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I'm A Broken Record When It Comes To The Black Marriage Crisis

As many of my friends, peers and the occasional curious reader knows sometimes, for no reason, upon being asked a simple question I'll launch into a lengthy email screed. I'm pretty hit or miss about it. Usually my email replies are only a few sentences, but sometimes I'll write you a book on racial motifs in Star Trek or something else random. So, today, Fotorater Magazine founder/editor Marc Cameron emailed me a link from Vice, featuring an interview with Is Marriage For White People? author, Stanford Law Professor Ralph Banks and my head exploded. What flew out of the remains of my skull was a "greatest hits" rehash of my issues with the marriage crisis debate.

But my head didn't burst into old blog posts because Banks said anything wrong, per se. I might even agree with some of it. But my issue is, yet again, I feel like all these MARRIAGE CRISIS relationship books are elaborate ponzi schemes, a literary round of Texas Hold 'Em, gambling on people's fears. They often offer no real solutions to what the real problem is. Only capitalizing on a larger, more lucrative trend of technology induced lonliness compounded by a society that pushes individual success over community.

For those who don't know The Snob's Classic Arguments Against the Pointlessness of Stressing Out Over A Marriage "Crisis" Most Of Us Can Do Nothing About, enjoy my response to Marc.

[Banks is] the billionth person to write some book about why black women (and men) aren't married. There's nothing really new here and his only magical solution is that black women date more outside of their race when statistically men outside of our own race see us as invisible. The reality is until things shift gender-wise, our economy turns around, race becomes less of an issue, more black men are able to transition from youth into adulthood without terrible, horrible, no good things happening to them and until our society moves from overly valuing women for their "beauty," and that preferably being as white and Western looking as possible, a lot of people are either going to get married much later in life or never get married at all.

Marriage in America has quickly become something reserved for the educated, upper classes. They're the most successful at it and the most likely to get married and stay married as they deal with the least financial stress and have the most support via their education, health insurance, more openness to seeking help and larger wages. Poor white people are screwing up marriage pretty much as badly as black people, but white Americans are encouraged to pretend like poor white people don't exist -- which is why the Tea Party is so insane and vocal. It's the only group who acknowledges that broke white, uncool, under-educated white people exist and wonder where their once great blue collar jobs and wages went. Where their path to the middle class went.

Everyone, regardless of race in America, is delaying marriage, possibly for school and career. And white women are starting to have similar problems. The issue is more about how most American men have not adjusted to the new economy and changes in gender norms as many blue collar-to-middle-class-to-poor families put ZERO emphasis on their sons' schooling, thinking junior will just grow up and get a great job at the plant like dad and grandpa before. But the plant moved to Mexico. On the other hand, because of strides in women rights, instead of daughters being looked at as a "burden" in this country, they're encouraged -- whether in a blue collar family or white collar -- to go to college by any means necessary to be able to take care of herself as having a successful husband is not guaranteed + women are encouraged to value education more to achieve some level of independence, for personal growth and in an effort to advance gender equity. And women, no matter their education level, have no interest in marrying a broke, undereducated guy. Broke women want a husband who's an upgrade. Educated, successful women want a peer. That means you've got 80 percent of the female population chasing the same three guys.

African Americans, per usual, are just a distorted view of what is already happening to American society as a whole. But it's a lot more fun to freak out over black people than point out that most majority white college campuses are starting to have the same gender disparity issues, making this less a race issue and more of a societal shift that men, as a whole, are struggling to adapt to. And it's only going to get worse before it gets better. The only thing that sucks is the conservative answer to this problem is to force women back into more traditional roles, rather than encourage men to adapt already. After all, those jobs are not coming back. Even if every lady left college, moved back in with her dad and waited for her prince to come, most of these dudes would still be unprepared for the new economy.

So, essentially, do what makes you happy and feel secure, menfolks and lady people. Find love. Don't find love. But there is no "one size fits all" solution to America's big marriage/gender shuffle. If you're single and you don't want to be, it could be you. It could also be the town you live in. It could be society. But since the only thing you can control is you, you should probably start there.

The reality is, people fought for the right to get married. Then people fought for the right to end their marriages if they were awful. Then people fought the stigma of having to get married young (or at all) so they could shack up and co-habitate, break up and co-habitate again. With so much choice and people choosing to either treat this as something substaintial while others play it like a game, some people are going to not choose marriage. Others will choose it later. Others will choose great. Some will choose badly. We need to be realistic and find viable solutions that work when you live in a world of choice and stop romanticizing situations that always had their ups and downs, that were always compromised. We need to work with people from where they are to get them where they want to be. Marriage isn't like college, where you can just apply and enroll. It involves two people, meeting and finding a common connection, then creating a legal or religious (or both) bond.

There's a clear path to college, work and class advancement. The path to marital bliss is a lot less predictable since it's contingent on some stranger you haven't even met yet.

Unless someone brings back arranged marriages. But that's a whole other rant.

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Reader Comments (11)


September 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJ to the Da

Give it to 'em snob!

September 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSerenity

Arranged marriages might be a good idea.

September 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBlack007

Danielle, this MUST be one of your best posts. ITA w/ you on these issues, though I'm not black. Keep up the awesome writing! Also love seeing you on PBS!

September 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEmma

great post, Snob.


September 7, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterrikyrah

don't rain on these people's parade. if people wouldn't obsess about it, what would baisden and harvey talk about on their radio show? and what would those nitwits who call in have to waste their days pining over?

September 7, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterswiv

@ swiv

Oh, I'm-a gonna rain on that parade of highly profitable misery. Hard. They'll be singing New Edition by the time I'm through! ;)

September 7, 2011 | Registered CommenterDanielle Belton

This was an excellent, inspired and truly on point post!

September 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBlack Butterfly

Thank You, Thank You, Thank You. I am so tired of this issue being used as a scare tactic for all the uppity black women that dare to do more than sit around and wait for men to get it together. I actually read some of this book and am disgusted that he's resorted to making marriage and relationships a business transaction to attract the highest bidder. I know that that's what it's been historically but it has always been so much more in our community. We do need black families but to create more, black women can't be the only ones worried about them.

September 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFly Girl

Great post. Very much to the point. Many deeper issues in evidence here. This is a case of "blood on all hands" in my view. Black Men (Men in general for that matter) need to become more aware of who they are and to what extent their views of black women are projected directly into the relationships they chose. Black women, especially those that are still on the marriage hunt need to realize there are many more candidates than they are prepared currently to consider. They also have an idealized view of the perfect man and as such screen out many candidates before those men are given a chance. The Ivy-league, Ph.D. making > $200k is not always going to announce himself with a big sign. Unless one "wears" the right suit, the women will not notice and will talk for granted that you must be flipping burgers or unemployed. There is no effort made to dig deeper. As such they miss out on many opportunities. There is a lot of judging the book by its cover going on while women bemoan the dearth of "eligible" men. Doesn't mean that one must marry outside the group but it does require that one's horizons and sense of perspective be broadened.

September 11, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterjgundam83

Black or White doesn't matter when it comes to marriage. The only thing that's important is if the couples love each other so much for them to have a successful marriage.

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