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New Book Sparks Debate On How Unwed Trend Among Blacks 'Affects Everyone'

Publication Date: 
November 03, 2011
The Washington Times
Cheryl Wetzstein

Professor Rick Banks' new book, "Is Marriage for White People? How the African American Marriage Decline Affects Everyone" is reviewed below by Cheryl Wetzstein of the Washington Time.

An unwed birthrate of 70 percent. Statistically low marriage rates and statistically high divorce rates. For an entire population - from low-income to high-income.

If these statements paint an accurate portrait of black men and women in America today, they raise the question, "Is marriage for white people?" And that's what Stanford Law School professor Ralph Richard Banks is asking in a provocative new book that has sparked a national conversation on relationships, marriage and race.


"African-Americans have become the most unmarried people in our nation," Mr. Banks wrote in, "Is Marriage for White People? How the African American Marriage Decline Affects Everyone."


There's no need for black women to ignore "the other 87 percent" of men in the country, especially when black men and everyone else freely marry "out," Mr. Banks said. Moreover, if black women weren't such a captive pool for black men, he added, it might even inspire more of the brothers to "put a ring on it," as singer Beyonce famously suggested.


Mr. Banks has some ready replies to concerns about his "marry out" suggestion. Black women, for many reasons, have seemed to be willing to marry "down" - to a black man with less education or a lower-earning occupation - but not "out," said Mr. Banks.


So what is left is a scenario where black men - particularly those with higher education degrees and secure careers - take full advantage of their relative scarcity in the "market." This inequality lets black men be the "deal-makers" and black women the "deal-takers" in relationships, Mr. Banks said during a recent appearance at the Institute for American Values, co-hosted by retired Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Leah Sears Ward.

It is also leading to "an epidemic of singledom" for black women, he added.

Mr. Banks is already working on a new book about boys and gender gaps, to keep the conversation going.