Is this the beginning of the end for black relationships?

Stanford University Law professor, Ralph Richard Banks has controversially encouraged black women to marry outside their race because black men are falling behind them in education and class.

Mr Banks, a professor of family law told the Mail Online (Black women should look outside their race for a successful man, says Stanford law professor: 20 October, 2011), that black women are soaring ahead educationally and economically of black men making them less compatible with their own race.

Promoting his book “Is Marriage for White People? How the African American Marriage Decline Affects Everyone“, Banks said that the lack of successful and educated black males meant that black women ‘married down’, to black men of a lower class. He believes that as a result of this more black marriages fail, at twice the rate of white marriages.

Banks said that black women are less likely to be married due to their firm commitment to dating within their race, and he said that it was time for them to consider broadening their options.

Ignoring the racial struggle of black relationships

There is no doubt that many black men and indeed black women will probably be angry with Banks for even suggesting that interracial relationships is the way forward for black women.

For many black people dating within their race is a demonstration of black togetherness, resilience and progress because of the brutal legacy of slavery. Banks seems to completely ignore this historic struggle in favour of class politics. His arguments also discredits hard working black men who can provide long-term stability to the black family unit, but may not have the educational success or the salary to match. When did finding a good, stable black man turn into requiring a black man with a certain level of education and salary? Banks seems to equate successful marriages with social class which appears naive. One only has to observe the disastrous marriages of celebrities to understand this.

Confronting unpleasant truths

Nevertheless, whatever one may think about Banks, the statistics he provides does uncover some unpleasant truths about black relationships. The lack of black males available to black women is not only due to social class, imprisonment, drug addiction etc.

On September 22, 2011, The Voice, (Educated black people more likely to marry a white partner) wrote an article based on a US study which said that educated African-Americans are more likely to marry outside of their race. The study also found that black men tend to marry white women at a higher rate than black women marry white men, which suggests contrary to what Banks argues, that there are successful black people for each other, but they are overlooking their own in favour of whites.

Over the years a fierce debate has been raging within the black community and indeed within the black media regarding interracial mixing, and what has come out of these debates is that many black people still have negative perceptions of each other.

In his article for the Guardian, (Whatever happened to sista love?: Friday, 11 March, 2005) Steve Pope laid bare some of the internal negative connotations that black people have of each other. Pope said, “what is happening now is not the result of random, individual choice but a manifestation of a rejection of black women…The unfortunate bottom line is that most of these “brothers” think their sistas are an inferior product. What makes the situation galling is that rather than accept that’s how they see things, the men try and come up with a thousand reasons why black women are their own worst enemies.”

Black journalist David Matthews explained in an Evening Standard article (Why I prefer to date White Women: Friday, 1 November, 2002) why he has chosen white women over black women.

He said that black women were sexually conservative more than their white counterparts, although he does not go into examples unfortunately. He mentions that black women are obsessed with money and how much a black man earns.

Probably his most important point, is when he said, “Of course, there is a tradition of black women being financially responsible: they are often the sole or main breadwinner, perhaps because black men don’t always get the career breaks that they do. Black women tend to buy into the propaganda that portrays us as being useless, and don’t always cut us a lot of slack.”

Matthews’ arguments certainly reveal the internal animosities which exists between black men and black women. Yet is must be asked whether his sexual preference for white women is a  justification for bringing a mixed race child into a racially divided world? Perhaps Matthews was thinking more of his own needs, rather than the needs of bringing up a mixed child in a racially divided society. He actually said, “Going out with a white woman isn’t, for me, some kind of trendy boho fashion statement. When I had a daughter with a white woman,it brought home to me the consequences of my actions: that I had brought a child into a world that is far from reconciling its racial and cultural differences.” Surely, the consequences should have been thought of before such a serious step was taken?

The problem with Matthews is that by saying that he prefers to date white women, he has already racialised his choices and his relationship with white women.

Yet despite the emotions Matthews may have provoked in those reading his comments, the fact remains that there are many black men like him.

There are black men who feel that the relationship bar is set much higher for them than it is for white males.

Traditionally, the black media and the debate has favoured black women and portrayed them as victims, and to some extent that is true, however there is always two sides to a story and unless black men and black women sit down together and iron out their differences in a mature fashion, the future of black relationships, black marriage and the black family is troubling.

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