I an intrigued by race based themes and this year left me with no shortage of them to ponder. The election of Barack Obama has made the people of this country more obsessed over racial origin than ever. Instead of serving as proof that we have moved beyond race, it just made everyone more preoccupied about it. A majority of the people of this nation may be willing to pick a black man as their President if the alternative is sufficiently lame (Sarah Palin as running mate? Really?), but many are unable to examine situations without peering at them through the prism of racial identity. Every other week (give or take a day) a debate over use of the “N word” or what qualifies someone to be considered a “real black man” rather than a tan imposter came about.
Another blazing hot topic in 2011 was marriage. You’d think gay people would have dominated it with a good number of them allowed to legally marry for the first time. Plus we had a royal wedding this year, a fairy tale ending/beginning to gawk at in high definition. But on Twitter, or at least in my particular tweetstream, the topic that repeatedly emerged was not gay marriage or royal marriage or reality TV marriage. Instead, the subject constantly dissected and analyzed and bickered over was the marriage rate of straight African American women. Apparently the percentage of married black women is lower (at least in a certain age range) than it is for women of other races. Or at least it’s lower than that of white women, for after all, black people (at least on my tweetstream) don’t spend much time comparing themselves to Asians, Latinos, etc. It’s almost always a Black versus White issue, no matter what the issue may be.
Off Twitter and wandering about the real world, at least my version of reality which takes place mostly in New York City and northern New Jersey, I’m not seeing this epidemic of black women unable to find mates. I spy black women paired off all the time. My family is chock full of happily married black women. Perhaps my immediate environment is an aberration to the national trend. Surely all of those articles wouldn’t have been written, all of these doomsday statistics cited, if there wasn’t legitimate grievance to be aired. So despite what I’ve seen with my eyes I’ll nonetheless accept that black women are under-married. Now that we’re in agreement on the existence of the What, it’s time to examine the Why.
A few explanations jump out at me. The incarceration rate of black men is unnaturally high, taking too many qualified (by melanin) applicants out of contention. Black women on average are better educated than black men, considerably more likely to have a college degree and beyond, and understandably a good many of them do not wish to “marry down”. These two reasons are frequently mentioned by those who choose to examine the unmarried black woman phenomenon. A third reason perhaps less frequently given is that there are more single black mothers than single white mothers, more black babies born out of wedlock. Since a woman with one or more kids from a previous relationship is often not at the top of a man’s wish list when deciding on a mate, this would lower marriage odds for black women overall.