It seems like we can’t go a week without seeing yet another article, blog post, or YouTube rant about what’s wrong with black women and why we’re doomed to be single. Everyone from psuedo-relationship experts to dudes around the way seems to be surviving off the myth that black women are the least desirable and least marriageable women on Earth — and, therefore, in need of saving (or charging $19.99 for stupid books)
But thank sweet, baby Jesus for actual research and women (and men) who aren’t falling for the hype.
Recently The New York Times published an op-ed by Angela Stanley, a researcher at the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State University. In her piece Stanley broke down the myth of “the single black woman” all the way down, so it can forever be broke.
I, like Stanley, like to deal in facts. Emotional outbursts and hyperbolic theories without facts do little to impress me. Over the course of the past few years, black women have been beat in the head by the seemingly startling statistic that 70% of us have never been married. Only, that’s only part of the story.
I’m almost positive the people in my life don’t mean to add to the anxiety I already feel about being single in my 30s without children. Implicit in some of their comments is the idea that my failure to marry is beyond my control, a function of being born black and female.
It’s not simply an unhelpful observation. This culturally popular notion that 70 percent of black women don’t marry is just a myth. For the last few years, I have been hearing from every source imaginable that the vast majority of black women will never marry. This never made sense to me because so many black women I know are married. And indeed, eventually, most black women do marry.
A look at recent census data will tell you that the 70 percent we keep hearing about has been misconstrued. According to 2009 data from the Census Bureau, 70.5 percent of black women 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.
Stanley also goes onto highlight what many of us already knew: Young black men aren’t exactly jumping the broom either.
“With all the attention on black women, I had 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.”
What’s curious to me, and Stanley, is why blacks are now the main focus of the “marriage crisis” meme. If we are just as single as our male counterparts, where are the articles and Twitter relationship experts that guilt men into feeling as if they have some sort of malfunction to explain their single status?
As with most things, I’d argue the reasons are financial. Playing upon the insecurities of women is big business. One look at women’s magazines tell us that women are conditioned to nit pick every single part of our bodies, our hair, and our personalities to be more desirable to men. The litany of “How to lose 10lbs in 2 days!” and “How to get the man of your dreams this weekend” litter magazines, so it’s no wonder that black women have become the latest target.
Thankfully, for every article and TV special examining the plight of single black women, we have spaces such as this and writers such as Angela Stanley (and many, many others) to push back against the foolishness and tell our own stories.