Thursday, December 29, 2011


The end of each year is marked by a wide variety of Top 10-20-100 lists. Also, inevitably, it is declared “the year of the _____”. Different groups fill in the blank with different declarations. There is no right or wrong answer. Every orbit of the Earth around the Sun features several prominent issues that can claim ownership of the retreating calendar. Like millions of others I spent a great deal of time in 2011, probably too much of it, on Twitter. A strong case can certainly be made for 2011 being the Year of Twitter. Or we can lump it in with FaceBook and other online venues and announce that 2011 was the Year of Social Media. Let others make that claim. This is my blog and based on casual observation, much of it done on Twitter, I’m announcing right here and now that 2011 was the Year of the Unwed Black Woman.

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.

Each of these explanations is measurable, quantifiable, and fairly sensible. But since the topic is an emotional one, many of the studies and articles do not focus on hard evidence. Instead they target reasons that are a tad more subjective, circumstantial evidence leading to proclamations such as “black men are dogs” or “black men want white women much more than black women”. I won’t bother to delve into the canine character assassination, but will remark on interracial relationships being a root cause. It is true that due to social progress in this country, blacks and whites are much more likely than a few decades ago to have friendly rather than contentious relationships, with some of them being romantic in nature. So yes, more black men are married to white women today than in 1961. More white men are married to black women than in 1961 as well, so this is not a shift that leaves black women totally out of the equation. Do more black men marry white women than white men marry black women? I suppose the answer is yes since several of the unmarried black woman exposés focus on why they should consider giving white men a shot as solution, or else on why they most certainly should not break the dating color barrier. Still, I doubt the disparity is so dramatic as to be the primary explanation for 2011 being The Year of the Unwed Black Woman. The number of white women who never went black or else did but eventually went back dwarfs the number who are determined to pilfer from the insufficiently robust “good black men” pool. Kim Kardashian, who supplied America’s pathetic response to the bash at Buckingham Palace with the second “royal wedding” of 2011, is not a symbol for why black men have forsaken black women. She’s just someone who has improbably stretched her 15 minutes of fame to nearly an hour now, dating a few brothas in the process.

I’m going to stick with the reasons that are backed up by numbers in my thesis, based on facts rather than opinion, even if facts can be malleable when expertly manipulated. Fortunately for unwed black women who wish to exit the demographic, these explanations which are based on data rather than generic finger pointing need not be set in stone. If each situation improved by just 10% the alleged shortage of married black women would probably cease to exist. Ten percent fewer black men in prison, ten percent more black men with college diplomas and the better jobs this leads to, ten percent fewer black children born into single parent households. The first scenario would certainly be a positive thing, so would the second, and some fairly strong arguments can be made that children are better off entering a family with two parents waiting for them. I personally don’t think it significantly matters if the two parents are the same ethnicity, or different genders, or if they’d go to unequal lengths in pursuit of a Klondike bar. Bottom line, math says that two are greater than one, and when it comes to parenting, two are often more effective than one.

With these three situations each altered by ten percent it would probably be viewed as less damning by those who take offense that some black men marry women of other races (not because they absurdly hate all black women but simply because they fell in love with someone who was not one). As for some black men being intent on making babies and breaking hearts with minimal interest in being responsible for the devastation left in their wake, not much to be done about that. Like cockroaches, jerks of all races aren’t going anywhere any time soon. Some situations simply can’t be altered, and practically none of them can be complained away.

Regardless of whether these 10% shifts happen (probably will not occur over the course of the next twelve months), my hope is that talk of the infamous unwed black woman is receding in our rear view mirror. Surely another topic deserves a turn in the rotation, perhaps one that completely lacks a racial component. Now how radically postracial would that be?! My fingers are crossed that 2012 will be The Year of Something Else. Just about anything else will do.


Here's another option!

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