Is Marriage For White People?

Dr. Ralph Richard Banks has stirred the pot of interracial dating with his new book, "Is Marriage for White People? How the African American Marriage Decline Affects Everyone."

As rapper Nelly would say, ‘It’s getting hot in here.’ A new study conducted by a Stanford University law professor that has set off alarms and stepped on more than a few toes, discusses the shortage of marriage material for black women and their need to look outside of their race for marital bliss.

To say the least, the topic of conversation has revived talks about deep-seated race relations in this country and casts an eye on the plight of black families and interraical dating. It has also stirred up a pot of controversy on the status of black men as marriageable partners. In a report prepared for the Council on Contemporary Families, based on his forthcoming book, “Is Marriage for White People? How the African American Marriage Decline Affects Everyone,” Stanford Law Professor Ralph Richard Banks goes against conventional responses to the black marriage decline and offers a provocative, demography-based recommendation for how Black women’s intermarriage can counteract the trend.

Rates of marriage in the United States have declined substantially in the past 50 years, but the decline has occurred at different speeds, with differing causes and consequences in different groups. Up through the mid-20th century, the marriage rates of blacks and whites were approximately equal. During the past half century, however,
African Americans have become the least married people in our nation, and many scholars argue that this rapid decline has affected the quality of personal relationships in the African-American community, especially for women.

Among those scholars is Professor Banks. Banks observes that women in the African-American community are exceptionally likely to go without an intimate relationship for long periods, to enter conflict-ridden partnerships, and/or to see their relationships dissolve. Even college-educated black women, who have the best prospects for marriage of all black women, are only half as likely to marry as their white counterparts.

And when they do marry, black women are more likely to marry men with substantially less education or less income.
Banks emphasizes the extent to which high rates of incarceration and job-market discrimination against black men contribute to this imbalance.

But he also argues that the long-term social, economic, and political disadvantages black men have experienced in the culture at large have ironically given them a short-run advantage in their relations with black women, by creating a scarcity of marriageable men at all income and educational levels.

He then focuses on the reactions of black women to this scarcity and suggests a controversial strategy to remedy the imbalance. Banks, himself a black man, issues a provocative challenge to black women:

“Stop settling for less than you want or deserve and look to the interracial dating market. Don’t believe the doom-and-gloom claims that men of other races don’t want to date or marry black women.”

M. Belinda Tucker, Vice Provost, Institute of American Cultures and Professor of Psychiatry & Biobehavioral Sciences Center for Culture and Health, University of California, Los Angeles, is not really feeling any of Banks’ assertions.

“When I was in high school in the 1960s, one of my white male classmates casually quoted his father’s assertion: ‘you cannot be a man until you split a black oak.’ That quote has remained embedded in my consciousness, and I’m certain it has affected my assessments of the motivations of white men who pursue African American women.

“Though Professor Banks may believe the continued loyalty expressed by African American women for African American men is misplaced, the enduring embrace of African American men establishes a boundary that is, at the very least, safe from societal rejections of Black womanhood. Despite the near universal acceptance among Black men of interracial marriage, most married African American men have Black wives.”

Banks claim that despite the racism of some white men, there are two or three times more nonblack men interested in dating black women than there are black women in the population. Banks shows how the reluctance of white men to date black women has been exaggerated, and notes that Latino, Middle Eastern, Indian and Native American men show even higher interest in dating Black women.

Banks’ conclusion: Black women would benefit by marrying out more and marrying down less. Banks is not giving up on black marriage. He argues that when black women form relationships with men of other races, this bolsters marriage within the black community.

A racially integrated relationship market, he suggests, can help counter the disproportionate relationship power that black men wield as a result of their (socially imposed) scarcity. If more black women married non-black men, then more black men and women would marry each other.

Sociologist Micere Keels (University of Chicago) offers evidence that black women are not the ones rejecting interracial matches. She says that “telling black women to ‘marry out’ rather than ‘marry down’ ignores the fact that women of all racial and ethnic groups are outpacing their male counterpoints in educational attainment. The only viable solution for black women’s low likelihood of marriage is to correct society’s failure to educate all our boys.” -Source: PRNewswire


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