We all know that Jumping the Broom, (for showtimes click here) the latest black movie/extended sitcom is coming out this Friday and will likely score big at the box office as Moms drags the whole family to see it opening night for her extended mother’s day weekend gift (when she’s not looking I’m going to switch tickets and take my mother to Thor).
However the premiere of this film will also inevitably bring up the never ending, often wrong headed discussions of the state of marriage in the black community. In the interest of time, common sense and to make you sound smarter in the hour long discussions of black love that will follow this film, I humbly submit the top four myths about black marriage in America and what you ought to be saying to stop them.
Myth #1: Black People Don’t Get Married
I am tempted to throw hammers at the computer screen every time I see a column quote the famous line “Marriage is For White People”. A statement made by one kid, in one article in the Washington Post years ago, about marriage.
Somehow this statement has become a sociological fact in discussions about African American marriages despite the fact that it is attributed to a kid. The truth is that African Americans do actually get married and at a fairly regular clip. Have marriage rates gone down? Of course they have for black people and everyone else, however African Americans were the only demographic group to post stable marriage rates over the last 10 years. While only 30 percent of African American adults are married, that number didn’t change from 2000 to 2010 while other groups, Whites, Asians, and Latinos marriage rates declined. Bet you won’t hear that one the next Black in America special.
Myth #2: Black Men Are All After White Women
This is my favorite myth since it is so pernicious despite having no real basis in fact or demographics. And just to keep it honest and real, we’re talking about marriage here, not sex and not dating. Ask most married men or women and they will tell you that there is a distinct difference between the people you slept with, the people you dated and the person you actually ended up marrying.
While interracial sex is popping off non-stop (for black men AND women) interracial marriage is still rare. While black men marry interracially twice as often as black women (12 to about 6 percent) the vast majority of black men who are married (88 percent) are married to black women according to the 2010 census. In fact the 12 percent of black men who are married to non-African American women represents only about a 6 percent increase over the last 40 years.
In other words that stampede for Amy that Essence Magazine is trying to sell you just ain’t happening.
Myth #3: Black Women are single because they don’t “Expand their Dating Options”
This myth is simply another in a long line of white supremacist myths that get twisted and turned until black people unwittingly start using them on each other. Every few months you’ll hear some black woman on the radio or some black male comedian say that black women are ‘alone’ because they don’t expand their dating options out of some anachronistic race loyalty to black men. It’s almost as if some people believe that by dating outside your race you’re ‘getting back’ at all of those black men who are doing it.
First let’s get one thing clear, black women are no pickier about their dating preferences than women of any other race. Studies of both on-line and real life dating have shown that all women, except for Asians, prefer to date men within their own race if asked and given the opportunity. Why? Because Black women, like all women prefer to date with an eye towards marriage, and your chances of getting married are higher amongst your own race than outside of it. The fact is because of the legacy of racism and sexual exploitation of black women in America many sistas are justifiably skeptical of the advances of non-black men. Who wants to be someone else’s “Brown Eyed Girl” experiment? However just because a White, Latino, Arab or Asian man might have to step their game up to get a black women’s attention is not the same thing as black women refusing to ‘expand their options.’ It’s called having standards, something that no other group of women is criticized for having.
Moreover, of African American women who do get married 94 percent of them marry African American men according to the 2010 census. The highest number of interracial marriages between black women and non black men occurred in 2008 so it’s not like black women are sitting alone and not meeting and marrying whomever they like. The key to this dynamic is choice, both on the part of men and women. The fact is that African American women are chosen less by just about every demographic group of men in both on-line and real life dating studies.
Most African American women if approached by an attractive sincere man of another color would give him the time of day – at least for a date – it’s just that usually he’s not asking.
Myth #4: Our Best and Brightest always Chose “Others” over us
Like Kanye said “And when he get on he’ll leave yo ass for a white girl.” No matter how much factual evidence is presented about the state of black marriage people will inevitably go back to their anecdotal arguments about this famous person that’s going out like Kanye says. I call this the “What about Taye Diggs” argument (also known as the “What about Garcelle Beauvis, Alisha Tyler, or Zoe Saldana” argument).
This one doesn’t really hold up either.
African Americans continue to chose each other as marriage partners no matter the socioeconomic status. Look at the NBA All Star Teams in 2010, that’s a pretty hefty group of elites and they’re athletes so of course they’re supposed to all chose white girls, Brazilians and Asians right? Wrong. Out of the 23 African American players that were married 20 were married to black women. That’s 86 percent for those of you who are counting, and that number has been steady for the last 10 years of players. And we aren’t talking scrubs here, we’re talking Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Allen Iverson. Heck D-Wade left his black wife for ANOTHER black woman.
If anything the “Best and Brightest” argument would apply more to women than to men. Amongst all interracial marriages between blacks and whites 74 percent are Black male/White female and 25 percent are Black female/White male. However as you start to go up the socioeconomic ladder, once you hit families with a joint income of over $200,000 a year the percentage of Black female/White male marriages increases to 50 percent of all interracial black/white marriages. Translation: Black men will marry white women whether they’ve got a million dollars or two nickels in their pockets, but white men only tend to marry black women when they’re both rich. And bear in mind BOTH of these marriage scenarios represent only a small portion of black marriages overall.
Ultimately, Jumping the Broom isn’t a sociological treatise, it’s a movie geared towards making people smile and taking cash out their pockets. Along the same lines the “Marriage Gloom and Doom” industry is a for profit enterprise as well, banking on fears amongst black women and men that there is no one out there for them and that we as a people are somehow not interested in the marriage game. Hopefully now you know a little better, and might realize that the scenario presented in Jumping the Broom isn’t fantasy, for many African Americans is a long standing and durable reality.
This article originally appeared in TheLoop21.com under the headline “Jumping the Broom to Conclusions: 4 Myths About Black Marriage.”