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Is Marriage For White People?

Publication Date: 
September 01, 2011
Newsweek - The Daily Beast (Book Beast)
Jessica Bennett

Professor Rick Banks discusses his new book "Is Marriage for White People? How the African American Marriage Decline Affects Everyone" with Newsweek's Jessica Bennett and explains why he thinks it's time "for black women to stop being held hostage to the deficiencies of black men."

A controversial new book suggests that interracial marriage may be a solution for middle-class African-American women who can’t find a suitable black husband. Jessica Bennett talks to author Ralph Richard Banks.


Meet Audrey Jones. She is 39, attractive, and multilingual. She’s got a big job—at a multinational consulting company in Washington—but not a big ego. She’s funny, thoughtful and smart.

There’s just one thing missing from Audrey’s life: a husband. “At this point, I thought I’d be married with children,” she says. “I’m trying to get to a point where I accept that marriage may never happen for me.”


... in a new book, Is Marriage for White People?: How the African American Marriage Decline Affects Everyone, Stanford law professor Ralph Richard Banks takes on the black middle-class: women who are outpacing their male peers to a degree more pronounced than in any other racial group.

These aren’t women who’ve chosen independence over coupling up—though there are of course those who do, Banks says—but accomplished women who are too successful to find a black man of their caliber but unwilling to lower their standards for a so-called “blue-collar brother” that could widen the dating pool. These women are more likely to be celibate than any other group in America, and more than twice as likely as their white counterparts to remain childless. “For these women,” writes Banks, “being single is not a freedom they embrace so much as a condition they manage.”

The title for Banks’s book comes from a 2006 Washington Post article, in which “Marriage is for white people” flew from the mouth of a 12-year-old student, in a discussion about the importance of fatherhood. Though it might more accurately be called, “Why Middle-Class Black Women Should Marry White,” it was an anecdote that got Banks thinking. In an economy where women are thriving—and desirable black men are scarce—why do black women stay so loyal to black men?

Black women now receive twice as many bachelor’s degrees as black men; they also are more likely than any other ethnic group to be better educated than their husbands. Marrying down is fine, but why not liberate yourself from the confines of race and date outside the pool? “It’s time for black women to stop being held hostage to the deficiencies of black men,” Banks says. “They should emancipate themselves and not feel as if they have no option but make the best of this bad situation. Black women have been taking one for the team for a long time.”