SOPHIA NELSON: Message to Stanford U Law Professor: Marriage is NOT Just for White People

Statement from Author & Women’s Advocate Sophia A. Nelson, Esquire:

A new book written by Stanford University Professor Ralph Richard Banks titled, Is Marriage for White People? How the African American Marriage Decline Affects Everyone (in stores this September) is causing quite the stir.  The provocative, headline-grabbing book (ironically inspired by former DC school teacher Joy Jones about her conversation with an African-American sixth-grader who suggested that marriage was in fact for white people) uses United States Census Bureau Data to analyze marriage patterns and trends of “middle class blacks”.  The book comes to the controversial conclusion that black women (professional upwardly mobile black women being the most affected group by the so-called marriage gap) should turn away from black men and instead marry out-side of their race (emphasis on turning to white men).

Let me be unequivocal as someone who just wrote a top-selling, award nominated non-fiction book (riddled with groundbreaking never before done research and expert analysis) about the lives of 21st Century black women (which included black men in that research as well as white men and women, Latinos) that Professor Banks is just dead wrong in his analysis and conclusions. There is NO silver bullet for Black Women in America to address the “marriage gap”-”wealth gap”-”health gap”-”love gap”-”Wellness gap”-”Career gap”. PERIOD. Dating white men, is the least of what will save us as black women and give us the fulfilling lives we seek.

Bank’s book like many others before it, once again uses a provocative title, that draws the attention of the mainstream white media, major news outlets and radio to signal that something is broken and amiss with black love, black relationships and black families.  It is not. In our study a full 33% of black men and women were happily married, thriving, raising their kids and building lives together.  The truth is this: There can be no meaningful analysis of marriage trends between black men and women without dealing with the total experience of black people in this new generation and over the past 40 years.

What ails black women, is what ails all of us in the black community.  Lack of financial resources to help our families, lack of equal opportunity in the workplace, lack of self love and care, lack of spiritual connectedness, lack of healing, lack of forgiveness, and lack of belief in ourselves that we can be together as black men and women, build families, and build communities as our ancestors did under the pain of slavery, Jim Crow, and the Civil Rights era.  The majority of us in the black community are not middle-class and not well educated.  And Banks is right to consider what is going on with those of us who are in the “professional” class.  My book, like Bank’s book narrowly focuses on the black educated middle class (for me it was women) because it seems to be the demographic struggling most with healthy dating, lifestyles, and marriage. Professional black women are the most talked about, studied, and ironically invisible group of women in the United States.

Where Banks goes amiss is that, unlike what I wrote in “Black Woman Redefined” he does not get to the WHY black relationships may be in peril, and he does NOT offer a real tactical and meaningful way OUT of the situation at hand for black men and women.  This is where we part company.

1. Our families and children are at stake and although I write in chapters four and five of my book  that black women must indeed expand our dating options ( I am in love with someone Male and Caucasian)-I am not prepared to, nor would I ever suggest that we should “abandon” black men, lower our standards, date “beneath” ourselves, or worse.

2. To suggest that we do so means we are giving up on 400 years of history and I cannot sign on to that.

3. Moreover, to suggest that if sisters date out the race, brothers will come running back to us is silly at best.  Our issues as black women must be addressed outside of whatever is going on with black men.

4.  Fact: we as black women despite our many successes are still trying to deal with low self-image, anger issues, sexual abuse and abandonment issues with our fathers, obesity, depression, and more that runs much deeper than what Banks is peddling for his 15 minutes of fame and media attention.

If the black community wants to have a serious discussion about how we care for, tend to, and heal our broken relationships, family structures and the like, Black Woman Redefined and a host of other well written, positive, affirmational, instructional books are the place that discussion can and should begin.  As for Professor Banks, I am disappointed that someone with so much to offer is offering our children and young people an outlook that is bleak, negative, and damaging to the future of the black family.