For some reason, mainstream media has developed an obsession with Black women and our seemingly tragic lack of opportunites to jump the broom. Unless you’re without access to the internet and broadband cable, by now you’ve heard that Black marriage rates are down and that Black women are more likely to be hit by lightning than to marry (I like to call this theory “The Black Female Thunderbolt Phenomenon”).
What began as a murmur of Black women’s character defects, sociologically based theory and statistical data has grown into a steady roar about our supposed lack of desirability. It seems that Black women have bought into this sensationalistic message, paving the way for a small army of (allegedly) well-intentioned Black men peddling relationship advice to Black women to become wildly successful (and wealthy) all for teaching us how to think more like them while acting like us.
Forgive me for saying this, but I have a hard time stomaching this trend. Just because you were raised in a family of women, or that you’ve slept with so many of us that you could start a national sorority comprised of your sexual conquests, doesn’t make you qualified to tell me how to increase my chances of getting married. And let’s not forget that the statistics say that Black men aren’t buying into marriage either. Hello? That’s like Johnnie Cochran giving the State of California inside information to gain OJ Simpson’s conviction. As commitmentphobic as Black men supposedly are, I think there’s a valid reason to say that this advice dispensing could be viewed as a serious conflict of interest.
When I think about it, I get why mainstream news outlets would choose to perpetuate yet another unattractive stereotype of Black women. Women, particularly Black women, are an easy target for a patriarchal industry. It’s when one of our own joins rank with the establishment that we’ve got to really ask ourselves “What the hell is going on?” In his 2011 book “Is Marriage for White People?” Ralph Richard Blanks, a law professor at Stanford University, states that one of the answers to the Black marriage crisis is for the mass of Steve Harvey advice-loving middle-class educated Black women to marry White men.
Blanks (who by the way is married to a Black woman with multiple college degrees) continues “More than half of married black women who have graduated from college have a less-educated husband who did not. Yet despite the shortage of black male peers, black women do not marry men of other races. Black women marry across class lines, but not race lines. They marry down but not out.”
Yes, the rules in the dating market have changed for Black people over the past several decades, but they’ve shifted for everyone. But to say that the answer for Black women desperately seeking wedlock is to marry a White man is unrealistic and overly simplistic. According to a 2011 Pew Research Study, marriage rates are declining amongst all races. Fifty-one percent of American women are unmarried, yet, I don’t know of any White, Asian, Hispanic or Inuit professors standing up and telling their women that the answer to the decline in marriage in their community is to marry someone outside their race.
I respect and appreciate the fact that Blanks and his Black social psychologist wife, Dr. Jennifer Eberhardt have dedicated a significant amount of their considerable brain power towards finding solutions for issues on race. There must be something comforting in the belief that the decline in marriage can be remedied by taking pragmatic and logical approach towards relationships for these two highly educated and socially privileged Black people. But as far as I’m concerned, Blanks has somehow found a way to market positive eugenics as a rational solution to the decrease in the rate of Black marriages. Fear and race mongering are hardly the foundation of a credible solution in matters of the heart. Many things can be explained through facts and figures, but I doubt that the myriad of difficulties that can exist in love and marriage can’t be solved by social theory.
There is an alchemy present in our emotional lives that is too fluid to ever be constrained by statistical data. Blanks uses statistics to justify his position without taking into consideration some of the very real issues that those in interracial relationships face. I know from personal experience that two people from different worlds will have to work extra hard to understand what it means to be in their significant other’s racial shoes.
Another point that Blanks made in his argument for interracial relationships was that the typical eligible and successful Black man knows he is a commodity and will use this to their advantage with women. “Black men being in short supply means they can dictate the terms of the relationship and they often dictate terms that are not to the woman’s liking.”
Let me get this right: one of the reasons why successful Black women should pursue relationships with successful White men is because a successful White man is more likely to create a relationship of “equals” with a Black woman than a Black man because successful White men want nothing more than to be in a relationship with a woman who is his equal?
I’ve heard more than a few of my professional sisters come straight out and say some variation of this statement while declaing “forget about Black men and their non-appreciating behinds.” They’re looking to become the next Mrs. Rabinowitz.
I’m a Black woman who has dated White, Hispanic and Black men. From my years of field research, I can assure you that a White man can be just as commitmentphobic, misogynistic and unreliable as a Black one. As disappointing as this may be to the sistas who have bought into the Myth of the White Knight, Black men do not have the market cornered on shady relationship behavior.
It is worth noting that Black women married to White men do have lower divorce rates than their Black/Black counterparts. However, I doubt this is because White men are easier to control then their Black counterparts. Maybe these marriages fare better because many who are willing to cross the color line have a mindset that is more flexible and open minded, qualities that are essential to the success of a long-term union?
For the record, I’m not anti-interracial relationships; however, I am against “solutions” that villainize Black men and victimize Black women while simultaneously deifying White men. Isn’t it time that we stop uplifting the White man as savior?
I can’t say what the answer is to the “Black Female Thunderbolt Phenomenon”, but if you find that if you’re regularly having problems in your relationships with Black men, dating a White one won’t guarantee that you’ll get a different outcome. If that’s the case, it’s worth considering that maybe the reason you’re consistently having problems of commitment in your relationships with Black men has absolutely nothing to do with the men. Instead of looking at pop culture for a neat, trendy way of addressing the Black marriage crisis, perhaps the place we need to start looking for answers is within ourselves and the way we choose (or don’t choose) to actively love and support each other.
Sil Lai Abrams is EBONY.com’s Relationship Expert and the author of No More Drama: 9 Simple Steps to Transforming a Breakdown into a Breakthrough and a board member of the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Follow her on Twitter: @sil_lai and connect with her on Facebook. Want Sil Lai’s advice? Email SilLai@ebony.com to have your love questions answered in a future column!