Black women are less likely than any other racial group to get married. It’s a news item that has appeared so many times, the target audience can recite the damning stats by heart:
Black women are more educated than black men.
Black men’s arrest and incarceration rates keep them out of the marriage market.
Black women are two times less likely than black men to date outside their race.
Black women are so desperate for black male companionship, they’d rather “marry down”—someone outside their economic and educational level—than out.
The latest entry in this well-worn trope is an Al Jazeera America video that takes a passing glance at the factors that keep black women single longer than their counterparts of other races. But with each regurgitated stat and interview with a black women reduced to her relationship status, we grew more and more annoyed.
Black women as unlovable spinsters is just another damning and hurtful stereotype, up there with welfare queen, jezebel, and mammy, a symptom of the strong black woman myth.
“It is part of a persistent historical and present-day attack on black people in America, with black men made into deviants and black women into problems,” wrote Angela Stanley in a 2011 New York Times op-ed titled “Black, Female, Single,” which dispelled the incorrect and oft-repeated stat that 70% of black women don’t marry.
While everyone is getting married later these days, only black women are presented as the ones the media really wants us to worry about. The subtext of these stories? Not much has changed since the infamous 1965 Moynihan report “The Negro Family: The Case For National Action,“ which asserts among other things that the lack of a male-led black nuclear family has created a “tangle of pathology” in the black community. Again, black women are to blame. Again, black women are unworthy and flawed.
Don’t get us wrong: The issues surrounding the purported marriage gap (income inequality, the prison industrial complex, educational attainment) are very real and worth delving into. But this will be the last time we click on a headline that exploits these stereotypes without regard for whom they hurt.