Hey, Media: Don’t Lecture Black Women About Marriage

Racialicious' Latoya Peterson on the media's obsession with black women and marriage rates among African-Americans.

By Jorge Rivas Oct 21, 2011

In 2008, Oprah dedicated a show to discuss why 70 percent of of black woman were single. It’s since been a topic that CNN, the New York Times and every black news magazine covers at least once a year. Some have even called the coverage a "media obsession with unmarried black women." In an opinion piece for the The Guardian titled "Don’t lecture black women about marriage," Racialicious’ Latoya Peterson says falling black marriage rates aren’t the result of black women ‘being picky’, but of the complex politics of attraction.

Most recently, Stanford Law professor Ralph Richard Banks has been making the media round, from the Washington Post to The Economist, blaming black women for a supposed misfortune and chastising them on missing out on the wonders of marriage.

Peterson starts off by reminding us that in this day and age, it’s not just black woman re-evaluating marriage. 

Here’s a snippet:

In times of slavery, black women did want to be married – but the main focus was on creating a stable family unit, official or otherwise. More contemporary battles over marriage revolve around the changing needs of citizens, particularly those in same-sex relationships, or those with non-traditional families. And who said marriage is still the ultimate end goal?

In their quest to sell books and make media appearances, they bulldoze the individual nature of the mating game in the rush to diagnose millions of people with the same problem. The truth is, there are many reasons why people find themselves single. Sometimes, it’s their own attitudes. But many other times, the timing just isn’t right, their careers are too demanding, or they need to focus elsewhere. As a black woman who has been in a committed relationship for five years, nothing is more obvious to me than how random circumstance plays a major role in many happy relationships. If I hadn’t missed a concert, I wouldn’t know my boyfriend; if one of my friends hadn’t gone to Mali with the Peace Corps, she would have never been on the same continent as her now-husband; if another friend hadn’t missed her original train and hadn’t been wearing a sweatshirt from her alma mater, she would have never met the man she would marry.

Dating, love, and marriage are far more complicated than self-proclaimed experts would have us believe. Statistics can show all kinds of trends, but ultimately, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (in a relationship) is the province of each individual.