He Said/She Said

Are Black Women Being Punished For Being Successful?

Elayne Fluker recently penned a column for Essence.com opining if black women are being unfairly targeted and punished for daring to be successful.

Study after freakin’ study—from CNN, to MSNBC, to ESSENCE—has told us, warned us, that as educated, accomplished Black women, we run the risk of being “punished.” That we won’t be able to find a suitable mate, nor get married, nor have children. Ever! I think I speak for us all when I say: WTF?

… Now that I’m “ready” (to settle down), I pay more attention to what “they” say about my options, and I’m reeling from the cruel statistics. “45% of Black women in America have never married; compared with 23% of White women,” they say. The rate of childlessness among highly educated Black women born between 1961 and 1970 is 38% they say. “African-American females, even with lots of education, do not fetch as much ‘value’ in the marriage market,” they say. “Black women outnumber Black men almost 2 to 1 in higher education,” they say. “The disparity is important because Americans have a strong tendency to marry those with equal levels of education.”

Well, damn. How does an SSBF debunk the stats and find a man during this recession of romance?

More after the jump.

Fluker covers the usual basics — Date online! Date outside your race! Go Lesbian (she writes jokingly)! But isn’t this an odd mixed message we’re giving to young black women? Your success precludes your loneliness, or is there another factor at play? Is it really the fault of women who choose to advance their education and careers that they can’t find mates, or is there a bigger problem? Like, for instance, when my father was in college he thought it was odd that his friends were so excited that the male-to-female ratio at his alma mater, Prairie View A&M, was so skewed heavily female. While it boded great for the dating chances of him and his friends, he didn’t think it was exactly a good thing that there were four women for every man on campus.

And that was in the 1960s.

Now the ratio at black colleges and universities are even worse. Aren’t we really asking the WRONG question here. It’s not “black woman, you are too successful,” shouldn’t it be, “Hey black man, why aren’t you successful enough?” We’re ARE you? Why aren’t you at Howard University matching the number of sisters there? Why aren’t you at Prairie View? Why aren’t you at Grambling? Why aren’t at state schools? Why aren’t you at the work place? What is going on with black men where there is such a huge disparity? Are we not reaching black men soon enough? Are boys getting left behind? What’s causing them to be left behind? What is causing this gap?

No one should be punished for being successful. That’s ridiculous. It’s the American way to push yourself to do better and go farther than you possibly can. Why aren’t more black men meeting this same challenge? Why don’t they have the same motivation? What is causing this failure? It seems to me that what we really have is a black male failure problem, not a black female success problem. Isn’t some of this the fault of the collapse of the well-paying blue collar job — the former gateway to the Middle Class — that many men used as a springboard to be able to start families and buy homes?

Instead of asking women to step down, shouldn’t we be expecting more of ourselves and asking our brothers to step up? Shouldn’t we be trying to figure out what went wrong?

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66 thoughts on “Are Black Women Being Punished For Being Successful?

  1. I’m going to divide my comments into 2 sections. 1. While a significant number of young Black men are in prison or are gay, many more are flocking to white women. I grew up in New York State and I couldn’t wait to get out of town. I hated the fact that Black guys were dating white women; and while some sisters were dating white guys, I just couldn’t and wouldn’t go there. [I was probably emotionally scarred [?] by an article that came out in the late 60’s that asked white boys if they would ever date a black girl. The answer, … essentially the only reason they would date a black girl was to "screw" her.]Ok, I veered off course … 2. Addressing the high rates of unemployment among black men. I believe one of the reasons why President Obama wanted Van Jones in his administration, was because of Van’s commitment to lifting African Americans out of poverty by bringing "Green" jobs and "Green" job training to impoverished areas. Van sees a "Green" economy as helping the African American male, as well as the African American female. [By the way, you saw how quickly Van Jones was gotten out of the way when Glenn Beck found out that Van co-founded the ColorofChange, even though he hadn’t been involved with the organization for years. Beck is not stupid, he knows he can increase his ratings by attacking African Americans.]Boy, I keep getting sidetracked. Back to the sisters. Given these facts … black men dating white women, black men in prison or gay, and black men being significantly outnumbered by women; it is not hard to conclude that if a sister wants to get married, you have to at least think about dating outside your race. Doesn’t mean you have to date white guys. Hey, there are Middle East, Hispanic, and Asian men. All available if you so desire. They are just waiting for a sister to show interest.

  2. Aabaakawad says:

    @ Elaine[I was probably emotionally scarred [?] by an article that came out in the late 60’s that asked white boys if they would ever date a black girl. The answer, … essentially the only reason they would date a black girl was to "screw" her.]I apologize to you for the lowlifes in my race in the late ’60s, but honey that was 40 years ago. Most of the men and women currently deep in the "mating for making a family" game were not born yet. I was three feet tall at the time.In the world of these young people, its about as likely that a bw will be used and abused by either race of men, or possibly she is even more likely to be disrespected by the bm.But you are so very correct that there are way more than only those two choices.Wishing you progress.

  3. Meyer_Lansky says:

    I just want to reiterate that I would love to see less hetero normative looks at dating in the black community along with articles about heterosexual marriage in the black community. What about black men on the DL? What about black bisexuality? What about proud black gays and lesbians and how their dating world is, how easy or hard it is to find a good black gay mate, how they’re accepted or not by their families and communities? Etc, etc, etc. In any case, love the blog and look forward to reading it every morning.

  4. Black women should date outside of their race, and this is coming from a black man. In this day and age, "sticking to your own race" is passe and useless. When Jim Crow existed and black men were hung for whistling to white girls, then that might have made sense. But those times are long gone. It is a truism that the more educated you are, the more likely you are to date or marry outside your race. Black women, however, are far too resistant to do so. But when you are a professional working in a sea of white people, then maybe you should consider dating one. Truth be told, you get no respect for remaining "loyal" to your race. It does not make you look strong. Rather, it makes you look foolish. In addition, being an educated professional, it is expected that you are intelligent and open minded enough to not limit yourself to just one race. When you are just looking for "that black man" while not even considering other races, then you are a racist. Imagine if a white person publically said that they would not date a black person. You would call that person a racist, and rightfully so. Stop waiting for black men. Trust me, when they see more sistas dating white men, they will begin to change their act. And this is what this black man thinks. Fuck waiting around for us, and get yours.

  5. Fran says:

    I think if a woman really wants to get married, she can, even with all the dismal statistics. As said before, not all women want to be marrried or can marry (lesbians). The statistics never mention them. There are some women (all single friends of mine) who say they want to be married but can’t find a man. The problem with them is they have relationships with married men or men who are otherwise unavailable (emotionally). They also won’t date a blue collar man and some won’t date outside their race. All these women are in their 40s and 50s and have never been married. They can’t seem to understand why they are still single. The other part of the problem is not being honest as to why they are still single. They think it’s the men. It’s not the men or lack thereof – it’s them.

  6. bdsista says:

    Symphony, Court, HULawyer and Scipio, et. al.I am 51, I am now divorced from a man who was 10 yrs my Jr. I did not get married until 40 and I am a lawyer as well (univ of Balt) went HU undergrad. those women are my friends who at Veterinarians, who I went to Tuskegee with, the ones who will not date outside the race b/c men our age still have racist baggage and are oftimes sexist and stereotypical. Not to mention, not wanting to raise a conscious Black child with these guys. I can’t fake my politics and my culture. All these women did was go to school and take advantage of opportunities our parents did not have. Oftimes to be the first to be a professional, the first to go to college or the first to go to grad/professional school. Our counterparts if they didn’t marry, got caught up in being player in the 80s and many never outgrew it. But they being raised in the 60s/70s can cook, clean, are well traveled, church going, leaders in the community, politically active, but want a man of similar caliber.Its nice to say you can marry a blue collar guy, but I was sabotaged too many times by the BC guy who was threatened by my intellect. So I deal with men who are not threatened and are either on my level or cool with themselves. HULaw, just cuz a couple girls in DC wanted thugs and not you and your friends does not mean that is all women. Most women I know are disgusted with thugs and frightened of them depending on the circumstances. I don’t like to provoke most thugs I encounter lest they become violent. I know thats a stereotype but I couldnt imagine pillow talk with a thug. Scipio is dead on about the gender roles in dating and multiply that with women in our age range. Older men for us are now 55-60 yr olds. So now we are having to choose men who look like our Dads or remind us of them. Wierd. Hence the emergence of the cougar who will if they wish to marry will skew the pool since interestingly, younger professional men seem to enjoy and appreciate older women and we now ignore the dating rules cuz at 50 you don’t give a damn anymore. But there still are a LOT of women in their 40s and 50s who want to marry for the first time or remarry. The stats IMO are right. I know VERY few women in my age group who don’t want to be married. They may SAY they don’t, but they would if the right man came along. Most happily single women I know are younger, or actively dating and not ready, like the freedom, or were married so long that they can’t wrap their head around being with another man after his death/leaving/etc. Yes some of us are angry and bitter and overweight and have attitudes, but years of rejection and hurt manifests itself in not pretty ways. I myself was in therapy before I met my (ex) husband. I was so upset, I was becoming clinically depressed about it. I know I am not the only woman who has been affected by this in this way. Even though I am divorced, I am not angry or bitter and am seeing a nice nerd (the ex was also a nerd) who has his PHd and is the most intellectually stimulating man I have ever met. I liked being married and want to be married again. But this is very sad and I agree with Danielle, men need to really look at themselves in this. The younger generation I am even more worried about. So brothers need to step up the plate and Sistas, just look em in the eye, introduce yourself and see if they bite……..

  7. maanu says:

    Black women, please date whomever you feel. If Justin Timberlake and Robin Thicke make it okay now, by all means, do what you feel.Personally, as a mixed black man, I’ve dated all races and have settled on the fact that for me black love is the only love I want. There are too many cultural and societal issues that go along with dating outside.As far as the dearth of successful black men to choose from, I know it’s hard to be black and female. But in the workplace your femininity is an asset, as you aren’t as threatening as a black man would be to insecure people.Just look at Barack, the nicest dude ever, and their calling him Hitler. Imagine if he were dark-skinned?I could go on and on with likely factors leading to this dating disparity, but the issue remains, and so does the solution. Date who you have a sincere attraction for, not because of the cache that comes with that man, such as his money, or his thugnicity. And perhaps don’t rule him out if he lacks either of these "qualities". But certainly don’t settle for anything but love, black or otherwise.

  8. Fran says:

    One of the things that is wrong with our black boys is that society plays a large part in breaking their spirits even before they ever have a chance to open their mouths. Low expectations, coupled with being the most despised minority on the planet can take a toll on our young boys. Some parents aid and abet as they raise their boys differently than they do the girls. Girls are raised to be productive members of society. Boys are often given a pass, and are not expected to be responsible, not expected to reach their full potential. And then everyone wonders why more often than not, some aren’t successul and left behind.

  9. HULawyer says:

    To bdsistaI concede that my examples are just anecdotes, but I have more of these stories about different women and I wouldn’t just use two examples to theorize that this as a broader trend. Maybe the word "thug" isn’t the right term. It’s just that I see a lot of women dating men who are unproductive. Unproductive could mean they are men while long criminal histories, or it could be men who have no criminal history at all. Read my posts again, I argue that not all women like men who are that way but the ones who do screw it up for the rest of you. Also realize that not all black women are educated, productive professionals. Many of them are screw-ups who dropped out of high school and had so many babies they can’t control them. I see them every week in court because their kids are in foster care. These women have totally different values than you do and see no problem dating a man who doesn’t work or a man with a criminal history and is at risk of going to jail. So neither side has unclean hands. The problem is that women only focus on what they perceive as men who are the ones messing up. Women usually aren’t challenged with the argument that they too have helped to foster this condition so a lot of them become angry when they hear it.

  10. kindalawyercaribbean says:

    I find this discussion perplexing based on the number of people who cannot seem to understand the significance of the questions asked by the study.Leaving aside whether the studies are empirical or not I find it amazing that people are raising the issue of homosexuality or disinterest as significant factors affecting marriage rate. Homosexuality occurs in the human population at about 3% so its statistically negligible in reference to marriage rates unless American black people (I am born, bred and living in the Caribbean) have such an overwhelmingly higher incidence of it and why would that be. Secondly the overwhelming majority of any population will procreate and that requires marriage or something like it. Its certainly unusual if a significant population of any population does not do so especially if this appears unique. I have read from reliable sources (the BBC) that 85% of university educated white Britons will marry although the numbers procreating will be lower around 79% because higher education pushes marriage into the time when female fertility is lower. There is nothing to argue that these numbers would not apply to the similar population in the US so it certainly raises question about the disparity where blacks are concerned.Thirdly I cannot even wrap my head around the question "why is marriage the end game". Marriage has been statistically proven over and over again to correlate extremely strongly with both economic success and social stability. Whether it is a cause or effect to me is a chicken or egg question because I assume that these two things are desirable and therefore it is self evident why marriage matters. It certainly does to the successful minorities in the US namely Jews and Asians. I cannot even imagine a person of either group asking this question.Then there is the issue of the chronic and endemic pathology associated (unfairly or not) with the black poor and they have the lowest marriage rates. There is something there that requires attention. Finally I would think that this would be a matter of social and cultural survival. How do you have a healthy, safe and viable black community in the US without marriage as the norm. Is a 55% marriage rate sustainable over the longterm? There is no reason to think so so how do you see the persistence and growth of a black underclass contributing to a viable black society?Note that these questions are not personal to individuals so I am not saying that anyone should marry for the "race" rather that whatever happens with the race will affect the individual whether that individual is concerned with the black community or not. From a sociological point of view how is a 55% marriage rate a recipe for success of the black community? Why is no other community doing this?

  11. Ms. Beans says:

    The statistics are BS. Who is funding this study?……moving on@ Mr. Reed, No disrespect at all…….When u said, "Truth be told, you get no respect for remaining "loyal" to your race. It does not make you look strong. Rather, it makes you look foolish."…Who a person dates is no one business. If he/she wants to date only black men/women, then he/she has every right too. I really do not understand how it can be foolish when many white persons in professional working fields are married to someone from their race are not seen as foolish. I think it is a double standard. I am not against interracial relationships, but I feel it is being treated as a trend or a standard: "if you don’t date/marry outside your race, then you are closed minded"….so NOT true. We all know better than that. I think that is one of the major problems with society; it is always trying to control people by telling them how to live their lives and using statistics to "prove" their point. WTH??? I am really tired of the media, society and those damn statistics telling black women, we can’t be married and be educated at the same time or we can’t accomplish anything our hearts desire. Not because a woman is single means she is unhappy. Most of us are single because of choice……..but of course they won’t tell u that. :)I digress. 🙂

  12. Stop Lying says:

    I’m a smart, educated, successful (romantically & financially) American man raised in a two parent household. 95% of women that fall into this category are lying to themselves and the media for the real reasons they are failures in their goal to get married and have children. They need to look in the mirror and take responsibility of their failed relationships. A shortage of men like me only exists if one does not change her perspective.Why are these women on TV, blogs, and print media making the same outrageous claims which include men being intimidated by their money, education, or intellect. As someone that has dated many of these so called successful (self defined and excl romance) women I can say that they’re very arrogant, controlling, argumentative, shallow, racist, and don’t have a clue about femininity. If a man led off on a date or article about how women should be flocking to marry him because of how much he earns, degrees he has, or how much smarter he is than everyone else then we would call that man a jerk. Since when did any of those qualities (I mean resume) really trump personality, upbringing, belief system, and compatibility? Anything else is just superficial which goes to the crux of why these women cannot find anyone in a world with BILLIONS of men. Now they’re forced to run this endless TV/newspaper/blog commercial advertising a 50 percent discount (and falling) to anyone that can survive a courtship and marry them. Marry me please, please… pitiful.It’s as if they don’t know how to leave their work personalities at work. Those amongst them raised by independent mothers don’t have good reference points in terms of a mother showing them how to love and build a positive relationship with a man. It’s no surprise to me whatsoever that no man of any race wants to marry them, and if they do I’d be further surprised if that marriage lasted long-term. Marriage is a compromise… these women do not compromise. They should only marry men who are less successful, pushovers, earn less money; i.e., someone they can whip and control.

  13. Cam Jus says:

    I say move the goal post. If we aren’t considered marriage material. So what. You can’t make folks include you in the game. We’ve got to create a new norm until the world catches up to us (or not). Why allow ourselves to be classified as "those poor childless or unmarried single parents or over the hill spinster" We are who we are. Be Black Single Successful, Single Parent AND PROUD.

  14. Trueletterson says:

    No natural is punishing them for foolishly thinking and acting like they are far more than what they really are!

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