Far too many brides, too few brothers
BY DESIREE COOPER
FREE PRESS COLUMNIST
July 6, 2004
My daughter had just turned 13 when I got an e-mail from my good friend who'd been born in India. At a family wedding in Toronto, she'd spied a handsome 15-year-old boy who was "witty, with the intelligence of someone twice his age."
"If you ever want to arrange a marriage for your daughter," she said, "I've found her guy."
What? A husband for my 13-year-old baby girl? That was child abuse, I thought, Old World chauvinism and . . . and . . . possibly the only sure road to my daughter's happiness.
No one at the altar
Look around you. You see African-American women everywhere -- in corporations, in politics, in universities. They are self-assured, well put-together -- and single.
In some cases, they've chosen a single lifestyle, some having never been married and some remaining single after a divorce. But in too many cases, the choice to remain single has been made for them.
The fact is that if my daughter ever wishes to marry a black man, the odds are daunting. According to Larry E. Davis, author of the book "Black and Single: Meeting and Choosing a Partner Who's Right for You" (Agate Publishing, $13.95), there are only five marriageable black men for every 10 marriageable black women, when you exclude those who are chronically unemployed, drug addicted or incarcerated.
One in eight black men in their late 20s is incarcerated on any given day. And they're scarce on historically black college campuses. Clark Atlanta University is 71-percent female; Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans is 70-percent female and Howard University in Washington, D.C.,is 64-percent female.
Black women, then, must consider alternatives if they wish to experience marriage. Interracial marriage is an obvious option. But according to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 311,000 black-white married couples in the United States in 1997, but two-thirds of them consisted of a black husband and a white wife.
For black women, that's the unkindest cut of all. Not only are there very few eligible black men, but nearly 12 percent of black men who are married don't choose black women -- and, for the most part, men of other races didn't chose them, either.
The reasons vary. I've heard black men complain that black women are more combative, domineering and critical than other women -- a phenomenon which, if true, may be the less-heralded result of the pervasiveness of female-headed households in the black community.
Others have complained that too many black women are more concerned about the contents of a man's wallet than the content of his character. And, of course, there's the age-old reason why black women are often passed over as mates in general: In a society still flush with racism, the brass ring of marriage is having a white woman as a bride.
Making a match
So what is a black girl to do? Black-interest magazines have been suggesting for years that black women should share men, change their views about who qualifies as marriageable or be open to redefined roles in a male-female relationship. I don't know what the future holds for my daughter, but suddenly, the idea of an arranged marriage seems like a credible option.
I e-mailed my friend with my daughter's particulars, to which she replied, "Now, we just wait."
As the mother of an African-American daughter, that's all I can do -- wait and pray.