FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Debate from the Council on Contemporary Families: Scholars respond to a marriage proposal regarding interracial marriage and African-American women
Chicago, IL, August 30, 2011-In a discussion paper prepared for the Council on Contemporary Families, based on his forthcoming book, Is Marriage for White People? How the African American Marriage Decline Affects Everyone, Stanford Law Professor Ralph Richard Banks challenges conventional responses to the black marriage decline and offers a provocative, demography-based recommendation for how Black women's intermarriage can counteract the trend. His discussion paper is available here.
Background. Rates of marriage in the United State have declined substantially in the past 50 years, but the decline has occurred at different speeds, with differing causes and consequences in different groups. Up through the mid-20th century, the marriage rates of blacks and whites were approximately equal. During the past half century, however, African Americans have become the least married people in our nation, and many scholars argue that this rapid decline has affected the quality of personal relationships in the African-American community, especially for women. Among those scholars is Professor Banks.
Banks emphasizes the extent to which high rates of incarceration and job-market discrimination against black men contribute to this imbalance. But he also argues that the long-term social, economic, and political disadvantages black men have experienced in the culture at large have ironically given them a short-run advantage in their relations with black women, by creating a scarcity of marriageable men at all income and educational levels. He then focuses on the reactions of black women to this scarcity and suggests a controversial strategy to remedy the imbalance.
Researchers' Responses. CCF has collected responses from prominent scholars of race, marriage, sexuality, and social policy. Their commentaries are previewed here; full texts and contact information and can be found here.
Sociologist Micere Keels (University of Chicago) offers evidence that black women are not the ones rejecting interracial matches. She also argues: "telling black women to 'marry out' rather than 'marry down' ignores the fact that women of all racial and ethnic groups are outpacing their male counterpoints in educational attainment. The only viable solution for black women's low likelihood of marriage is to correct society's failure to educate all our boys". Sociologist Shirley Hill (Kansas University) adds that Banks "puts a lot of responsibility on women, implying that African-American parents (mostly mothers) are not properly socializing their sons and that women in the broader community (e.g., girlfriends) must take up the task." Belinda Tucker (UCLA) reports on her own survey data on marriage preferences and practices, suggesting that black women's experience with white men's sexual and beauty attitudes explains their mistrust of interracial marriage: "changing preferences and perceptions is no simple matter. It just might be easier to address the circumstances that have created and maintained the shortage of economically viable Black men." But sex researcher Pepper Schwartz (University of Washington) thinks that beauty standards are changing in ways that benefit black women. Other responses address the strong points of black husbands, trends in interracial dating, the challenges of raising biracial children, and the how interracial lesbian couples differ from heterosexual ones." Full texts of these responses and contact information for sources are available here.
About CCF: The Council on Contemporary Families is a non-profit, non-partisan organization of family researchers, mental health and social practitioners, and clinicians dedicated to providing the press and public with the latest research and best practice findings about American families. It was founded in 1996 and is based at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
For more information, or to receive future fact sheets and briefing papers from the Council, contact Stephanie Coontz, Director of Research and Public Education of CCF and Professor of History and Family Studies at The Evergreen State College. firstname.lastname@example.org; 360-352-8117.
CCF Discussion Paper Marriage Proposal Banks
CCF Marriage Proposal Symposium of Responses
CCF Release Marriage Proposal Banks
A 5-Part Teleseminar Series for Academics, Clinicians, and Anyone Else Who Wants to Learn How to Get the Media to Cover You and Your Topic!
CCF is a volunteer organization whose busy professionals contribute their time and expertise gratis. Click here to support our mission by making a donation to CCF. Your contributions will help to fund our annual conferences and publicize our research briefings.