The hysteria that Black men are bypassing Black women in favor of White women has been around for decades, and recent photo collages, or Internet memes, have reinforced this idea.
One meme has a photo with Black actors Terrence Howard, Taye Diggs, and Harold Perrineau, who all starred in the movie “Best Man Holiday.” The caption reads, “Black women be like: I want a man just like one of the guys from Best Man Holiday.”
In the film, the characters that the three men portray are with Black women, but the bottom photo of the meme shows all three of them with their White wives. The bottom caption reads, “It’s only a movie baby girl.”
That meme has sparked many online debates where Black men and Black women have argued over why so many Black men are marrying White women. But is that belief really true?
“It’s a lie. It’s an absolute lie,” said Darryl James, an award-winning author and relationship coach. “That’s the reality of it, when you look at the pure numbers, not what people see on TV, not what they see when they are walking around in their communities, but just pure numbers.”
According to the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau, only seven percent of married Black men are married to White women. Four percent of are married to Hispanic women, and three percent to other races. The other 86 percent of married Black men are with Black women.
“That’s not just a simple majority; that’s overwhelming majority,” James said. “That means that we’re marrying Black women. The number of us who are not, that number is almost negligible.”
If 86 percent of married Black men are married to Black women, then where did this notion that Black men are with White women come from?
“It came from a number of people who wanted to be able to say Black women aren’t getting married,” James said. “We were seeing these articles in Essence, on CNN, and ABC was doing specials. In order to say that Black women aren’t getting married, they had to create some hype. They had to be able to say that ‘they’re not getting married because of blah blah blah blah blah.’ But none of those stories ever say what the numbers are. They just say ‘oh, it’s White women; oh, Black men are in prison; oh, they’re gay; they don’t have jobs.”
The storyline that Black men are going after White women dates back to slavery and segregation, when there was a scare that ‘savage’ Black men would hunt down and rape White women. Couple that with White women being viewed as the ideal female in American culture, and it is easy to see how this notion was created. And Black people have bought into it, said James.
“There has always been anti-Black propaganda,” James said. “So it’s the media that’s figured out a way to make it look like we’re just bad people. And as a people, we haven’t done anything to counteract it (that image). We just accept it, and pass it on.”
This issue, has been debated so much for such a long period of time, it is as if the issue has been spoken into existence, contends James.
“We’ve got to stop dealing with hype,” James said. “And we’ve got to get to the point where we just deal with reality. And reality is what the Census says; what the Bureau of Labor Statistics says. We have to look at people who deal with numbers, and stop dealing with what people say and what people think. Because that’s just not real.”
This issue may be a real thing, when it comes to celebrities and high-profile people, but that should not make it a racial epidemic, points out James.
“If you want to add up all the Black athletes—football, basketball, baseball … hockey, and you add up the Black entertainers, rappers, singers, and all the actors and actresses, you put all those people together, and you don’t even have 500 people,” James said. “And the Census found 47 million Black people (45 million according to the 2014 Census) (in America). What happens is that, not just Black people, but Americans rely too heavily on what entertainers are doing. They look at what entertainers are doing, and they assume that it has some implications on the rest of the world. And it just doesn’t.”
“We look at Kanye West (married to Kim Kardashian) or Lamar Odom (married to Khloe Kardashian), and we pretend like they represent some huge portion of the Black population,” James continued. “They just don’t.”
While Black male celebrities are seen with White spouses, the people who create the Internet memes could have easily made those same pictures showing Black male celebrities with Black spouses.
“Why not look at Denzel Washington, Samuel Jackson, or Will Smith,” James said. “These are brothers who are powerful, famous, and married to Black women. If you go hunting for something negative, that’s what you’re going to find. That doesn’t mean that’s reality. That’s just what you were looking for, and you found it. When you’re trying to make a negative statement, you start from a negative or deficit perspective. And then you go backwards and find everything negative and state it in negative ways.”
Even with this issue being what amounts to a myth, the reality is that Black women today are more likely to be unmarried than at any other time over the past 120 years, James said. According to the 2010 Census, roughly 25 percent of Black women over the age of 35 have never been married. Between 1890 and 1970, that stat hovered areound 5 to 7 percent. The numbers for Black men have followed a similar rise.
One explanation for the rise is the war on drugs, according to a chart on the website Blackdemographics.com. In 1971, President Richard Nixon declared the War on Drugs. In 1984, President Ronald Reagan signed the Sentencing Reform Act, and in 1986 he signed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act. Research showed that was followed by a steep rise in Black men going to prison, and there was also a similar rise in men over the age of 35 who were never married. According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, there were 841,000 Black males in prison in 2009.
But James does not believe that there is a strong link between the two stats.
“While that’s a lot of people going to prison, that’s really not a lot of us,” James said. “In order for it to be a huge number; for it really to make a difference in the lives of Black women, who are trying to get married, it would have to be at least 10 million (incarcerated).”
There are roughly 22 million Black males in the United States.
“I point that out, because I think this whole absence of ‘good Black men’ is a hoax,” James said.
He believes there are other issues that have contributed to Black women being unwed at the highest rates in the past 100 years.
“We have more of a commuter society,” James said. “People are moving to different places, dealing with cultures that don’t match up. And people are delaying marriage. Black women, in the late 1980s, started to delay marriage and family for career. Those are the women who are now in their 40s, who didn’t get married, who didn’t have children. Those are the ones who are moaning about not being able to find a man. But they’re just not the majority. They’re just loud,” said James.
What ever the reason for the increase of unwed Black women, it certainly is not because Black men are pursuing White women.