NYT: The privileged Americans are marrying which helps them stay privileged

About 41 percent of births in the United States occur outside marriage, up sharply from 17 percent three decades ago.

But equally sharp are the educational divides, according to an analysis by Child Trends, a Washington research group. Less than 10 percent of the births to college-educated women occur outside marriage, while for women with high school degrees or less the figure is nearly 60 percent.

Long concentrated among minorities, motherhood outside marriage now varies by class about as much as it does by race. It is growing fastest in the lower reaches of the white middle class — among women like Ms. Schairer who have some postsecondary schooling but no four-year degree. – Two Classes in America, Divided By ‘I Do.’

I’ve been thinking  about the concept that Stanford professor Ralph Richard Banks describes in his book Is Marriage for White People?  as “white follows black.” He talks about the fact that what happens to black women who may not be following the marital patterns of their predecessors and who face all sorts of social barriers based on their single status, are actually also setting the stage for how life will start to be for white women.

The article above shows that theory might be correct, as flawed as it is. (Side note: I dislike the New York Times’ reductive take on single people, generally, and this piece is no exception).  I have such an odd relationship to privilege, and yet, given my upbringing, it makes total sense. I want enough to do the work that I am passionate about in the world, but I hate privilege because it excludes people who have very little. In fact, I hate most things that exclude people, but that’s the rant of an outsider, and I’ll get to that later.

The article includes some not-great news about single parenthood. Never say never, but I am highly unlikely to be a parent, so I never write about the topic. Also, given the unpredictable nature of marriage and the fact that I have essentially spent my entire life trying to avoid becoming a single parent, it sounds like it might not the path for me. I do find it interesting that the Times notes that single parenthood has gone from being an anomaly to being pretty popular. That also falls in line with Ralph Richard Banks’ ‘white follows black’ theory. I love that single mothers had to be validated by the fact that the last three American presidents were raised by single mothers. Children of single mothers, you, too, can be great!

Bella DePaulo, an expert on singles and cultural bias against singles writes more about the piece at Psychology Today, which she calls deplorable:

Also missing from the Times story is any awareness that stigmatizing stories such as this one are contributing to the disparity in the experiences of single-parent families and married-parent families that DeParle believes he is merely documenting. Go ahead, keep telling the single-parent families how bad they have it because there is no “6-foot-8-inch man named Kevin” and how superior the married families are because they do have their Kev. That sort of mythologizing and moralizing probably nudged Jessica into finding “a new boyfriend, who she thought would help with the children and the bills,” but who had to be tossed out by the police six months later.

Really, “just get married” isn’t the answer to the economic challenges of single parenting any more than “just say no” is the answer to drug addiction.

Cohabitation before marriage is a disaster, study says

Living with the love of your life may not be the best idea if you’re trying to get hitched.

A couple of months ago, the Journal of Family Psychology detailed a study about cohabitation before marriage (h/t The Awl ) and this is what the site LiveScience wrote about it:

Quickly moving in with your honey may be the kiss of death for some couples. New research indicates that couples who move in together before they get engaged or married are less happy and less likely to stay together than couples who wait.

The researchers contend that couples who eventually get married after living together are armed with a double dose of arguments — those from the early relationship (like jealousy) and from the marriage (household chores and bills) — that eventually can tank the relationship.

“In lots of ways, moving in together makes sense; why wouldn’t you want to live together and test it out? But the process to test makes it harder to end the relationship,” which in turn makes it more likely that the unenthusiastic couple will just slide into an unhappy marriage, study researcher Galena Rhoades of the University of Denver told LiveScience. “We need to find some ways that couples can have that test without making it harder to break up.”

I know from personal experience that testing the waters of something like marriage that really isn’t can be catastrophic. But again, I wonder how many of the more than 1,200 couples surveyed were people of color. I also wonder how many of them are privileged enough to live on their own if their relationships don’t work out. As we all know, the wedding/marriage industry in this country is off the hook expensive, but then, so is courtship. Conservative Christians: 1, Secular paramours: 0.

Single Lady Books: Why You’re Not Married Yet by Tracy McMillan

From Tracy McMillan’s website

Updated, July 23, 2012:

It wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be.

  • Unlike some “dating experts,” Tracy McMillan is transparent about the fact that she was married a few times and divorced a few times.
  • I liked that she wrote from the perspective of a single mother of a boy, because I have no idea what that’s like, but I imagine that it would help you put things in perspective in the dating world.
  • There is so much spiritual stuff in the book. Advice about self-love and avoiding self-loathing and self-sabotage. Advice about women leaning into their feminine energy. Advice about being willing to welcome another person in your life. I was shocked. I literally had to glance at the cover a couple of times to make sure I was reading what I thought I was reading.
  • I learned not to judge writers based on the snippets of their writing and glimpses of their online presence before reading their whole manuscripts. I certainly don’t want that for my work, after all. Writers write for readers to read their work. So I’m thankful she wrote this and I’m glad I read it. If you pick it up, I’d be curious to hear what your thoughts were on the book.

 

From July 19, 2012

I have so many feelings about Tracy McMillan for a lady I’ve never met and didn’t think I even wanted to know.

What I’m learning from reading her book is that we might actually have a lot in common. And I don’t want to laugh, but she’s quite funny. And some of what she has to say is really helpful. Here’s an early overview of McMillan and her new book from SandraRose.com.

Why You’re Not Married opens with a quiz and a brief explanation of her three marriages in the 1980s, 90s and 2000s. She writes openly about her abandonment issues, spurred on by foster care. She writes convincingly about how raising her son has given her insight into how women can learn more about men so that if they want to get married, they can figure out how to be a better wife.

So that was the part that rubbed me the wrong way: I had the impression that she was offering advice to all single women everywhere about why they’re so unlovable. She’s actually targeting her advice, so that made me feel a little better.

“The bottom line is that marriage is just a long-term opportunity to practice loving someone even when you feel they don’t necessarily deserve it,” she writes. “And loving is always spiritual in nature — because people are flawed and it’s hard to love flaws.”

Noted. What follows are chapters that explain why a woman who wants to be married might still not be married. They include “You’re a bitch,” “You’re Shallow” and so-on. The bitchy chapter essentially says that men want to marry people who are nice to them and if you’re not nice, they won’t want to put a ring on it. Because “female anger terrifies men.” She says that being a bitch has become synonymous with being modern, but it’s really just when women are angry and they have tension around their mouths.  She also writes that “bitch energy” can be useful, but even if you’ve had a lot of therapy (check!) having boundaries really just means that you’re angry.

You know what her first tip is? My least favorite command in the universe. Smile!

I think she actually meant this and was not being sarcastic, by the way. Because sarcasm is the mark of an angry, single bitch. Allegedly.

My notes from the rest of this chapter include the suggestion that the best way to change bitch energy is to learn how to be sweet, because most guys want to marry a sweet person. And one way to be sweet and nice is to learn how to cook. Because cooking is nurturing.

OK, but what if you know how to cook and you smile and you’re still single? Well, apparently you have other problems that you’re in denial about. She outlines those later. I’m about halfway through the book.

I like the parts of the chapters that are subtitled “Spiritual Stuff that Will Help You Change.” That’s awesome. There’s some good advice in there. Like, some really good advice about learning forgiveness, letting go of anger and bitterness, learning how to reframe your story so that you’re not the victim and much more.

Then I got to the second chapter, entitled “You’re Shallow” and I had to take a break. I have never in life chosen to date a man based on what he had. I’ve gone so far in the opposite direction in my life that I ended up supporting men with less than I had to prove that I wasn’t shallow – to myself and others — even though I’m not rolling in the dough over here.

So I don’t know who these women are who have this problem, but according to McMillan, and Tyler Perry and every damn body else who targets women for dating advice, gold diggers are real, so I guess this is for them.

When I feel like I want more “get real, sister” advice, I’ll revisit the book and let you know how the rest of it turns out.

Mother Jones on the federal Healthy Marriage program: Thanks for nothing?

The age old relationship conundrum seems to be that if you were raised poor and out of wedlock (hey, that’s me), then it seems pretty likely that you’ll continue the cycle. Naturally, those of us who are products of either or both types of relationships don’t have to succumb to what our parents did or what our families once looked like. But if you don’t continue the cycle, it will be considered a miracle or a non-noteworthy accomplishment.

The point of the Healthy Marriage Initiative was to offer close to $100 million in federal funding to teach poor people how to be married so they would have better families and better lives, presumably. The only problem is that it doesn’t seem to be working. (Hat tip to Jezebel for this Mother Jones piece):

Launched during the Bush administration at the behest of evangelical Christian activists and with the aid of congressional Republicans, the federal Healthy Marriage Initiative was designed to help low-income couples put a little sizzle in their marriages and urge poor unmarried parents to tie the knot, in the hopes that marriage would enhance their finances and get them off the federal dole. Starting in 2006, millions of dollars were hastily distributed to grantees to further this poverty reduction strategy. The money went to such enterprises as “Laugh Your Way America,” a program run by a non-Spanish speaking Wisconsin minister who used federal dollars to offer ”Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage” seminars to Latinos. It funded Rabbi Stephen Baars, a British rabbi who’d been giving his trademarked “Bliss” marriage seminars to upper-middle-class Jews in Montgomery County, Maryland, for years. With the help of the federal government, he brought his program to inner-city DC for the benefit of African American single moms.

The marriage money was diverted from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program (formerly known as welfare), and much of it went to religious groups that went to work trying to combat the divorce rate in their communities by sponsoring date nights and romance workshops. In some cities, the local grantees used their federal funds to recruit professional athletes to make public service announcements touting the benefits of marriage. Women’s groups were especially critical of the marriage initiative, largely because it was the baby of Wade Horn, a controversial figure who Bush installed at HHS as the head of the Administration for Children and Families and the administration’s official “marriage czar.”

…Studies show that relationship classes can be helpful for white, middle-class couples, but when the federal government started dumping million of poverty dollars into marriage education, there was virtually no research on how such programs would fare with poor, inner-city single moms. Now, though, the data is in, and it doesn’t look good for proponents of taxpayer funded marriage education. This month, HHS released the results of several years of research about the performance of the marriage programs, and it indicates that the Bush-era effort to encourage Americans (straight ones, at least) to walk down the aisle has been a serious flop.

I have a few guesses about why this happened. As someone points out in the piece, if you don’t have the money to put a ring on it, you’re not likely to spend what little money you have on a relationship class. Also, relationships are hard work. Marriages are also extremely intense, from what I’ve heard. They need societal support to thrive – intact families beget intact families. And if you don’t own things, generally, there isn’t a huge cultural or even economic incentive for you to get married. I write a lot about women, obviously, so I’m talking about them mostly. But this also strikes me as being particularly true for men of color who are not wealthy or middle class.

Wait, so you want me to love on you AND clean all the things?

Whenever I think about love, I think about partnership and I envision what it would be like to be married.

Recently, I had a great conversation with a working writer and activist who is also a married mother. “I know how to be single and happy,” she said. “What I’m working on is learning how to be happy with another person.”

She still very much identifies with the struggles of singles who are considered infantile until they are partnered. And I had a lot of compassion for her and some of my other friends who are searching for models of partnered love that do not oppress women who also enjoy little luxuries like freedom and leisure. So, of course, reading things like this are pretty sobering:

Women are a growing part of the American workforce. In the last 25 years, the number of working women has grown by 44.2 percent, while 59.4 percent of working-age women are currently in the labor force. Sixty percent of women are the primary or co-bread winner for their household.

But despite those historic numbers, most women are still left doing the majority of the house work.

A new report out from the Bureau of Labor Statistics details how both men and women spend their days, and it comes as no surprise that women do a larger portion of the cooking, cleaning, laundry, and other chores:

On an average day, 19 percent of men did housework–such as cleaning or doing laundry–compared with 48 percent of women. Forty percent of men did food preparation or cleanup, compared with 66 percent of women.

The numbers can be in part explained by the women who don’t work or who have part-time jobs. But the disproportionate burden of housework on women shows that a “second shift” still exists for those who work. While women have earned more rights in the office place (though they still aren’t fairly paid for their work), there is still the burden for them to be the primary housekeepers and caretakers.

There are a dozen reasons why this is no bueno. The glorious benefit to being single, of course, is that I can leave the dishes dirty until it requires a power cleaner to get the hard spaghetti sauce off the plate from my intentional neglect. Underthings can hang from the ceiling fans if I want. No one will see it for days but me.

But the other thing that makes this a rough situation is that I want to take care of my partner, but I also don’t like to do free work. I don’t want the house to smell like the inside of a hamper, but that’s what Glade plug-ins are for. Relationships, I hear, are work. So is marriage. Maybe I’m too tired from the heat to see how this ends up being a good deal for women. Am I missing something?

When they only date white girls & other musings on interracial dating

The drawback of being a creative person is that sometimes you have a thought & it just will not leave your skull.

I have a good spidey sense, so I can usually tell when I meet a man who has been believing that Psychology Today hype about black women being mannish or whatever. Still, it’d be nice to have some kind of hand sign, T-shirt, or whatever that would separate the WODAWGS — Will Only Date A White Girl — from other potential suitors.

Taye Diggs. Still fine.

I’m about to start reading  Swirling: How to Date, Mate and Relate Mixing Race, Culture and Creed by Christelyn D. Karazin and Janice Rhoshalle Littlejohn, so the question of interracial dating has been on my mind. The book seems to be a guidebook for black women who date interracially, which has been a hot topic in most media focused on single black women.

Specifically, I noted that Ralph Richard Banks’ book, Is Marriage for White People? was the most recent work to remind black women to broaden their dating options:

Banks writes with acuity and directness about the costs of that loyalty to black women who are most negatively affected by man-sharing and its consequences. He also mentions the skewed online dating market, where white men basically exclude black women outright (through silence or an explicit preference not to date us). He also offers a more balanced, objective viewpoint of how black women basically keep themselves from finding happiness in interracial relationships. Banks’ central thesis is that by dating outside of the race and marrying outside of the race more often, black women may save black love.

The reason it would be helpful to know if people only date within their race, though, is because you can’t ever take for granted that you’re not being fetishized as a black woman. And all of this talk about black women trying to get chosen because they’re so desperate, unfortunately, builds the mythical case that if a single black man is within a 50 mile radius, the nearest single black woman will hunt him down & trap him, Black Widow style.

As if you can make someone who doesn’t want you or anyone who looks like you in the first place want to date you with the stench of desperation alone.

When I was younger, I had a very simplistic glare reserved for black men who only dated white women — as if it were a personal assault against my very existence. I think my internal rationale was: One less date for me and what is wrong with me, anyway?  instead of Um, you can have that one, I’m good.

I believed that the person you chose to be with was a reflection of what you desired in yourself. And I desired (and still desire) black men. But at some point, particularly when I lived on the West Coast, I was surrounded by so many black men who were dating outside of the race that I became immune to it and finally just accepted that grown folk are allowed to choose their own mates. Eventually,  the presence of black men who only dated white women to the exclusion of other races (particularly black women) stopped hopping on my last nerve.

That only happened, though, once realized that I had limited my options based on what they were when I was younger. I didn’t date white guys until I was out of college, and even then, only sporadically. When I ventured into interracial territory, let’s just say it wasn’t as smooth as Something New made it seem.

I thought a lot of white men in popular culture were hot (looking at you Richard Gere) but because I never saw images of them with black women (there were rare exceptions…Iman and David Bowie, for starters) somehow the concept of white men who found black women attractive  seemed…distant. The kicker? I was shocked to discover that random black men (usually the ones who didn’t date black women!) felt some kind of way about that. Apparently, they, too, had a gaze reserved for black women who dated outside the race.

News reports say that the number of people dating and marrying interracially is creeping up as the taboo associated with dating outside the race starts to fade:

About 24% of African-American males married outside their race in 2010, compared to 9% of African-American females. However, the reverse is true for Asians, where about 36% of females married outside their race compared to 17% of male newlyweds. And intermarriages for white and Hispanic people do not vary by gender, researchers found. Intermarriages also vary by region. In Western states, about one in five people, or 22%, married someone of a different race or ethnicity between 2008 and 2010. That drops to 14% in the South, 13% in the Northeast and 11% in the Midwest. Interracial dating services have also cropped up online, offering those looking for love an opportunity to find their preferred matches.

I only have anecdotal evidence. Among my friends, I would say four out of 5 of the married black women I know have partners who are not black. Most of my friends are a little on the maverick side, granted, but still. Those are pretty interesting statistics. I’m interested in hearing from y’all about your interracial dating experiences. If you only date a particular race, why is that? And if you date interracially, have you noticed that society has become more accepting? I’ll be back with a review of Swirling shortly.

I am not auditioning to be your wife & a counter to Tracy McMillan

Before dream hampton left Twitter, she dropped a couple of gems that stayed with me. The first was, and I’m paraphrasing, but it was the equivalent of:  Men on Twitter need to stop acting like we’re auditioning to be somebody’s girl.

Not that Bey had to audition for anything. She might’ve been married at this point.

Yes, I thought. And this is true in online spaces, generally. There is a line between appreciating a woman in cyberspace, just like in real life, and offering up what hampton brilliantly calls “intimate kites” on a regular basis.

When you are uncoupled and you write candidly about your experience, it opens you up to a lot of wonderful and a lot of weird.

Wonderful, because it is possible to have extensive, consistent and creative community with a larger number of people, not just the person you’re in a couple with. Weird because the Internet is as vast as the globe, and there are a lot of lonely people in it, seeking some kind of connection, wondering if your vulnerability and openness can help them fill a space that nothing else will (or has).

This idea that women in general, black women especially or even people in general who aren’t in relationships are essentially waiting to be chosen is infuriating. It presumes that the main value of your singledom is that it serves as a kind of purgatory between when you were born and when you’ll be in the safe container of a relationship. Gone are any real, thoughtful reflections of the fact that many of the mystics, prophets and great spiritual leaders of our time have not been in couples. Biblically, we can start with Jesus and add Paul. Beyond them, we can talk about Buddha and even the singular avatars of Hindu, Yoruban and other gods and goddesses.

But whatever single women do in real life or online is often viewed as performance. Because of the real and problematic history of black women in America, this is especially true for black women. Add to that the problematic side effect of reality television and media oversaturation and you have a recipe for people taking for granted the presence of women in their real or virtual space. They also take for granted that black women exist as avatars of entertainment, whether they are referring to black women who are real black women or representations of black women as characters (say, when someone like Tyler Perry acts as Madea).

Men make gestures. They are or are not prince charmings. End of line.

Women, though, audition. They are fighting over men that they’ve longed divorced, or they are fighting over men that they intend to marry, or they are fighting over men because it is considered hot to be attractive and well-dressed and fight over a man, whether they want him or not.

They might be waiting to get chosen. Or waiting for a meal.

It is a way of transposing passion for chaos, the most awkward way for us to ask another to love us. “Look at how much I love you! I was willing to pull that girl’s weave out. On TV.”

Anyway, I was reminded of this dynamic while I was thinking about Samhita Mukhopadhyay’s great book, Outdated: Why Dating is Ruining Your Love Life, which I highly recommended. She wrote a fantastic piece, by the way, posted on Jezebel today: Ten Very Good Reasons You’re Not Married Yet. I bet this part will resonate for those of us who are not auditioning for marriage:

6. You’ve got a life and friends that you are happy with.

If a dude shows up that’s cool, but you are not sweating it because every day is an awesome new adventure full of phone calls from loved ones, cupcakes, yoga classes and dance parties. You enjoy each minute, focus on the positive and when you are down (a symptom of life, not just single life) you have 500 friends to call, because you have spent time on all types of relationships, not just the kind that will lead to marriage. Friendship-the realest investment a lady can make.

The Grio on Call Tyrone & a pastor who says black women should stay single

Dreams really do come true, y’all… as long as you think like the right kind of man:

Call Tyrone offers a counter argument. What distinguishes it from other black dating books by men — and yes it is named after the Erykah Badu song — is Johnson’s suggestion that the single life within the church is a gift from God. Not a curse, but a blessing.

“First and foremost, [I] have a desire to inform and educate all women that they are precious and priceless in the sight of God,” he said. “Because of that, a woman shouldn’t lower herself in any way. In the book what I seek to do is exalt and extol the value of singleness; how it can be a gift of God [and] how it is a blessed gift. The Lord Jesus was single, and he was able to embrace his singleness and use it for the purpose of ministry. I also point to women in history who have given their lives in singleness and really thought to serve others. Singleness is something that the Bible really condones and promotes.”

Johnson also proudly asserts that Call Tyrone does not place the entire onus of African-American dating on the black woman. Johnson wants black men to share in their responsibility for creating the circumstances in which 55% of African-American women are unmarried — the highest rate of any race.

I was just talking to somebody about the classic status of Tyrone. This makes me not only want to buy this book but also play that song on repeat.

Single Lady Books: I Didn’t Work This Hard Just to Get Married

Cover image from Red Room

I’ll start with the positives, here. It’s spring. Why not?

Bella DePaulo wrote the foreword. She blogged about it at Psychology Today in 2009:

• My favorite theme running through the book: These single women are not alone. They have friends and family who are important to them, and they are quick to say so.
• My favorite “I can relate” quote comes from Sheila Bridges, interior designer for celebrities such as Sean Combs, Tom Clancy, and her Harlem neighbor, Bill Clinton: “I’ve had so many friends over the years that had a vision of walking down the aisle in the white gown – what the dress would look like, sketching it out – but I never had that.”
• My favorite statistic: “more than half of the fifty thousand kids placed in permanent homes in the United States were adopted by African American women without a spouse.”

Those thoughts jumped out at me, too, since I have friends who have adopted as a single moms. I know a lot of single women who never had the white gown, wedding-march dream, too.

Other good things: Beamon dispels the myth that a woman over 40 has a less than 20 percent chance of getting married. She writes that given recent demographic shifts, women in their forties actually have a much higher chance of getting married – as much as 65 percent. The women she interviews  are straightforward about both their loneliness and worry about dying alone (probably the most common worry) but they also are honest about the work and commitment involved in relationships. Since they know they’re not willing to make those commitments, they prioritize their family and friendships, their careers and their goals. That is not a bad thing.

Things that make me a little crazy about this book : I don’t like the use of the word “Sistah” with an ‘h.’ But I also feel condescended to when people start talking to me in the ‘hood speak they saw on a popular black sitcom in an attempt to be down. I appreciate erudition across race and class and gender. So, I get frustrated by this kind of language, with the caveat that I also sometimes find it endearing. I knew where she was going with that, but she had me at the title.

Speaking of that title…Generally — and this is not confined to Beamon’s book — I am not interested in an either or approach. The stories of single people, just like the stories of relationships, are nuanced. Those nuances get lost in a discussion where marriage has to be posited as undesirable or the Only Thing That Will Make A Woman Worthy in her Entire Life.

I’m somewhere in the middle, and some of the women in the book are, too. I don’t view marriage or my relationship status as the single most important defining characteristic of my life, but I also don’t think relationships are the scum of the earth and should be avoided like the plague. So, while I like the title and I’ve heard some people secretly express this sentiment, I think it’s disingenuous to poo-poo marriage just because you’re single. It feels like resentfully picking up all your toys from the sandbox and stomping out, mad because no one chose you, but telling your friends later that you left because you really wanted to play by yourself.

A Queer Black Feminist on the Black Marriage Debate

It was good for my soul to re-read this Racialicious post by Taja Lindley from December:

The question that keeps getting raised is: “Why can’t a Black woman understand, find and keep a man?”

Fundamentally I don’t have a problem with conversations about love and relationships. I have them all the time. What’s unfair about this question, and the conversation that follows, is what’s at stake because when single white women search for love, they get an HBO series (Sex and the City). But when unmarried Black women are approaching, at, or over the age of 30: it’s a crisis, it’s a catastrophe with severe consequences for the ENTIRE Black community, warranting late night specials on major television networks and talk shows dedicating entire segments to finding us a man.

The conversation always becomes “what’s wrong with Black women? “ and we get demonized as: unlovable, broken, undesirable, domineering, angry, aggressive, incompatible, uncompromising, too compromising, (in the words of Tyrese) too independent, possessing unrealistic expectations…and the list goes on.

Then here come Black-male-entertainers-turned-experts on their horses with shining armor to save the Black woman from herself! To save her from her own pathological destruction so she can do a better job of successfully creating and preserving the Black family. (Damn, that must be a lot of responsibility.)

It just feels good to know there are other people out there who see through the nonsense. Racialicious is a great place for that online, by the way. I probably spend too much time thinking about this, but Lindley gets to the heart of the matter really well:

Newsflash to all of the so-called experts: just because you have a platform through the entertainment industry doesn’t mean you’re an expert; it means you have an audience. And just because you have an audience doesn’t mean that everything that comes out of your mouth is right. And just because you have a dick doesn’t make you an expert on manhood. And even if you were an expert on manhood, it doesn’t make you an expert in relationships because not every woman is having (or interested in) a relationship with a man.

*GASP*

That’s right. I said it! And quite frankly, I’m one of them.

These conversations are frustratingly heteronormative. When you ask why Black women aren’t marrying men, it might be because I don’t want to. So let me queer this conversation right quick because this is the elephant in the room…

Women are having sex, and relationships, with other women, and as a queer woman of color, I know. So when I hear statistics of unmarried Black women I have to ask: Are these Black women even marrying age? Are they in relationships already? Did they just get their heart broken? Are they single by choice? And are they even heterosexual?!

Several years ago, when the editor of an anthology about black relationships and I had lunch, I mentioned to her that I liked her book, but I thought that maybe it was leaving out some folks. This was around 2004. It was a well-done book with a beautiful cover, a couple of friends and writers I admired had been included. But there were a number of essays about the tensions and frustrations of black people in relationships with one another, and they were all largely heterosexual with the exception of maybe one queer man.

I believe she chuckled and changed the subject. This happens all the time in the black community, so it makes sense that it happens in the world at large — the dismissal of queer lives and relationships because they fall outside of socially acceptable paradigms.

But black people having non-heteronormative relationships is not likely to go away anytime soon. The question is whether our culture will learn to open up the “dialogue” to incorporate the many different narratives and relationship scenarios available to women, especially black women. I’ve been thinking about this a lot because Viola Davis is soon to play Barbara Jordan in a biopic. I do wonder how the movie will treat the late, admired senator’s longtime relationship with Nancy Earl? Jordan is like at least half a dozen women of color in public life who kept her sexuality out of the public eye — probably for good reason. But I wonder what the long term cost will be for not including LGBT people in this discussion of relationships, the single life and dating. My guess is that it’s not good for anybody.

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