Monday, January 16, 2012

It's not "defensiveness"--Why we challenge "the black marriage crisis" narrative

In Sunday’s New York Daily News, Ralph Richard Banks, author of Is Marriage for White People?, hit back at those who question “the black marriage crisis,” branding critics “defensive,” saying:
They dismiss the shortage of marriageable black men as a myth and the marriage decline as an overhyped nonproblem, the discussion of which is depicted, as one New York Times essay put it, as “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.” 
That’s just one example among many hostile reactions to my recently published book, “Is Marriage for White People? How the African-American Marriage Decline Affects Everyone.” Some commentators, without even reading the book, have characterized me as self-hating, if not outright racist. 
No wonder some whites too are hesitant to venture onto the terrain of race and marriage. 
Banks ends his commentary by calling on the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. and imploring that we “have the courage to look unflinchingly at societal trends that some others would prefer not to acknowledge.”

I found Banks’ article uncharitable and frustrating. He dismissed very real criticisms of the way the media talks about black relationships and marriage and alluded that black folks would rather watch communities fail than air the dirty laundry of high incarceration rates and success gaps between black men and women. This, in my observation, simply isn’t true. What critics like myself are hesitant to buy into is the sexist and racist framing of cultural shifts surrounding marriage.


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