By Rachel Harmon
Marriage is one of the oldest traditions that many people still follow and strive towards. The images of this beautiful day make it something that people long for, even as our values today change in terms of what it means for two people to be married. And, from social media and word of mouth, it is clear that it is still the most important status when in a relationship. However, as I get older, I wonder how realistic this is for everyone. In particular, for heterosexual black women, it is not as realistic as for other races and genders.
Many black Americans want black love. Black love is a special kind of love that means something different for the individuals involved. It is one of the reasons why many black Americans strive to marry someone of the same race. However, after reading Is Marriage for White People? by Ralph Richard Banks, it was clear that there are many obstacles and struggles for heterosexual black women if they want black love with a black man. I will discuss one finding that stuck with me; this finding is the most prevalent in my life now.
I will now state that I am analyzing this book from the perspective of a heterosexual black woman. In addition to this, Banks is not the only source of this information, but it is the one that I have read. For a further and deeper analysis of his book, the New York Times wrote an article that can be found in this link. Additionally, this information presented by Banks assumes that the ideal world is a one-to-one ratio for a heterosexual black woman to black man. This is not what society looks like, and is one of my critiques of this book, but I believe that his findings are important to discuss.
One of Banks’s main arguments in his book is that “in college and elsewhere, appealing black men are in short supply, and desirable black women are abundant. That’s the central fact shaping interactions in the relationship market…What this means is that for a black man and black woman negotiating a relationship, the man will have more options and more opportunities outside the relationship than the woman.”
Banks’s finding is not surprising, but reading it makes it real. The fact that there are not enough black men intrigues me. As a college student, I can see this ratio not just from black men but all men in general. On a larger scale, like Banks discusses, this is a commonality for black women who are searching for a black man. Banks found that black women not only outmarry less frequently than black men, but they also outmarry less than any other minority group. In other words, it is most likely for a black woman to be seeking a partner of the same race.
Banks utilizes simple economics in terms of supply and demand. Clearly, there is a greater demand for black men by heterosexual black women but a lower supply of heterosexual black men. With this, there are simply less options for black women and more for black men. Banks attributes this lack of supply to the fact that the “ranks of black men have been decimated by incarceration, educational failure, and economic disadvantage.” Numerically, two black women have graduated college for every one black man and there are more than 1,400,000 black women in college and fewer than 900,000 black men in college.
As a result of this ratio, black men do possess a greater power in relationship dynamics. This means that men have more options. So why would they stick with one black woman? With this in mind, it can partly explain why many black men are not looking for a relationship, or have several black women in their rotation. This lack of supply has given men the ability to remove themselves from relationships easily, instead of fighting for the particular relationship they are in.
In contrast, black women do not have this same luxury. Instead, they are limited to their selection. This leaves room for either settling with something less than we deserve, or alone if we cannot find someone to our standards. This is an unfair situation that many black women are in. We are stuck with the narrative of the strong independent black woman who is invested in her career, but that is not all that is important to us. We may be accomplished and successful, but that does not mean many of us do not want love. We deserve the same amount of love as everyone else in the relationship market. It is just frustrating to believe that many people see black women as desirable and strong figures, but not deserving of the emotional connection that many of us seek.
Although we may desire this, I feel that there is not much that can be done because the numbers are there. It is just a fact that there are more black women than black men in most spaces. This makes it challenging to find hope in this situation if black love, with a black man, is something that a black woman wants in her life. Even if a black woman does find herself a black man, she is mainly viewed as “one of the lucky ones.” This sentiment is just as bad as not being able to find a black man. Why? Because it makes it seem that you are lucky to have that man, when maybe he should be lucky to have you.
When thinking about my future and marriage, I know that I will still pursue black love, and it has worked out for me. I hope that this can be a reality for more black women who desire to be with a black man, but right now it is not as attainable as it should be. Until the macroeconomic issues and structurally racist institutions that have led us to the inequality within the relationship market between heterosexual black women and black men, perhaps we can hope for any difference in the relationship dynamics we have today.