Marriage: Black Brothers, Where Art Thou?

A man putting a wedding band on a woman's ring finger. i i

Pre-Wedding Jitters? Statistics show that many accomplished black women are not able to find husbands. Why aren't black men asking? iStockphoto hide caption

itoggle caption iStockphoto
A man putting a wedding band on a woman's ring finger.

Pre-Wedding Jitters? Statistics show that many accomplished black women are not able to find husbands. Why aren't black men asking?

iStockphoto

Can a white Prince Charming sweep a black woman off her feet? Essayist Monique Fields weighs in. On the other side of the fence, Sam Sanders calls on black men to step up and start talking.

Tanya Ballard Brown, a digital news editor for NPR.org, is a black woman married to a black man.

One day late last month, I powered up my laptop and pulled up my Google reader to find post after post about what some of the bloggers I follow had decided was the latest in a growing assault on successful single black women: this ABC News Nightline piece exploring the low marriage rate in the African-American community.

Watch it and you'll see a group of attractive, well-groomed ladies — an attorney, a chemist, a doctoral student, a payroll specialist — discussing what they perceive as their lack of marriage options. The reporter cites this statistic: "Forty-two percent of U.S. black women have never been married, double the number of white women who've never tied the knot."

This report followed a Dec. 10 story in The Washington Post and one a few months earlier from MSNBC about the dwindling marriage prospects for black women. We discussed it here at NPR in September, UPI had its version in August, CNN covered it last year, and Oprah tackled it in 2007.

But the Nightline piece seemed to be the last log on a bonfire for some of the bloggers I read, many of whom also questioned why thrice-married comedian Steve Harvey was called on to offer relationship advice.

I won't speculate on that last point; and no one seemed to address the fact that some of the 42 percent of never-married black women may not want to be married or may want to be married to a woman. But as I read the stories and posts, I saw a pattern: Black women who have achieved much should adjust their expectations in terms of what they want in a husband. They say we're too picky; we want too much; we overlook good, hardworking brothers. Maybe.

But all this made me wonder about the other side of the story: What do black men say about why they aren't marrying black women?

Is it because they've heard over and over again the statistic that there are more single black women than men? Do they figure, why settle down when they can keep shopping right up until the last minute?

Are they afraid of commitment?

Are they putting off marriage until they have their careers and finances in order?

Tanya Ballard Brown, a digital news editor for NPR.org, is a black woman married to a black man. Courtesy of Troy Witcher hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy of Troy Witcher

Do they feel they just can't compete with the black women they are most attracted to?

Is it because marriage hasn't been presented to them as something that will benefit them?

Have they decided not to limit themselves to one race?

Or is it something else altogether?

Whatever is keeping black men from popping the question to black women, they should not stand by and let black women take all of the blame — and struggle for solutions. There are two people in a relationship, and it takes two people to make it work.

Rather than query the black men I know, I call on black men everywhere to tell us down in the comments why you aren't married, why you won't marry, or why you decided to get married. Let's hear it — we're long overdue for new insight.

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