Friday, March 31, 2006

'Bad By Myself': Black Women Rethinking Marriage

I’d like to begin by saying thanks to John White for supporting this blog and my efforts. If not for his consistently emailing alarming articles to me, I wouldn’t be able to keep Blaxplanation going. This latest was spotted by John in The Washington Post. In an essay entitled, “Marriage is for White People,” author Joy Jones calls attention to the disturbing trend of African-American women choosing to remain single and attempts to explain why this is. I’ve posted John’s original email and my reply.

Hey, man.

I came across this article that appeared in the Washington Post on March 26th. Although the author throws out some interesting statistics and theories, I don't feel that her argument is sound nor does she delve into the BIG picture. She touches on some key issues about our culture and history but, the article seems hollow to me. Especially the whole "down low" comment. Just plain ignorant in my opinion. I'm not a believer in the "phenomenon" that it's supposed to be. I blame Oprah a bit for hyping it up. Anyway, what's your take?

Peace John,

Thanks for sending this. It is amazing to me that anyone who thinks of herself as a writer of any intelligence would submit this ridiculous assessment of African-American marriage. As you may well know, I've got some criticisms of it that don't even have anything to do with the stupid and inflammatory title.

First, if you're attempting to take an accurate picture of black life you CANNOT (I've argued this before) lump all black folks together with meaningless phrases like, "the black community." You simply can't do it. The black underclass is VASTLY different – in terms of attitudes towards marriage, family, and life in general – than middle and upper-middle class black America. If any of the marriage statistics that Jones uses are adjusted for socioeconomic level, I'm willing to bet that rates of marriage for us would be similar to whites. The reason why African-Americans are always in such a statistical ghetto is that so many of us are living in physical ghettos. A greater percentage of blacks are poor, and that has to do with historical and structural inequality. It is the height of irresponsible journalism to ignore this fact.

Second, I'm with you on this overblown "down low" phenomenon. The author's reference to "an era of brothers on the 'down low,'" rings particularly hollow. Apart from the lurid anecdotes of scum-of-the-Earth author and fulltime opportunist, JL King, who appeared on Oprah, I haven't seen much evidence supporting the idea that this is wide spread. Where is the data? Are African-American women being infected with HIV/AIDS at a higher rate than their white, Latino or Asian counterparts? Absolutely. But this doesn't prove that down low is the cause any more than needle sharing or any other risky behavior.

Third, the author alludes to other reasons why she and her peers are turning away from the idea of marriage including, economic freedom, fewer choices for mates, unwillingness to compromise their careers and lifestyles, etc. These are, of course, the same exact reasons that white women and others give for delaying or avoiding marriage altogether. Women began rethinking marriage ever since they began entering the workplace on a large scale. There is nothing endemic to black women in this. Yet, Jones somehow uses these reasons to support the idea that African-American women are exceptional because of their problems with marriage.

What this article boils down to is an unfocused, pseudo-evaluation of black singlehood & marriage. Jones references slavery, uses feminist ideology, pulls sociological data and advances race consciousness (and none too well) to support the assertion that African-Americans somehow value marriage less than members of other groups. Last time I checked, the divorce rate - another indicator of unhealthy relationships that Jones mentions only negligibly - was hovering at around 50% at a national level across racial lines.

As much as anyone, I would like to see more of our sisters find happiness and fulfillment in marriage. I also recognize the impediments to achieving this goal. But poorly-argued doomsday scenarios like these aren't helping anyone.



At 4:17 PM , Blogger K T Cat said...

I'm with you on everything but the claim that there is a structural reason for this. Self-destruction is colorblind.

I just posted on this.

At 2:23 PM , Anonymous Viece said...

As a single black woman, i completely agree. I know of just as many white women that have chosen to be single for the same reasons that my black friends have. I didn't get to read the article, but singlehood cannot be broken down by race or because of race. Women would rather be (if they are self aware enough) alone and content than together and miserable. We watched our parents grow up that way, and we don't want the same.

At 5:03 PM , Blogger ag's said...

I totally agree with you on this. You can't lump all black folk into the same boat. Wealth has a lot to do with black women deciding to marry. If she comes from an underpivileged backround, she will more than likely not enter into a marriage that might interrupt her benefits. It could something as simple as " section 8" she is not going to lose her housing that took years to get on a marriage that might not last 6 mos, these are the facts. And some of them just don't want the hassle of marriage; it's not a crime to be single and it would be nice, if white america could back the hell off and mind their own damn business.


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