Love me some Zora. ‘Preciate her, even. But the mainstream news media has taken the single black woman script too far – so far that the epidemic has reached into book publishing and TV segments and circular blogs about how awful it is to be the mule of the world.
As of 2010, there were 37 million black people living in America. 52 percent of them are black women. The reasoning behind several thousand news stories and books that have emerged since the 1965 Moynihan Report is that increasingly, the number of black men who are as gainfully employed and educated is tiny in comparison with the all the single black ladies who are getting degrees and not married. (An oversimplification, but I’ll analyze some of the coverage later.) In fact, only 30 percent of African Americans are married.
Given the fact that men in general have continued to lose work and not attain the same educational status as women in general, I have found it curious since at least 2000, when I started collecting and analyzing these stories that no other demographic has been focused on with the same level of scrutiny, relentlessness and hopelessness as black women. Even though there are over 60 million unmarried women in America.
Kate Bolick, in her November 2011 Atlantic Monthly cover story about being a single 39-year-old white woman who has never married, did a little lamenting and she gave a shout out to her black sisters but she didn’t go as hard or as far in the direction of say, ABC, CNN, or The New York Times. Why is that?
I have some theories. One is that black women embody and represent the future. We are also harbingers, like multiracial people, of changing family dynamics and relationships that will certainly shape the country before it changes our relationships around the world. After all, we were Mammies once and now, we’re either not having babies at all or we are happily having babies in interracial relationships — or, what? As single mothers.
You’ve heard the theories already, though. What’s been missing in all of these stories is the idea that single women – black, white or otherwise — do not have to be fixed. Tracy McMillan has a book and a TV show coming out that symbolizes this kind of crap, that blames women for being successful and free, as if it’s something to be ashamed of, like the S in single has become the new Scarlet letter. The thing that’s missing in all of these stories and coverage is the emphasis on the H-word: Happy. There are legions of single women in the world who are happy. It is not our fault, nor should it be our burden, that men are mad at us now because they’re in the throes of a masculinity crisis.
What about all of the single black women in history (like Zora and countless others) who managed somehow to never be married? What about the fraught legal history of marriage among free and enslaved blacks, which weren’t recognized when we first got to America? Finally, how will it ever be possible for black women to become marriageable or even embrace their successes with the constant stream of crap that we get bombarded with about clocks ticking?
Full disclosure here. I am a single black woman. I am content with my life. If I marry, I would prefer to marry a black man. If that doesn’t happen, my life will not end, full stop. I know many unmarried black women of all ages who hold up corners of the sky people don’t think about because the sky is not falling. Those are the ones I intend to focus on. There is an alternative view to all of the gloom and doom. Welcome to my world.