The State of Marital Unions in the African-American Community

Monday, September 12, 2011

Throughout the course of American history, a lot has been said about marriage in the African-American community. From scientific racism to the Moynihan Report to Tyler Perry, the way we discuss marriage in black America can be difficult and often controversial. The marriage rate has declined for all Americans over the past forty years, but it’s declined much faster in the black community. Why is this?

Ralph Richard Banks, a professor at Stanford Law School, think he has the answer. His new book is called "Is Marriage for White People?: How the African American Marriage Decline Affects Everyone."

Comments [7]

VFB from Illinois

Is marriage for White people? No, it can be for Black women as well, if they expand their dating and marrying options, instead of waiting around for a group of men that don't want them:)

Sep. 23 2011 12:54 PM
George from Washington DC

The problem is not that AA women dont date outside their race...actually an equal proportion of white women dont date outside their race. The problem is AA women dont date or marry black men from another country. There are plenty of black men from Africa or the Caribbean who will marry AA women in a heartbeat but many AA women think that is beneath them.

Sep. 14 2011 10:27 AM

Thank you for discussing this very important issue. I hope that such issues are discussed in depth at a later date. I do feel that it deserves more than glossary discussion. Historically, what is the role of the "black familly" in American society? Why is it so charged and of interest in the contemporary context?

Sep. 13 2011 11:45 AM

As an educated Black woman I find the points made by Prof. Banks during the interview were, sadly, on target. I have purchased the book and will save my comments about the book for another time. While the interview covered areas already highlighted by others who have already commented - what got my attention was the thinking around interracial dating. My experience mirrors the research we heard in the interview. Most of my Black female friends are not, nor have ever been, married. Most also choose not to date men who are not Black and are firmly against interracial dating. I will date men of any race, choosing partners based on values, not race. I am hoping that data, like this research, will help more Black women open up to men of any race and really choose partners who are good for them - Black, white, or otherwise.

Sep. 12 2011 03:02 PM
Tony Carl from Michigan

Initially I'll state that I'm commenting on Mr. Banks' interview today, the intro to his book found on web site and on, and to a lesser extent his comments during other promotional interviews. I'm not responding to the book, because I haven't read it and don't see it as required reading.

Mr. Banks has distinguished academic credentials, but this sort of commentary is weak in terms of effectively and authentically addressing widening cracks in our societal foundation. The steady climb in the rate of divorce and the associated rate of single parent households during the last several decades in this country are clear problems that need to be addressed. The fact that a major demographic group -- African-American men -- is lagging in its advancement relative to other demographic groups, also is a clear problem that needs to be addressed. These issues directly affect the advancement of our nation. To look at artificial ways to cope -- as Mr. Banks promotes with his "band-aid" approach -- serves as another ridiculous pop-culture distraction from the real work that needs to be done. Resolving downward societal trends requires the same long-range strategic approach as is required to clean up our environment, preserve our wildlife, or rebuild our economy.

Sep. 12 2011 11:06 AM
Glenn saperstein DO from Commerce, MI

Re: your great interview: although I agree, doesn't this feel like a shell game of sorts then, whereby the ball is no longer under that of marrying within one's own culture, but rather that of "class" ? Will this strategy not ultimately contribute to the "separation of classes", with wealthy/ educated only marrying of the same?

Sep. 12 2011 10:12 AM
Derrick Amin from Randallstown, MD

I'm looking forward to reading Prof. Bank's assessment. However, I found some of his comments to be superficial at best. There are many problems with marriage that have little to do with race or class. In his comments, he failed to look critically at the whole set of assumptions implicit within the whole hetero-monogamous-nuclear dynamic, which is what really defines marriage in western culture. I hope that he looks at the many issues which arise out of those assumptions. Also, there is the patriarchy so often promoted by religious institutions, which is in itself problematic. The very success of African-Americans in general and Black women in particular, defy the primitive notions inherent in these ideas.

Sep. 12 2011 09:01 AM

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