For Discussion: As African American Marriage Declines The Media Asks…”Is Marriage For White People?”

- By Bossip Staff

Here is an interesting interview with the author of the book Is Marriage for White People?

Even with an African American couple in the White House, the fate of the black family in America has never been so precarious. That’s the message behind Is Marriage for White People?, a new book by Stanford Law professor Ralph Richard Banks. Researched and written over the past 10 years, Banks’ book explores the unpleasant — and often unspoken — contributors to and consequences of declining marriage rates among African Americans. With 70% of all black children now born to unwed mothers, the consequences have never been clearer. As for the solutions, Banks provocatively suggests that black women begin looking beyond their own race for marriage material and potential fathers of their children.

Is Marriage for White People?, which comes out on Sept. 1, examines the little-explored intersections of race, gender and class among African Americans, but the same issues — regarding marriage, inter-marriage, children — exist among most groups in the U.S. spoke with Banks about “marrying down” and why filmmaker Tyler Perry has it all wrong. Your book focuses specifically on marriage patterns within the black “middle class” of educated professionals. Why focus your research so narrowly?
Banks: Because this is a demographic that has traditionally been overlooked by demographers. When scholars study marriage, they usually focus on white people, yet when they focus on African Americans, they usually study the lower classes. There is very little serious data on other segments. Plus, the black middle-class is the community I am a part of — and I’ve personally witnessed the decline of marriage among African Americans.

So what did you find out? How is marriage faring among the black middle class?
Not well — particularly for black women. Typically, the more educated the woman, the more likely she is to marry. But a college-educated black woman is no more likely to have a husband than a poor Caucasian woman with barely a high school diploma. When it comes to forming a family, black women are not reaping the benefits of advanced education — nor are they passing those benefits onto the next generation.

There are plenty of black men out there, so what’s keeping these women single?
Part of the answer lies in the gender imbalance within the black community — where two African American women graduate from college for every one African American male. Despite this imbalance, there is still enormous social pressure on black women to only marry black men — to “sustain” the race and build strong black families. And this means marrying black men even if they are less educated or earn less money. In short, no matter the personal cost, black woman are encourage to marry “down” before they marry “out.”

“Down before out” — ouch! That sounds like a pretty harsh indictment.
Well, this has become almost a consensus view (within the black community). Authors like Steve Harvey and Hill Harper and particularly filmmaker Tyler Perry promote this notion that black women who lack good relationships are victims of their own elitism and snobbery. That they should open their eyes to the virtues of working-class black men and focus on their long-term potential. These kinds of messages tell a black female lawyer, for instance, that she should be enthusiastic about dating a carpenter or a plumber — and if she’s not, then she is the one with the problem. It pressures black women to give up certain kinds of life experiences (for the sake of a man) when white women are taught to cultivate them. This is simply bad advice that can lead these women into disastrous relationships.

So what are you suggesting, that black women start marrying white guys?
I’m not advocating for black women to marry white men, I’m simply saying it’s time for black women to stop “taking one” for the group. I’m encouraging black women to open themselves up to the possibilities of relationships with men who are not African American — to give less importance to race and more importance to class. This would be good for them, for their children and even benefit other black couples by helping to level the playing field.

So where does this leave black men? Seems to me they’re getting all of the blame here.
This book isn’t about demonizing black men, but looking at the consequences of their failures. We are not necessarily exploring the reasons for these failures, but how they affect black families and black relationships. I certainly may not have given enough weight in the book to issues of racism and the criminal justice system or educational policies or employer discrimination, but these topics are for my next book.

With so much talk of unmarried women, fatherless children, economic insecurity, your book feels kind of grim. Where is the hope here for the women you claim to care about?
The hope here is that black women will be able to shape their own lives and not be victims of circumstance. That these women won’t be sidetracked by the lack of black men on one hand and white racism on the other. That they will open their eyes to possibilities they might not have previously considered — and this transcends to women of all races. This is a hopeful book, but not a relentlessly upbeat book because that would have not been true to reality.

What about the Obamas? We have an intact African American family in the White House. Are they a realistic model for the rest of the community?
Interestingly, Michelle Obama’s experience is emblematic of a lot of black women. When they married, she was already a lawyer while Barack was still a student. People speak of Michelle “taking a chance” on Barack and that their story is an example of what awaits when black women shed their elitism and marry a man not — or not yet — on their level. Of course, this is simply not true, particularly considering Barack Obama’s background and life history. The issue here isn’t Michelle, but Barack — he was the “wild card” in this marriage.



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  • King Beef

    Smh. Here we go! This bullchit should get at least thirty hits.

  • Janay

    I been saying this. IR dating has not been culturally acceptable for black women for the longest. This author is a black man putting his pride aside to give black women raw truth and reality. And I agree with it. Althougt I have a great black man so black love is my reality. I have been hit on by white guys in the past but never even thought about considering it. But now if things don’t work out and I’m single again I def will be more open. And he is right you hear some black men saying “black women standards are too high” they have been feeding that false idea to black community when actually our standards in men are too low.

  • Shortcake

    I am black american and I have been married for 3 years and happy. Marriage is beautiful and I love the partnership but I must say it isn’t for everyone. It requires alot of give and take, becoming selfless and thinking about the other person’s needs as you think of your own. That means the selfish part of you would have to die and have a funeral. But the good things are that you have someone who you know will be there when the going gets tough you are not having to do everything alone, if you get sick, got to take off work or have children you have a partner helping you with things. I live in a gated community, I could not afford this on my salary alone, but my husband and I pay for things together which makes it easier. So marriage is not just for white people, it is for mature people who like having a partnership.

  • dr. moon

    He probably married a white women !

    Marriage as an institution is ancient and needs to be updated. Black women are not the only group suffering from this reality . All groups in America are experiencing this including white women .

  • Petri

    Shawni agree100% with your thought process you are right on.
    A man with a marriage mindset will most likely marry a woman who has no children. Rather than someone who is embroiled in baby daddy drama. This article seems to lay the burden on the doorsteps of black women. Until black men are willing to get on one knee and make the commitment to lock his black queen down then I don’t blame black women for looking outside their race. Condoms and birth control won’t fix the problem but it’s a start. Stop giving them babies if they aren’t giving you a ring. It worked for Beyonce!!! It’s an old saying but it’s true…. First comes love…..then comes marriage… Then the baby in the carriage.

  • ChicaChe

    Marriage is for anyone who pulls together and willing to make it work.. NO MATTER WHAT RACE YOU ARE

  • http://idontagree lynn

    As an black women it both couter part whole fall for this ideal world marriage is not a black or white thing it a emotion that god puts in u and whom ure heart feels is not black white yellow green u fall for a person u know wat ure heart feels if this black author was educated and wrote such a distasteful book about black women brother please heal thy self u don’t know ure black women were lawyers doctors. Judges and much more and we raise our children if u black men would stop breaking us down in front of media and other social gatherings the black women would maybe give u the time of day but we have other much better more blessed things to do than think about the negro black man get over yourself to be honest I don’t even have time for u as an author or a black man god bless u brother man

  • nursedred

    How can marriage be for white folks when more then 50% of their marriages end in divorce?

  • aint i a woman

    Please wake up black people! There has been a war raged on the black woman! They turned our man against us so that he is sickened by what he is and where he came from to the point that 70% of us have never and will never marry? “You black! You ugly! You shaped funny and don’t nobody want you” That is by design; no accident or happen by chance. Remember your history or you will repeat it.

  • Good Points

    Several good points but I hate the book title.

  • Negro Please....

    I agree with…. ain’t I a woman 100% sounds like he is just trying to cater to social trend…influencing our community. …keeping us segregated and demoralizing the youth…..and I am no big fan of Tyler Perry but at least I can say this he’s doing more to bring us together; this educated dummy working to set us back another 100 yrs

  • nyo

    Hi haters. He and his wife are black academics at Stanford university. brothers are great to date but overall not marriage material. Statistically they’re more likely to have poor credit and less education. The good ones don’t settle down until they’re 40, far to late to have children. I’ve been married for a while to a man I’m very compatible with and isn’t black. We’ve got to adapt to changing reality. Every black girlfriend I have is single because they are looking for their black knight while I’ve been married for 7 years. All want children but are approaching 40 so it probably won’t happen. That’s the reality of too many professional black women.

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