Posted at 7:30 AM Apr 30, 2010
By Andrea Grimes
Last week, Nightline aired a hand-wringing episode about single black women. Specifically, single black women who have not heeded Steve Harvey's advice to marry the first assbag who comes along lest they continue to be single and, by extension, continue to cause problems like the incarceration of black men, drug addiction in the black community, the slaughter of millions of kittens with ruthless force, etc., because we cannot be having all these single black women! The terrifying statistic: 43 percent of black women have never been married. Quelle horreur! Don't ask for any proof or sound reasoning about why this is a crisis, just believe Nightline when they tell you: single black women are bad.
The persons-with-brains-o-sphere responded in force, and there have been some brilliant single black lady critiques of the Nightline episode. In The Nation, Melissa Harris-Lacewell and Courtney Young note how Nightline failed to address any of the institutional, systemic issues behind these marriage statistics:
For example, the panel failed to address the reality that black boy infants are significantly more likely to die in the first year of life than are black girl infants, creating an immediate gender imbalance. The panel did not address the devastating effects of urban violence or mass incarceration on African American communities. The panel did not mention the systematic nature of inadequate educational opportunities for black boys or the continuing realities of employment discrimination effecting black men and women. These structural realities have an enormous impact on the shape and function of families.
Despite its role as a news program, Nightline failed to call on any sociologists, psychologists, historians or therapists who could have contributed context, statistics or analysis about the "marriage crisis" among African Americans. Instead, these delicate and compelling issues were addressed by comedians, actors, bloggers and journalists. If Nightline deemed this story to be worthy of coverage then it had an obligation to cover the story with as much integrity as another social issue. It is hard to imagine Nightline assembling a panel of actors and comedians to discuss the economy, the war in Iraq, the Catholic Church or any other relevant issue.
Over at the Black Youth Project, blogger Fallon Wilson responds to the "black women are the problem" idea with a notion of her own: maybe black men are also the problem.
... my blog is going to be a rant about how I think black men are the problems. Yes, I said they are the PROBLEMS. Okay, not the pen-ultimate problem, but definitely the problem when it comes to how they use their hetero-male privilege in romantic relationships with black women in particular black women like me who are not willing to put up with their shit cow dung.
... Of course, screwing does not lead to a lifelong commitment with the brother, but the point is that if we wanted to find one we could. So, perhaps our singleness, my singleness, is in response to not wanting to put up with hetero black male privilege. I don't believe in submission. I do not believe in making myself small so that you can feel good about your hetero-masculinity. And it has been my experience that men want black women who will cater to them, who will shut up sometimes, who will stay at home and raise the children (even though the fool will admit he would not want to stay at home), who will endure stress, abuse, violence, and sacrifice in the name of commitment. And I say once again, I ain't her.
I think one of the best responses to this so-called marriage crisis comes from Farai Chideya, who writes:
At moments of frustration with the narrative imposed on black women, I turn to the wisdom of multiply Grammy-nominated singer Ledisi. She sings, "Get outta my kitchen, telling me how to cook. It ain't none of your business. Ain't no need to look." I would turn that a bit and say, at the very least, if America is looking for a problem, there's plenty of folks whose kitchens we might want to take a look at.