by Tahira Rhame.
I am 21, African American and a woman—and I want to get married to a black man. But in the generation ahead of me, all the black women I know are either single or divorced. They have jobs, sometimes children, but no steady man.
My aunt Ashley, a 45-year-old African-American nurse, is a mother of two children. She divorced her first husband after being married three years. After her second divorce she has been single for nine years.
My older cousin Pat is a 39-year-old elementary school teacher. A mother of three, she has never married. She says she has given up on marriage and focuses all her energy and love on her three children.
Another older cousin Stacey is 25 years old and a student with one child. After going on what seems like 100 dates she says it’s hard to find that special someone to share her life with.
Their stories are different, but the conclusions are pretty much the same: They ended up divorced and/or single often with kids.
Is this what I should expect? Outside of Barack and Michelle, is African-American marriage becoming obsolete?
A new controversial book, Is Marriage for White People by Stanford law professor Ralph Richard Banks addresses this issue. In the book, Banks notes that African Americans are the most unmarried group of people in the country. “Black women are more than three times as likely as white women never to marry,” he states on his website. ” And when black women do marry, they are more likely than any other group of women to marry a man who is less educated or earns less than they do.”
In endorsing Banks’ book, Debra J. Dickerson, author/editor/writer writes, “Until now, no one has respected blacks enough to bother making a serious investigation of the underpinnings of the phenomenon. He has fearlessly flipped the script on why blacks are the least married women in America. He’d better watch his back.”
The statistics are dismal when it comes to black marriage, and the reality is depressing. It makes you start to question is marriage for black women. According to the U.S. Census Bureau:
- Forty-two percent of black adults have never been married, compared with just 26 percent of all American adults.
- By the time most black Americans reach their early 30s, half have never married, compared with 31 percent or less for other racial and ethnic groups.
- Black women ages 35 to 44 are the only group of American women of child-bearing age with lower rates of marriage than men of the same race or ethnicity.
- By their early 40s, 31 percent of black women have never been married, compared to 9 percent of white women, 11 percent of Asian women and 12 percent of Hispanic women.
What’s going on? Why can’t black women get married?
One reason? There may not be enough men to go around. As reported by census.gov, in 2010 there were an estimated 9,932,957 African Americans from ages 18 to 34 in the United States. In that age group women outnumber men 5.1 million to 4.8 million. More specifically, the shortfall in men totals 300,000.
A high rate of incarceration among black men–due to various factors including injustice– shrinks the dating and marriage pool. According to an article in ColorLines magazine the Bureau of Justice Statistics “estimates that as of 2008, there were more than 846,000 black men in prison, making up 40.2 percent of all inmates in the system.”
“I think it’s sad that many of our black men are in jail,” says CCNY senior Camille Sykes. “But at the end of the day they are still good well educated black brothers who are looking for love just like black women.”
Some women complain that even when there are enough men, they aren’t the right ones. In my best case scenario, I’d like to meet and marry a man with as much education as I have. But black men are less educated than black women.
In college for instance the ratio of women to men is unbalanced. According to Banks, “twice as many black women as men graduate from college each year. There’re simply not enough college-educated black men for all the single college educated black women.”
City College has 15,416 enrolled students, mainly people of color. According to the Office of Institutional Research, there are 7,862 women compared to 7554 men. “A majority of my classes consist of females,” says Janell Perkins a CCNY senior.
Given the numbers, too many men behave as though they are a valued commodity and don’t need to settle down. With so many women “looking for a man,” guys can play the field.
“Men don’t want to settle down because they are not ready,” says Chantelle Turnbull, a CCNY senior. “They want to live a single life where they can do whatever with whom ever. But when they are forced to marry that leads to high divorce rates because they marry just to shut their women up and not out of love.”
What’s the solution?
Banks believes that black women should consider interracial marriages. He says it comes down to a number game: If black women only limit themselves to black men, they will remain unmarried, or marry a less educated man who earns less money.
With all the talk about the man shortage and so few black couples getting married, many women are beginning to lose hope. But others aren’t.
“Don’t lose hope ladies, says Sheinha Jasmin, a good friend of mine who has been in a long-term relationship. “Even though it may seem like there aren’t any good men out there, there are. I’ve been with my boyfriend for about three years. We have had our ups and our downs but despite all of that I feel like he is the one.
“It took me a while to get to this place, she continues, “but you go through a couple of frogs until you meet your prince.”
I believe there still is hope to find and marry my “prince.” So hang in there. Staying positive and exploring your options are the best solutions.