being black- their hair or skin care regimen, for example- to a non-black boyfriend. Some want to be with someone who understands the challenges one faces growing up black in America. Others want their children to look like them. One light skinned black woman mentioned in the article expressed fear that if she had a child with a white man, the baby could pass as white and people on the street would think that she was her own child's nanny.
Banks' argument? Well, uh, do it anyway. Black women looking outside of their race for romantic partners gives them more power in relationships with black men, he argues, and thus it makes sense for black women to cross racial lines. Black women who wish to get married should take one for the team.
His argument might make sense on one level; yes, if black women decided to respond to a limited dating pool by dating outside of their race more often, more of them might get married, but, like many ideas brewed by academics, there's little likelihood that this could be implemented in a practical way. This isn't economic policy; love isn't a logical decision; if you told me that men with blue eyes were much less likely to produce offspring who get cancer than men with brown eyes, I wouldn't be able to logic my way out of preferring the latter. A short girl who loves dating tall men won't suddenly like short guys because someone tells her that the physics of sex with a man close to your height can make the act more fun for all involved parties. I can't suddenly think my way into falling in love with some rich guy I work with because he would be a better provider. The heart wants what it wants. Suggesting that black women react to their smaller dating pool by simply changing their tastes and abandoning the hope that they'd be able to raise a family with someone from a similar cultural background is borderline absurd.
As well-intentioned as Banks' argument is, it's far from realistic, and it's the socialogical equivalent of installing a collection of decorative buckets beneath a gushing leak rather than just fixing the damn roof.
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