Is there any good news for black women these days? First, there was the controversial but criminally under-covered report by Sinai Health Institute stating that black women die of breast cancer at a rate of nearly twice that of their non-black counterparts. Now, Sun-Times columnist Mary Mitchell writes in her Nov. 2, column stating that African-Americans are not only less likely to be married by the time they’re 30, but also have a greater rate of divorce.
She uses “facts” based on “credible research” for her argument. Mitchell covered the expected bases when addressing the issue of black males refusing to marry (incarceration, more women to chose from, and so on). But she completely glosses over another mitigating factor that prevents the exchange of wedding vows; one that places a bit more blame in the laps of black women.
That factor can be the difficulty in looking for a woman to date as a middle-class male. By middle-class, I’m referring to that segment of black men who aren’t necessarily bartering their DVD collection at the pawn shop or waiting in a soup line. But they’re also a long way from their retirement party and their personally embossed yacht.
These men oftentimes find themselves in an unenviable position – not good enough for the women above their economic bracket and too good for the women below. Consequently, the women they want to date will be put off by their apparent “pauperism,” and chose to date someone above their own economic level. The men, meanwhile. will just choose to be single.
In that same vein, many black women, particularly those between age 20-29, have expectations that are simply unrealistic or unattainable, and they don’t realize the fallacy of their vision until they get older.
For example, I have a 26-year-old female friend who is pretty, educated and still single. I once asked her what she wanted in her partner. She said, with apparent sincerity, that she wants, “a man who is tall, dark-shinned with a muscular build, big house, pretty car, no children, and who can take me to all the places I’ve ever wanted to visit.” One of those places is Spain, she told me.
In dissecting this view, we are aware of the obvious problems here. These specifications are both too specific and not specific enough. Sure, it’s possible to wind up marrying the dashing, virtuous, faultless man she describes.
However, the likelihood that that perfect man will be her future husband is about as realistic as Joe Average marrying a super model. It could happen, but probably will not.
Her flaw is no different than that of many black women. In identifying a “good man” as Denzel Washington and Bill Gates rolled up into one, it leaves her susceptible to two things – those who would lie about their material means to exploit her, and those with the means but an unwillingness to commit.
By being so unwilling to look outside of their own stringent expectations, black women miss out on men who may not have connections in Tahiti, but would be a loyal, faithful, and ideal partner to marry. They will date a man and assess, “He was short; He was not mobile; He is only an average dresser,” among other critiques. Then suddenly, when they reach their 30s and Mr. Universe has not arrived, it’s the man’s fault for not being “good enough” for her to have married.
I agree with Mitchell when she says that one need only look at the successful politicians and find that virtually all are either married or have been married. Additionally, equally dead-on was her assertion that marriage needs to be emphasized more in churches by respected men of God, and that many young black children have suffered by being brought up in so many single family households.
Fathers offer an example of the way boys should treat their future partners and the way girls should allow themselves to be treated.
Women will contend that they can raise children alone, outside of wedlock and do just fine. True, many have. But as basketball Hall of Fame coach John Thompson once mused, “You could theoretically pay a $200 hotel tab with pennies, but it just shouldn’t be done that way.”
Mitchell makes many valid points, but perhaps it’s worth looking at the women with the same critical eye as we do the men. Some solutions may come out of that, and maybe, finally, black women can have some good news about the future.