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Prof’s radical advice for successful black women: Marry outside race

Updated: December 1, 2011 5:27AM



Ralph Richard Banks, a black Stanford Law professor, has some advice for successful black women who are still waiting for Mr. Right: Marry out, not down.

That’s radical.

For the longest time, relationship experts have told black women — the least likely group to make it to the altar — that they are being too picky.

Not so, says Banks, the author of Is Marriage for White People? How the African American Marriage Decline Affects Everyone.

His provocative book upends the conventional wisdom on black relationships by suggesting that successful black women stop dusting off brothers, and start stepping across racial lines to find desirable spouses.

Banks makes the case that accomplished black women have more in common with white men than they have with black men who have a limited education.

Using anecdotes, research and interviews with black women from across the country, Banks argues that middle-class black women need to expand their dating pool.

Take the saga of Cecelia and Daryl. She is a high-powered lawyer. He is a construction worker. After a long-distance relationship, the couple married and had kids. It soon became apparent that they were operating under a conflicting value system. For instance, he wanted to show off in a Mercedes. She wanted to send the kids to private school and save for retirement. Soon problems began to crop up over who controlled the spending.

“A difference in values or cultural orientation is not something that a couple can or should ‘get over,’ ” Banks writes.

“These sorts of relationships are mismatches for reasons of education and cultural orientation rather than income. It’s one thing for a woman to earn more than her husband. It’s quite another for her to have been to college and graduate school while he’s content with his high school diploma.”

Banks argues that if a lot more black women were to marry outside the race, it would solve a number of problems now plaguing the black community: “Fewer black women would be alone. Just as some black women marry down rather than marry out, other black women remain unmarried rather than partner with a man of another race. There is a shortage of men only if black women remain confined to a segregated market.”

Additionally, he points out that black women who marry outside the race could bypass many of the hazards of the single life — “unsatisfying and nonmonogamous relationships, the increased risk of sexually transmitted diseases, abortion, single parenthood.”

But despite being the group that is most likely to be unmarried, and the most likely to marry down, black women are also the least likely to marry out.

In fact, black women are “more segregated in the intimate marketplace than any other group in American society,” Banks concluded after researching data from Internet dating sites.

But he also found that black women — more so than black men — are less willing to date outside of the race.

“These black women love them some black men,” Banks wrote.

He even came up with a list of reasons why more black women aren’t open to dating white men:

“Black women don’t think white men are interested; black women trace their love of a black man to the love of their father; white men were seen as lacking ‘swag,’ and partnering with black men was a way of fighting racism.”

As one 40-year-old married woman from Oakland told Banks: “We should never give up on our black men. Never. We have to support them. We know it’s a struggle, but we women got to stand by the black man. If we don’t, who will?” She asked.

That’s a good question.

People fall in love across racial lines all the time. But Banks has laid out a case against black love, and that is disturbing.

Yes, black relationships can be messy. But it is bad enough that the most affluent black men often seek out white women to marry. Now successful black women are being encouraged — by a black man no less — to look for white husbands. Is that really the answer to the black marriage crisis?

If it is, God must really have a macabre sense of humor.



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