Two of the most powerful positions in the United States government will soon be occupied – for the first time – by black women: Kamala Harris and Ketanji Brown-Jackson. Harris, as we all know, is the vice president of the United States and Brown-Jackson could soon be one Supreme Court Justice.
But Harris and Brown-Jackson also share a personal trait that’s just as notable: each has a white husband.
This fact is significant. The effects of racism have left well-educated black women with a shortage of black male partners: According to Brookings Institute data, black men are less likely than black women to have graduated from high school, and the likelihood that they have is 50 percent lower earned a four-year college degree. But despite the lack of suitable Black partners, black women were also the least likely of all minority groups to marry outside their race, according to data from black women the Pew Research Center.
Instead of working with men of other races, many straight black women either do not marry or marry with black men which they don’t go very well together. And these mismatched relationships contribute to the fact that African Americans have the highest divorce rate of any racial group (actually, black women are the only population having a higher divorce rate than marriage rate).
A little over a decade ago I published a book: “Is marriage for white people?‘ which examined the decline of marriage in American society, and particularly among African Americans, and focused specifically on the plight of black women. The book raises the possibility that black women — like Harris and Brown-Jackson — would do well to open up to dating non-black men. Finally, black men seem to have no problem marrying: The same Pew report revealed that they are twice as likely as black women to have a non-black spouse.
My book sparked considerable controversy and exposed rifts within black America. While younger people seemed to be more open to interracial relationships, one black woman old enough to be my mother told me I was “a disgrace to my race.”
But the most significant gap was between black men and women. While some black women were uncomfortable with the book and the way it put them in the spotlight, many others embraced its message of empowerment. That was a message not all black men wanted to hear. At one of my book talks in Washington DC, I feared a fight would ensue between a young black woman demanding her right to choose the man she wanted and an older black man who would see such feelings as a betrayal of the race condemned.
Other critics, including some black women, claimed that white racism prevented black women from finding non-black mates. And this convinced many black women that they cannot (or should not) work with a non-black man, even if the alternative was to remain single or in a bad relationship. As a result, many black women feel they should “marry” before they “marry out.”
I explained in the book why black women should not be pressured into sacrificing their own chances of happiness out of misplaced loyalty to black men. Black women should also feel obligated to non-black men under the pretense of advancing the race. If the price of racial solidarity is a bad intimate relationship, then the cost is too high. Black women should not be held hostage to black men’s struggles.
While race can provide a basis for compatibility, race itself cannot sustain just one relationship. And there are many compatibility bases other than race. The increased rate of interracial marriage among black women—from just 3 percent in 1980 to 12 percent in 2017, according to the Pew Research Center – also reflects their increasing autonomy in choosing partners who best serve them. You shouldn’t have to apologize or feel guilty about it.
Little has been discussed in the media or culture about the white partners of prominent black women like Harris or Brown-Jackson, and I hope this reflects the increasing societal acceptance of such partnerships. If so, then black women can enjoy the relationship freedom they deserve.
Ralph Richard Banks is the Jackson Eli Reynolds Professor of Law at Stanford Law School and co-founder and faculty director of the Stanford Center for Racial Justice.
https://nypost.com/2022/04/01/why-more-black-women-should-consider-marrying-white-men/ Why More Black Women Should Consider Marrying White Men