11:57 PM / Saturday May 27, 2023

31 Dec 2011

The Black Woman Problem-Revisited…

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December 31, 2011 Category: Commentary Posted by:

It’s time for our annual discussion of ‘Why African American Women Can’t Get Married.’

Man, am I tired of this!


By Denise Clay


It was the first thing that hit me when I signed on to Facebook one day.


The “it” in this case was an article from the New York Times entitled “Black and Female: The Marriage Question”. This commentary, written by researcher Angela Stanley, used Census data and other actual numbers to show that the commonly repeated statistic that 70 percent of Black women never marry isn’t altogether true.


“A look at recent census data will tell you that the 70 percent we keep hearing about has been misconstrued,” Stanley said. “According to 2009 data from the Census Bureau, 70.5 percent of Black woman in the United States had never been married, but those were women between the ages of 25 and 29. Black women marry later, but they do marry. By age 55 and above, those numbers showed, only 13 percent of Black women had never been married. In fact, people who have never married in their lifetimes are in the clear minority, regardless of race.”


And to her credit, Stanley also took a look at the one group of people that these articles focusing on “Why African American Women Can’t Get Married” never seems to focus on: Black men.


“With all of the attention on Black women, I assumed that Black men must be marrying in droves; otherwise they would be the focus of similar scrutiny. Not the case. Census numbers show that 73.1 percent of Black men between the ages of 25 and 29 have never been married. That is actually higher than the numbers associated with black women,” Stanley said.


Stanley goes on to discuss the reasons why Black women are staying single. Some of the reasons, Black male incarceration rates, not enough college-educated Black men for the college-educated women being produced, have been discussed a lot. So have some of the suggestions on how to fix the Unmarried Black Woman problem like, well, dating White guys.


(Having done that a time or two, I can tell you that this particular solution brings its own set of problems…some of which are worse than just remaining single. Besides, according to this article, White men generally prefer to marry their own, as do Black men…)


But as I read this latest discussion of the Unmarried Black Women problem, I found myself asking the following question:


Why, in God’s name, do we have to have this discussion every six months?


Like clockwork, I’ve become able to sense the Unmarried Black Women Problem discussion. It usually happens when news organizations run out of original ideas and need something to fill space in the newspaper or the television news program, or on the African American-oriented website. Since the holidays are upon us, and newsrooms are short staffed and sources hard to find, it makes sense in its own “the paper won’t write itself ” kind of way to have this discussion.


But it annoys me on a variety of levels.


For one, I’m tired of my lack of a wedding ring being considered problematic. I was engaged once, and I’m currently in a long-term relationship, but having seen the expense connected to the recent wedding of my best friend, I was reminded of why the ritual doesn’t move me. I had to pay $129 for a bridesmaid’s dress that thankfully, I’ve been able to wear to at least one other event. I have several other bridesmaid’s dresses that I paid a whole lot of money for that I can’t say the same about.


Secondly, while Stanley addresses the Unmarried Black Male Problem, most of these articles don’t. That’s probably due to the fact that unmarried Black men aren’t seen as a problem. Why that is, I don’t know… Don’t get me wrong. I love my Black brothers. But when many of you believe that you have the right to have more than one woman or you have the right to act like you don’t have the good sense God gave a rock because, and I direct this criticism at my college-educated brothers, there is allegedly a “shortage” of you, it’s a turn-off.


(Note to my Sistas: considering a working-class man when making your relationship decisions could save you from this. I’m just sayin’…)


And thirdly, if we’re going to have this discussion every six months, can we at least take it in a different direction every once in awhile?


When we talk about the Unmarried Black Woman Problem, the framework that is usually used is one that paints African American women in the worst possible light. The “neck whipping, finger waving, emasculating round-the-way girl” or her “stuck-up, bougie, gold digging” counterpart is the point at which these discussions start and also where they usually end.


And in the end of these discussions, there’s always something that we need to change. Lower your standards. Be more supportive. Don’t demand as much. Let a man be a man…even when he’s not acting like one. And by the way, you’re not supposed to point out that he’s not acting like a man because to point that out would be less than supportive.


The logic gets so circular after a while that your head starts to spin.


And it’s really counterproductive…unless your goal is to leave everyone involved angry.


Unless the discussion is going to be about solutions rather than a constant rehash of the problem, having it only serves to further cement stereotypes of Black women as not being marriage material. You’re loud, rambunctious and opinionated, and that’s why no one wants you.


We don’t need academics, writers and commentators for that. We have Tyler Perry.


So I say to my fellow travelers in the news business, let’s try to put this topic into its proper perspective. If we must have this discussion, let’s bring some balance to it.


Or if you can’t, let’s leave Black Women alone.

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