For Discussion…AGAIN

- By Bossip Staff Categories: F*ck a Thug, For Discussion, matrimony-dom

Nightline Panel Sherry Shepherd, Steve Harvey, Hill Harper, Vicki Mabrey, Jacqui Reed, Jimi Izrael

Princeton Professor Melissa Harris-Lacewell goes in on the on going never-ending debate on why successful black women are unmarried:

Like other discussions in the genre, the Nightline special began with the Disney-inspired assumption that marriage is an appropriate and universal goal for women. Any failure to achieve marriage must therefore be pathological. With this starting assumption panelists were encouraged to offer solutions without needing to fully articulate why low marriage rates are troubling.

Perhaps marriage is shorthand for describing loving partnerships. In this case the problem is that some African American women have a pressing and unfulfilled desire for emotional attachment, companionship, and love in the context of committed heterosexual relationships. This is reasonable human expectation. It is one that many men and women of all racial and ethnic backgrounds share. In a nation where we assert that citizens have an inalienable right to pursue happiness we might even argue (although it is a stretch) that this desire is essentially newsworthy.

However, given the distortions of or absence of black women in most mainstream media outlets we are skeptical that Nightline was primarily motivated by a desire to address the human needs of African American women. Instead, we suspect marriage is a trope for other anxieties about respectability, economic stability, and the maintenance of patriarchy. Which social issue appears on the public agenda is never accidental. In this moment of economic crisis, social change and racial transformation it is meaningful that black women are being encouraged to exclusively embrace traditional models of family and to view themselves as deficient if their lives do not fit neatly into these prescribed roles.

What the Nightline special failed to mention or bother to dig to reveal:

The solution offered most frequently in Wednesday’s conversation was familiar: professional black women need to scale back expectations. Black female success is an impediment to finding and cultivating black love. Hinging heavily on humor and black female desperation, like so many other conversations, articles, and news programs before it, this conversation missed the opportunity to offer a thoughtful analysis of structural, sociological, historical and political realities that serve as an impediment to fruitful partnerships between black men and women.

For example, the panel failed to address the reality that black boy infants are significantly more likely to die in the first year of life than are black girl infants, creating an immediate gender imbalance. The panel did not address the devastating effects of urban violence or mass incarceration on African American communities. The panel did not mention the systematic nature of inadequate educational opportunities for black boys or the continuing realities of employment discrimination effecting black men and women. These structural realities have an enormous impact on the shape and function of families. Despite its role as a news program, Nightline failed to call on any sociologists, psychologists, historians or therapists who could have contributed context, statistics or analysis about the “marriage crisis” among African Americans. Instead, these delicate and compelling issues were addressed by comedians, actors, bloggers and journalists. If Nightline deemed this story to be worthy of coverage then it had an obligation to cover the story with as much integrity as another social issue. It is hard to imagine Nightline assembling a panel of actors and comedians to discuss the economy, the war in Iraq, the Catholic Church or any other relevant issue.

At a crescendo of irrelevance one panelist suggested that Michelle Robinson had secured Barack Obama as a future mate by lowering her expectations and seeing his potential rather than insisting that he be President before she would accept a date. It is nothing less than bizarre to characterize the Obamas in this way. As Shepherd pointed out, Barack Obama was a Harvard law student when he met Michelle, which can hardly be considered lowered expectations. Further when the Obamas tell their own story they always emphasize how a young Barack wooed and courted Michelle, seeing in her the possibilities of egalitarian partnership rooted in mutual respect, shared values and collective ambition. Theirs was a love story made possible by the structural realities of relative privilege, good education and bright economic futures. It is also a story rooted in a black man’s enthusiastic embrace of an ambitious black woman.

Ultimately this panel did little more than shame, blame and stereotype black women. It offered few original insights and called into question that continued relevance of Nightline as a source of meaningful social and political information.

She makes many valid points…although some may feel this topic has been beaten like a dead horse, please feel free to discuss.

Melissa Harris-Lacewell Princeton Professor



  • lisabeller

    S e e k i n g A f f l u e n t c O m is a place for like-minded people who understand that intelligence, success and drive are key elements to attraction.

  • Nique (Life in the Fab Lane)

    although some may feel this topic has been beaten like a dead horse….


    Finally right about something, yet still post the bullsh!!t….

  • Shamerika

    Here we go again. We’ve ALL got our issues…whether you’re black, hispanic, white, indian. I do know a few “successful” black women who think TOO HIGHLY OF THEMSELVES career-wise and physically which they OBVIOUSLY AREn’T ALL THAT. I would NEVER bring it in someone’s face that I make so and so per yr to someone who makes less than I do or bring them down in anyway. This is too much of a controversial issue. On a happy note, I am HISPANIC and I do date a BLACK man. People hate but then other are happy for us. So…I don’t know.

  • resurrected

    I am so tried of this subject because it is not solving anything and it just like another excuse to put black woman in the spot light in a very negative way even thought the last taping was comical… Why is this question never really extended and focused on the black man and his change in peference beyond she has an attitude? To me this is a black community issues not just a black woman issue…

  • I'm an ugly [Angry] black woman with a beautiful mixed child

    As long as white and asian women are alive ………..and homosexuality amongst white men continues to increase AND becomes a fabric in white society.


  • Shamerika



    Oh enough already! Fck everyone has issues! Successful black women don’t pick the right guys, are stuck up or black men are intimidated. Hell all men are intimidated by successful women, unless they are equally as successful. Shut the hell up about it.

    *Sidenote* – is that actually Steve Harvey or Keenan? LMAO!

  • stop the madness

    Dear professor we like your lectures but the single black women thing is old. There are a lot of young single successful black women who choose to be single.

  • LasyRae3

    I applaud this lady for calling a spade a spade. Steve Harvey as a relationship expert when he beat his former wife and “claimed” his current wife 17 years ago while both were married to other people is truly a joke. People go to school and actually study this stuff, or have learned life lessons of what not to do-I don’t see how this qualifies either moderator to have served on this topic-or the people on the panel besides Hill Harper and Jackie Reid who have done pieces on this topic. All advice should be taken with a grian of salt, bc at the end of the day you have to do you. No one can walk in your shoes or have your expirence better than you!

  • MochaLove

    Ugh. Here we go again with this ish. If you’re a black woman and subscribe to the notion that since you’re successful and educated you’ll have a hard time finding a man to meet you standards, then you’re going to be a statistical victim.

    I know plenty of Black women, including myself, who’ve never had a problem dating and /or marrying black men. It’s all a matter of perspective really. If you believe it, you shall receive it. That. Is. All.

  • sadgf

    the answer is that most black women are undesirable in terms of looks, CULTURE, attitude and education (a masters in sociology is not a valuable education)

  • ErycaK

    Some women have expectations higher than what they can meet if they were dating themsevles.. Like And she doesn’t have much to bring to the table.

  • Getem

    Noone cares. They don’t have a man because they look like some damn fools.

  • sinista

    Our influence as a people positive and negative always intrigues other races and ethnic backgrounds. What makes this so annoying is once our people get titles, then all of a sudden they are authorities on dumb sh*t! There are both successful Black men and Black women who aren’t married and its moreso a choice for them. Why they have chosen not to marry is a different issue and if most successful women (not just Black women!) act like Taraji Henson in “Not Easily Broken”, I can understand why many of them aren’t married. This has moreso to do with the price of success than it has to do with race so please tell those so called scholars and fake relationship experts to get their facts straight before they bore us to death with this!

  • Jennifer

    Oh, Shemericka, Shemericka:

    Not all black women really care who black men date. I see endless numbers of white women who fell for the hype black men fed them about how awful black women are, only to get knocked up, left, and stuck with their parents who have to raise their biracial child because they know once they have that child, no white men will want them. I say let all of you find out the hard way what we know already-most of the black men you guys get ain’t worth a damn.

    I’ll bet I have somethin you’ll never have-a successful white man with means and intelligence. Let YOUR hating begin in 5, 4, 3, 2…

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