The Scarcity of Marriageable Black Men: An Honest Analysis

In a recent ABC News story five successful, attractive, and well-educated Black women lamented the fact that they were not yet married and had no upcoming prospects for marriage (see video below).  The reporter went on to review a few well-documented Black marriage statistics, in what always seems like an attempt to paint a bleak, desolate picture for Black families as hopeless, archaic relics that can only be seen in a metropolitan museum somewhere. The numbers break down something like this:

  • 42% of Black women have never been married (more than twice the rate of White women)
  • There are almost 2 million more Black women in the U.S. than there are Black men
  • Only 54% of Black men are “marriageable,” meaning they are neither imprisoned, gay, uneducated, unemployed, or dead (being alive is probably first on most people’s “ideal mate” lists)

These numbers are nothing new. Coltrane and Collins (2000) were writing about “Black matriarchy” 10 years ago in their textbook, Sociology of Marriage and the Family. William Julius Wilson offered several explanations for the decline of the Black family 20 years ago (1987) in The Truly Disadvantaged. And 45 years ago the infamous Moynihan Report, written by Senator Daniel Moynihan, offered what was probably the first report on America’s “scarcity” of Black males. If you want stats, any of these will fuel you with enough info to carry an informed conversation.

My aim isn’t to give you more stats, but rather some missing analysis. I’ve been saying for several years now that Black women face the most discrimination in America while Black men face the worst. In other words, Black women have to contend with discrimination that’s race, gender, and often class-based. And while Black men don’t have to war against gender-discrimination, they do face an unparalleled level of racial and often times class-discrimination. Gender, as we know, is a critical variable in our obviously patriarchal society. The same Collins and Coltrane book referenced earlier will tell you that for every $1 a man earns, a woman with comparable education and experience can only expect to make about .77 cents doing the exact same job. Marry that with the fact that women and their bodies are blatantly objectified, molested, ruled upon by law, and turned into commodities (or “commodified”) every hour of every day, and as men we begin to get a sense of how much women must carry underneath their headwraps. This alone should make us all want to go kiss and encourage our mothers, wives, and sisters.

As men, however, Black males have historically been considered a greater “threat” to the American power structure. American history is laden with systematic attempts to “eliminate” the Black man’s physical presence or ability to compete. The Ku Klux Klan was started in 1865, as slavery was ending and Black males were gaining political rights. The “Black Wall Street” race riots of 1921 took place in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a city where Black males were dominating the local business and real estate markets. Black men and boys were routinely lynched from the end of the 1800s to the middle of the 1900s, often for looking at, whistling at, or otherwise “affronting” White women. The “Tuskegee Experiment,” which ended officially in 1972, was a government funded medical experiment that sterilized hundreds of Black men by injecting them with syphilis. The COINTELPRO disruption of the Black Panthers, unequal sentencing from the “war on drugs,” police racial profiling, police brutality, and the rise of prisons as industries (the Prison Industrial Complex) all help explain the ferocity and aggression that the last three generations of Black males have been up against.

And if we combine the above with the fact that Black boys rarely have Black male teachers (or any kind of male teachers, especially in the younger grades), are often over-referred for special education, and are negatively disciplined at rates far greater than everyone else, we start to see how Black males are systematically weeded out of school success and higher education. That of course leads to fewer job opportunities, greater income disparities, and the schism we see today between Black women who are holding it down in college and in the professional ranks, and Black men who may not have made it out of high school and have low expectations for holding a “good” job.  All of this helps to explain why there are so few brothas for Black women to marry.

So there you have it–the insight that CNN, ABC, and the media never provide when it’s time to tell a “Black people are doing bad” story. The goal here is not to play the “Oppression Olympics” between Black men and women, but rather to offer one man’s opinion on how brothas got erased from the Black family equation. Have hope family. We have triumphed over far worse, and so too will we overcome this.

12 thoughts on “The Scarcity of Marriageable Black Men: An Honest Analysis

  1. You know, I have to tell you, I really enjoy this blog and the insight from everyone who participates. I find it to be refreshing and very informative. I wish there were more blogs like it. Anyway, I felt it was about time I posted, Ive spent most of my time here just lurking and reading, but today for some reason I just felt compelled to say this.

  2. Well well, fellas you may not like this response but oh well. There are some obvious truths stated in your analysis and the video. There are not even enough black men to go around which is one issue. Also, there are many that fit into the category of not really being marriage material for various reasons. For black women that is an issue. We get the short end of the stick. I would probably be in their same shoes if I would not have married my high school sweetheart after being separated for about 6 years. Many dudes didn’t want to even commit to a serious relationship therefore lower my chances of getting married. Also, like Steve Harvey mentioned raising boys ( younger generation) to be men is totally lacking in the black community. So some are being counted out because these young “cats” don’t even know how to treat a women. I know a young lady right now who is in her early 20’s, licensed nurse, mother of 1 and is about to marry her baby daddy that’s in and out of jail, no high school diploma and no job. What’s wrong with that picture? Our community needs to wake up quick because not only are there no marriageable men but our people are stuck on stupid and we keep sitting back accepting this foolishness. We need to stop being materialistic riding around in nice cars, buying the latest this and that, bad credit, kids acting a hot mess should I go on… We need to understand that we come from Kings and Queens and greatness. Lets get back to acting like we are great and the young women coming up that desire to be married have some marriageable options!

    • I don’t disagree with what you’ve said here. I think the spirit of your comment is on point. I disagree that there are “no marriageable” brothas.

      I suppose one of my issues with the argument that there are so few marriageable Black men is how we are defining “marriageable.” There is a clear double-standard for what is considered “marriageable” for men and for women. A well-t0-do brotha making a living wage as a professor or some other professional would be considered arrogant for looking to marry only within his socioeconomic class. This is true for men in general. If a doctor marries a waitress, no one blinks an eye. In fact, we are happy for the waitress who is now considered worthy of a doctor rather than assuming that the doctor was either unable to nab a woman of similar standing or that he had lowered his standings. The truth of this reveals to us what many women consider their role in relationship to be . As long as she’s cute, all should be well. And well, many men have set the level of attractiveness as the one criterion that decides who they will marry too. That’s stupid, of course.

      On the other hand, a well-to-do sista earning a living as a tenured professor would be considered out of her mind for marrying a waiter or a man earning a significantly lower wage than her. Many brothas, who have an idea of how to treat a sista, aren’t given a chance to win those elite sistas because they are not considered “marriageable.” It’s always interesting to me to find sistas complaining that they can’t find a man doing something with themselves while they turn down the hardworking blue collar brotha who is absolutely doing something with himself. Meanwhile the woman “taking classes” at the local junior college, earning no dough.

      Now, I don’t suggest that we lower our standards or throw them away, but it is important to reevaluate what’s most important to us. The stories of the sistas in the video above are probably 80% true. But, as Steve Harvey said, they’re all fine, so I seriously doubt they have real troubles finding a man (or men). Their problems are likely very much intertwined with what they consider to be “marriageable.”

      Equality is not a requirement for a relationship to work. I may put in 80 and my woman may contribute 20, and that could be in regards to spiritual guidance, sex, finances, and whatever else, but if that’s what works for us, then that’s what’s right for us. Balance can be struck in many difference ways. Balance and equality are not synonomous. That said, perhaps some of these sistas should reevaluate what they value and reconsider waiting for some dude who makes more, is taller……and whatever else. That dude may not exist, and if he does, he may not want you!

      Yeah I said it.

  3. All valid and good points. Keep in mind that my aim was not to play oppression olympics and make a case for one gender having it tougher than the other; my goal was to articulate the actual cause of the Black man’s absence from the Black family of the last 3 generations. This is something the media never explores–they are loud on effects and statistics, but silent on causes.

    And as I was telling one of my peoples on FB, in my line of work I can’t assume that the causes are “obvious”, as you said Jamilla, to everybody. In the teacher trainings I give and in private conversations with folks, I’ve heard Black teachers make vile, blatantly prejudiced comments; the kinds that we’d normally attribute to “racist White people.” So while this may be obvious to you, because of your level of awareness and knowledge of our history, etc., I can’t take for granted that it’s obvious to everyone. In fact, I’m certain that there are many who’d debate whether the points I’ve made are even legitimate.

    And btw, I feel you on the return to our ancestral greatness part. It’s BEEN time for that! How much longer do you think it will be before we uniformly awaken from the dead and figure out that we are supposed to master far more than basketball and dancing? Certainly many of us recognize this, but we all know that too many of us still don’t.

    • To answer your last question Earpiece, I think my people are actually heading in the opposite direction. Many of us are running away from ourselves and wondering why we don’t command respect.

  4. All black women are not marriage material, i am sure that out of that 42%,
    plenty of them have more than there share of issues. Just because you have
    a college degree, that does not mean you are a good woman. Everybody has to compromise as it relates to something, because nobody is perfect.

  5. “That dude may not exist, and if he does, he may not want you!…Yeah I said it….I could hurl a rock into a crowd of a thousand sistas and not hit one!”

    DISS!! LMAO!! Dem’s fightin’ words!!

  6. Oh, 1 more thing. Earpiece, that picture is the GREATEST!! Never really paid attention to it, I thought it was one of those “jawbone” ear pieces.

  7. I am tired of people perpetuating this ugly thing about there not being enough eligible black men to marry. It may not be a myth but its certainly bullshit. Single black women get on my gotdam nerves with this whiny shit – talking about how the black men are gay, in jail, or dating white women, and the answer to that is…. DATE A WHITE MAN!

    WTF?? If you gonna date a white man, he should date him for the same qualities you would want in a black man, not because he’s last available or because black men (for one reason or another) are looking down on black women and not choosing to date them. If a black women wants a beautiful somebody to love, they can be had – if they choose to look outside their little boxes. He may not be racially black, but there are PLENTY of dark men of other races, black men of other countries, dam-near white black men, and yes – white men. I’m not an advocate or IR dating, but it’s an option. Those felons will be getting out jail, and some of them do make a life for themselves. That’s an option. He may not be a corporate CEO, but a blue collar can love you just as well, and can make just as much money as you.

    Too many black women are Christians and some are Muslims, and while they faith teaches that those unmatch shall not be yoked together – they shouldn’t look past men of other faiths, including athiest (despite what Steve Harvey says. He’s an ass but desperate women are flocking to any brotha talking on relationships and giving him a $). I’m an atheist, and no that does not mean I live my life in total anarchy and chaos because I have no ‘god’ to guide me on moral judgement and general good will – those are innate to my character (anyone’s really).

    And even the points about slavery and racism are valid, I not sure if they make a point about the scarcity of black men. At birth, the number of black females to males is roughly the same. It starts to roughly fall off at about the 3rd grade, because thats the grade I hear that black males start to fall from school and become less interested. While the blame is often placed at the feet of single moms for being single – it’s not the fact that black boys grow up without a dad that makes unlikely to be marriage-eligible but the mom’s RESPONSE to being single that does it. Too many women making black boys heads of household and surrogate protectors and taking coddling them into adulthood so that they (the mothers) are taken for granted – and then he grows up not knowing how to handle a relationship with a grown woman. Subconsciously, she may not even want her son to have a successful relationship with a woman if she herself doesn’t have a man. Women have been taught to compete with men – so could be envious of women getting with her son and having a nice relationship if she herself is without. So these sons often become babyfied and rendered non-husband material.

    If we want better men for the future black women growing to day, we make ourselves better (single or not) so we RAISE black men into the men we would like to have for ourselves.

  8. Pingback: Black Women, Black Hair, & Black Self-Hate « Tell Me Why I'm Wrong

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