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Is Marriage for White People? No, really?

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Ralph Richard Banks wrote an infamous book titled “Is Marriage for White People?” In his book Banks seeks to address the issue of marriage decline in the Black community.

Banks offers quite a bit of research and produces sound stats regarding Black marriage. However, Banks’ interpretation of the data is skewed by his clear bias against Black men as suitable partners. He emphasizes the disparity between education, income, and class for Black men and Black women. For Banks (and he supposedly speaks for Black women as well), while there are Black men who are single and heterosexual, they are not marriageable because they are in prison or do not earn as much money as their female counterparts (which is ofcourse is because they are less educated). This results in Black women being “half as likely to marry as white women and three times as likely never to marry.” He cites that Black women are also less likely to marry outside their race than any other demographic including Black men.

20130110-052301.jpgBanks offers one solution for Black women: marry outside your race. Really Banks?? That’s the answer?? Banks’ entire book reads like a Tyler Perry play in which all the Black women are beautiful, fair skinned, long haired (or have long hair that has been cropped), educated, and successful and all the Black men are ghetto, hood, blue collar, uneducated, and unpolished. At least in Tyler’s narratives the men are usually decent enough to still be considered marriageable, Banks offers no such optimism.

The problem with this conclusion that Black women should abandon Black men is that it does not directly solve the issue of low Black marriage rates. The other problem is that the criterion used to determine a Black man’s marriageability is based on the material and economic contributions these can bring to the partnership. I would like to believe that there are other possibly more important things that a man can bring to a marriage. If by chance the most important factor is money, then it is no wonder women are objectified. A person pays for things not a person.

As the discussion on how to save Black love continues, lets hope that voices like Banks fade into the background because they are counter productive, cliche, and irrelevant.

I’m not sayin; I’m just sayin,

An Angry Black Man

24 Comments on Is Marriage for White People? No, really?

  1. I’m starting to think so (that’s a good book btw!) But in actually, marriage is going down across the lines in most Western countries. And there is an interesting NYT article about the changing culture of courtship (which was dating and is now considered “hanging out”) Thus, if we only hang out and not date, then how do we expect to get married?

    • Thanks for reading and responding!

      So, you enjoyed the book? Why?

      That article sounds like it’s making a good point. Gotta check that out.

      • Yes I did, the book was very organized and it was written from a view using economic principles, so it makes sense although using a cold perspective on the game of love. However, I’m not for saving marriage as it looks to be the beginning of a dying institution. But hey if BW need to get in the game of expanding options its 21s Century, don’t get left behind.

        • That’s what’s up. I guess I disliked it because I’m opposed to viewing marriage as an economical institution. I’m more of an idealist in the sense that I think marriage should about the deepening of a romantic relationship and though it can be quantified in order to measure things like “success” rates, divorce rates, demographic factors etc. I do not think those statistics can give muh insight into how a marriage works or doesn’t work in general. I would argue that the reason the institution of marriage is dying is because it is being viewed from that perspective.

          However, I did think the stats were good for making the argument that the marriage, in the Black community especially, is in jeopardy. And I thought his research methods were on point. I just didn’t see how the statements he made were substantiated by any of the research. It was two separate books happening at once: an research driven analysis and a purely subjective opinion based analysis.

  2. Getting married for “Romantic” reasons is really a new concept if you look at the institution of marriage for last thousands of years.

    I don’t know if he was hard on Black men, because if you look at the numbers…just numbers there is an imbalance between BW going to college and BM going to jail. So the solution was a little simplistic in suggesting that BW date out. I still think BW should date broadly. But it won’t solve the problem that too many young Black male teens are hanging out on the streets than in school. We need to work on that issue, so that there will be more BM going to college and become “marriageable” by those standards….

    • Actually the concept of marrying for romantic reasons is not new. It has been around thousands of years as well, it just wasn’t the most popular idea. Hence, my idealism which is not built on the popular opinion.

      The stats about Black men going to jail while Black women are going to college is statistic that, while true, has nothing to do with marriage. Therefore, the solution can’t be date out. That’s saying 2 + 5 = 25. I can see the logic of the attempt to answer the question, but it can never be called addition.

      The issue that needs to be dealt with is why are those the standards got a Black Man being marriageable. That’s the issue that relates to Black marriage.

      The issue if Black men going to jail while Black women go to college is not a mysterious one. The stats Banks doesn’t include are what those offenses are mostly for. I’m sure they’re not life sentences, do those Black men will still be re-integrated back into society after there sentence is served. They aren’t dead and are therefore able to marry later.

      And the most important stats related fo incarcerated Black men that he leaves out are:

      Black people make up 30% of the US population but make up 60% of the imprisinment rate.

      1 in 15 Black men are incarcerated compared to 1 in 36 Hispanic men and 1 in 106 white men.

      1 in 3 Black men are likely to be imprisoned at some point in their lifetime. Black men are 3 times more likely to be stopped and searched, 2 times more likely to be arrested and 4 times more likely to experience the use of force during an arrest.

      In 2009-2010, 96,000 students were arrested and 242,000 were referred to law enforcement. Black and Hispanic students make up 70 percent of school related arrests and Blacks make up 2/5 of the confined youth.

      14 percent of regular drug users but are 37 percent of those arrested for drug offenses. From 1980 to 2007 about one in three of the 25.4 million adults arrested for drugs was Black.

      So is incarceration an issue for Black men? Yes. Is it because they are all guilty? Not by a long shot. And, again, that only relates to marriage if having a less than glistening criminal background is a requirement. That’s like making virginity a significant factor in whether a woman is marriageable. That would significantly reduce the pool but what would virginity have to so with a woman’s ability to be a good wife?

      I think the issue is how we view marriage and the standards that make men marriageable.

      • Ok so you and I agree that BM, are more likely to get arrested (whether guilty or not) and obviously they can be released. But, (here is where marriageability can come in) reintegrating is not a piece of cake. Especially here in the US, where formerly incarcerated have a way much higher chance of re-offending and being sent back…..Its hard enough for BM to find a job, but now one with an arrest record? But say he changed his life around and wants to go to school and make something of himself, well they don’t award financial aid to ex-felons.

        That’s why guys that are in system usually stay in the system or life of illicit activities, because once you’re sucked in, getting out is a whole nother institutional battles meant to keep you locked up. Anyone with an arrest record can get married, but it would decrease their likelihood…especially if you’re comparing to college educated ladder climbing woman.I honestly feel (The single mother household has been around for decades in african american community) that loving two parent household is a rarity so my generation and even the one’s before me, don’t have that model to aspire to. Its a raaaannngeee of issues, which obviously can not be solved by one answer

        • You and I agree that there is a range of issues for which there is not one simple solution. That said, Black women dating outside their race is not a solution to the myriad of problems. This is the issue I have with the book. It sort concludes in a way to suggest that dating out is the sole solution.

          You are correct that re-integration into society is difficult, but lets deal with that then besides adding marriage to the list of things ex-convicts (who are largely Black men) can’t do.

          Or why is it that because a Black woman gets a college education her shit suddenly doesn’t stink (Excuse my expression)? Because there is the potential that the man won’t make as much or more than she might? But I thought that was the point of women’s lib. Men made more than women for years and women complained. Now that women or able to make potentially more than a man, a man still has to dominate her in that area to be marriageable? Why?

  3. well some men are a little insecure if their ole lady is bringing home the bacon. And the feminist movement has fought for that, because now that women are making more, we do make more decisions…including to be exclusive or inclusive in our relationships.Its not about men making more and dominating, but we all (BW and BM) want that American dream of a nice home in the suburbs, picket fence, kids in private school…etc Its hard to do that nowdays on a single income (Unless its very high) or on a blue collar income.

    However, you have to understand from Bank’s views there are short term and long overhauls that need to be done. Changing the prision institution will take generations to do. While changing BW’s minds about dating a White coworker well that’s a shorter a straightfoward solution to fix “marriage rates.” To fix the other perils that make men less desireable that’s a long term overhaul which will require institutional changes on several bureaucratic levels.

    I know I have my flaws (that’s why I’m blogging about them), but truth is (and Banks states this as a national trend not just BW) I look at educational level as a requirement. There are things I want to be able to discuss (culture, politics…) with my partner but also I know that if you have ___degree then your earning potential (not definite) should be here, and therefor with what I can bring___, thus we can both can make it here…..

    There’s another post that talks about it, but White people do the same thing too, they jut don’t write self help books about it to make their WW look like gold diggers. But it’s true, how do you think the middle (and upper) class is built? Obviously, for most people it’ll come down to love…but you generally look for love in your own “circle”

    • The important thing to note is that this idea that Black men are intimidated by a woman making more money is a myth that Black women perpetuate. I have yet to meet a Black man that either admitted or that I thought was intimidated by the amount of money a woman makes. What happens is that Black men realize that it is important to most Black women that the man they date makes as much or more than they do, hence while that man might be attracted to a woman who makes more he doesn’t feel that she will see him as a desirable partner because of the salary he makes. So he responds to that by either not approaching her or lying about what he has etc. Also, the American dream is also myth. And having the house in the suburbs, picket fence, kid in private school has been attainable on single income households for years and can be accomplished without both people in the marriage having the same or exorbitant salaries.

      I don’t remember reading anywhere in the book where Banks claimed that there were short term and long term issues. But either way there is only one real fix and it is institutional and it does take time. Which is why Banks’ suggestion that changing women’s minds about choosing to exclusively date Black men doesn’t solve ANY of the community’s problems, least of marriage rates. In fact it only exacerbates the problem.

      I, personally, don’t find it offensive for someone to look at education as a requirement for choosing a mate. The problem is why they use that as a factor. Desiring intellectual and cultural convo is not going to be guaranteed because someone went to college. The least intellectual people I have ever met were academics. Namely because doesn’t really teach abstract and critical thinking. It teaches people how to look the part and how to recreate what already has been created. The most intellectual and stimulating convo I have found usually is from someone who is not college educated but is just smart and intellectual. College is a poor way to gauge that quality. Earning potential can be gauged by education but then most of the millionaires in our country are not college graduates so that leads me to believe that there again education cannot absolutely dictate the potential.

      The middle class (which doesn’t really exist in the U.S. anymore) is and historically was built on blue collar workers and tradesmen (teachers, mechanics, small business owners, etc. the upper class is created from inherited class and economic status. They rarely have generated their wealth just in their lifetime.

      The problem is that these “solutions” assume that all Black women are college educated or that the ones who are have all thus great potential that would be wasted by marrying someone with less. That’s just not true. A person’s potential is inherent in their drive, ambition, and perseverance. Education and income are not necessarily related to any of those qualities. Depending on what a person studies in college, they may still not have the earning potential that would guarantee the American dream.

      I guess my point is that while these things are indicative if certain personalities and potential, they are not absolute. These things cannot be strictly followed as a rule when there are so many circumstances that can alter the outcome. If Black women continue to limit themselves by limiting their options and not recognizing and investing in the potential of a partner and building a future together instead of expecting to marry into the American Dream, then is it really Black men who are un-marriageable or is that a convenient excuse? I’m not sayin; I’m just sayin.

      • (sigh) and that brings to another problem of the book which I mentioned earlier. Its cold hard science putting things in Black and White even though there is alot of grey.

        I agree with you about generating wealth, it happens over generations and not in 1 lifetime. That’s why I said White people do it too, to keep that “wealth” in their circles and future generations. Yes this country is built on Blue collar work, but I’m sure the former auto workers in Detroit and other towns like Levittown, NJ and Buffalo, NY which built a middle class on Blue collar work, will tell you that’s no longer possible now. Even to get a job a Micky D’s one needs a college degree, and that’s why education is used to factor in earning potential. Yeh we got some lucky billionaires, but how many Mark Zuckerbergs and Bronsons are running around out there?

        But anyway, it seems that you have a different definition of limiting. While. I believe anyone that holds the same values as you do is worthy of your attention, I think that was Bank’s ultimate point. Don’t limit yourself– if you’re willing to date down, then try dating out. Because hey love comes in different colors too. I know its upsetting (as is with science based approach) because he had to address some negative issues about BM without getting into solving those institutional failures. That is another book.

        • The fact that blue collar workers can’t make a middle class is due to the economic change in this country and the fact that a degree is required for menial jobs. But that also means that wealth can’t be acquired through a degree and, therefore, the American Dream can’t be attained through getting education.

          I don’t think Banks’ point was not to be limited by dating inside your race. His purpose was to address the problems creating the decline in Black marriage and his solution was date outside your race. The answer to declining Black marriage rates can’t be for Black people to not marry other Black people. That’s his suggestion to Black women which is a big problem with the book. It addresses the issue with Black marriages from only the perspective of Black women and then that perspective is a warped one. The issue was supposed to be Black marriage not Black women’s dating woes. That is the book he was supposed to write, that he pretends he wrote and it is deep and complex and has no easy or quick answers. Any other book dancing around the issues and offering half baked insights is a distraction and a waste.

  4. I have not read the book, but by the comments, it isn’t worth my time. (Lol) As a married black woman I feel white people and black people marry for very different reasons. White folks almost always marry UP, meaning social climbing. Webster’s dictionary describes marriage as “the state of being united with a person of the opposite sex as husband or wife in a consensual and CONTRACTUAL relationship recognized by law. To me, marriage was only for white folks, back in the day. They hand picked who their daughters were to marry, hence, not marrying for love, but for money and status. They wanted to make sure it was a business arrangement.

    • Thanks for reading and responding!

      I think you make a VERY good point about the historical differences in why White and Black people get married.

      Historically, marriage was an institution reserved for White people and it was more about contracts and economics than love. While slaves had nothing, could give nothing and coukd not get legal recognition; therefore, they married the person they loved.

      This could be indicative as to why this perspective of marrying for economic and legal reasons doesn’t work for Black people.

  5. Ah, but remember he said it was a NUMBERS game, the idea being that if there is an imbalance (BM marry outside their race much much higher than BW) Thus, i more BW were to marry out, that would increase the demand for BW. (Economics law of supply and demand) I mean lets be honest a man will avoid marriage so long as there are plenty of fish in the sea. But if all those fish were to partner off, then BM (men in general) would be more likely to settle down. My friend was telling me something similar about the rules of courtship have changed, especially in NYC where women outnumber men 5 to1. It used to be if you got a good girl in your arms, you fought to keep her. But nowadays, women (especially BW) are just a dime a dozen and us girls know that a guy could easily pick another one. In fact alot of BW tolerate it, which is why we have the highest rates of HIV/AIDS and other STDs.

    • Lol…a man will stay single as long as there are fish in the sea?? Why do women believe these silly steretypical myths?? That would mean men never get married…ever. There are always more fish in the sea. The idea is ridiculous. So, no, that also is not the answer.

      And I don’t believe marriage is ever a numbers game, but I do see your point that because Banks is coming at this from an Economic perspective he would use an economic principle such as supply and demand.

      • So you desperately wanna get married, lol??? I got some girls for you!

        • Lolol! I’m not desperate for it and it’s not as imperative to me as it might be for a woman, but that doesn’t mean I’m opposed to it or trying to avoid it at all costs.

          I think that’s why men are different from women. A man just doesn’t have the same drive towards matrimony that women due, but a woman who has a man’s heart and respect can inspire him. Men want to marry a particular woman, while woman want to be married. One isn’t better than the other, they work together, I think.

          And you could hook a brother up…not with one of these Banks-believing chicks though lol.

  6. It could be the circle I hang out with, but I don’t think Black love, specifically marriage, is a thing of the past. I still see it happening almost daily (at least in my circle). Great post though!

    • I would agree but people want to make it about “marriage” and “economics.” So this dude is saying Black marriage is in jeopardy but in the US marriage in general is on the decline. People are still loving and cohabitating though! So that’s what I was going off about. Why do we try to restrict love to things that have nothing to do with the love and commitment.

      • I agree. But I think that kind of goes with how our society has twisted what marriage is really about. I would say it truly is about love and less about the economy. At least those are the examples I see with my friends and family – guess I’m lucky! But I definitely agree that if people take a hard look outside of marriages Black love is everywhere!

        Plus, our generation is getting married so much later anyway – my grandparents were married at 18 and 19! As soon as I hit 19, my grandfather started pressuring me about marriage – skip dating! – as if I was doing something wrong. I’m 22 now and he thinks I’m crazy, but most people aren’t even thinking about marriage until late 20s or early 30s now – I pray, I don’t have to wait that long lol

  7. Relationships…oh…#hardwork! Now and days our youth do not have many role models of what a successful relationship looks like. Though we do have Michelle and Obama, we do not have that image in every hood and the color of your skin does not mean that you can necessarily relate to the struggle of black America. I was actually discussing with a friend of mine, and a gentlemen I just met about the much needed dialog for black people to show what real relationship looks like…Is it just red roses and candy? Does it mean you pay my bills and I cook? Is it the bitch and hoe syndrome of little weezy? What does it really look like? I forgot…the constant sexual gratification of R-Kelly and his prodigy Trey Songz…

    • Excellent point. We are getting ideas from somewhere. We may not realize it but somewhere we have seen something and decided that is what a relationship should be like. Like you stated if it’s musical depictions, tv, or wherever we have to address that.

      I do believe relationships are learned through what has been modeled to us. For Black people, those models are few. That I think has nothing to do with economics as the book suggests. I think it’s more about the growing disconnection between Black men and Black women. It’s like we don’t kow how to communicate or interact with one another outside of sex and aggression.

  8. I totally agree…sex and aggression…we are capable of exhibiting more complex emotions, but because of the saturation of unhealthy relationships in all areas of media and the lack of good role models, the cycle of familial progression within the community beginning with the black relationship continues in the wrong direction. I do believe that you will enjoy some of my blogs…I frequently discuss a woman’s perspective of the black man and woman relationship…Good ones to read: To All the Black Lover’s In Awkward Places, Daddy’s Little Girl, Faux Feelings, Ban-The-Sad Ass Tune…and more… Check it out: https://osagedr.wordpress.com/

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