Khalid Scott's Reviews > Is Marriage for White People?: How the African American Marriage Decline Affects Everyone

Is Marriage for White People? by Ralph Richard Banks
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Jun 08, 12

As a professional social worker and amateur writer, I can honestly state that at first, I wasn’t really sure how to begin my review of this very emotionally-driven book. When I first read the title, Is Marriage for White People? How the African American Marriage Decline Affects Everyone, I was instantly offended as a married African American male; but I was also intrigued, and that's what motivated me to read this book in a course of two days—it's quite a page-turner!
Let me start off by giving you a synopsis: Stanford law professor Ralph Richard Banks (an African American middle-class family man) has spent recent years gathering in-person interviews, statistical information, and other resources to compile a nonfiction manuscript of how the “trend” of blacks not marrying and/or divorcing is on the rise. Throughout the entire book, Banks discusses how the future of happily married black men and women looks bleak. He covers a spectrum of issues that include interracial dating and marriages, arranged marriages, legalities of marriage, the effects on black children, middle class versus the poor, the (black) man shortage issue, and finally, how to save black marriage.
As I read each of the eleven chapters that make up this book, I was hoping to read data that would assist support ways in which black men and women could come together and create loving and strong family units. As I read some of the statistics in the book—that the highest earning black men are more than twice as likely as their white counterparts to never marry, or that black middle-class families are poorer than their white counterparts—I started to feel very uncomfortable and hopeless.
In my opinion, Professor Banks may have listened to too many disgruntled black women and not enough of happily married black women and men! It started to feel one-sided and for me, when you take on this subject matter, one should be as unbiased as possible. Now don't get me wrong: when reading the testimonies of his interviewees, I thought about the bad male/female relationships amongst my family and friends. But almost simultaneously, I thought about the successful relationships that I knew. I know that as a reviewer I should have stayed neutral, but how could I as a married black man myself? Especially as one who is doing his absolute best to raise a brilliant and beautiful black daughter to not only be able to hold her own in the world, but to also show her that when she does become a partner in a loving relationship, she needs to be able to find her place of balance—for me, that’s the key of a successful relationship!
In assessing the strengths of this book, Banks did a great job of looking at statistics to formulate his hypothesis. He showed evidence of the mixed marriage theory which entails a marriage based on class (i.e., a woman with one or two degrees and makes six figures who is married to a man without a higher education degree and makes considerably less). He showed how these types of mixed marriages are doomed from the get-go because it goes against the societal premise of gender roles.
However, as an optimistic reader who wants to know how to ensure that black men and women have successful relationships/marriages, this book left me feeling pessimistic. By the book’s end, Bank states: "If Black women don't marry because they have too few options, and some black men because they have too many, then black women, by opening themselves to interracial marriage, could address both problems at once. For black women, interracial marriage doesn't abandon the race, it serves the race."
I had to force myself to understand his point which, in laymen’s term, is this: Because black men feel that it's 10 (women) to 1 (us) out here, then we get to be arrogant fools and lead women on; but if black women become “extinct” by marrying non–black men, then this will make black men step up our game, and then too will black women marriage stats go up. I think Banks missed the mark on this assumption. My answer, if he would have interviewed me, would be that us black men and women need to assess and write treatment plans on ourselves, start healing, become whole people individually, and then when that happens, our relationships will be more progressive, positive, and purposeful. Happiness starts internally and works itself outwardly!
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message 1: by TBooker (new) - added it

TBooker Interesting interpretation. I think we should consider no-one is perfect & people who unequally balanced in their personal views on how a healthy relationship should operate yet very much feel they are "good men" and "good women". So the successful Black male womanizer may not feel unwhole or unhealed because he has done what he has needed to do to be a "good marriage material man". I think it's more of a pride issue. Problem is people who have this issue can't see their pride and how it's affecting their relationships.

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