Is Marriage Really for White People Gina?

For my paper, I read Ralph Bank’s “Is Marriage for White People?” Banks is a legal scholar and professor at Stanford University.

This text is crucial in terms of the “Middle class Black women can’t find a man” discourse because it is both a scholarly book and because it has been reviewed widely in the popular press. In the book he provides research on Black women and marriage and he also cites his his own findings from interviewing middle class heterosexual Black women from across the US.

He essentially states that middle class heterosexual (MH) Black women are the most unmarried population in the US, that middle class Black women will marry someone who earns lower wages than they do, but they are reluctant to marry outside of their race. He states that across race Americans are less likely to be married now than they have been historically. In looking at Black women, he says that we can see how “Black people  are at the center of a social transformation  whose reverberations encompass us all”.

He concludes that MH Black women may want to consider marrying outside of their race because Black women’s dating market is highly segregated and when MH Black women marry outside of their race “the Black gender balance becomes a little less severe”.

Historically, marriage has been an economic, legal, familial and property arrangement. This is not to say that Black women are wrong for desiring it, as it is not my place to say. I will, however saw that I am very skeptical at this particular moment of any narrative that delves into the lives of Black women, that is not told by Black women.  I am not saying that Black women offer a “truth” as Black women, as I believe in the heterogeneity of Black women. We are not the same. I am also skeptical of narratives that do not explicitly acknowledge the context in which they exist.

While the book does acknowledge how labor an employment opportunities may shape marital statistic a more indepth conversation about labor and gender roles would have been useful. Our economy both in the US and globally is undergoing a major restructuring and I posit that this is having a major impact on the choices that heterosexual middle class Black women make. Changes in educational attainment for women across race, changes in technology and how technology shapes employment and the global movement of capital impacts all of our lives on a day to day basis. These social forces are impacting the lives of all adults, so they impact Black women as well.

There are some interesting tidbits in the book.

First he states that while popular media discourse paints MH Black women as “too picky” he has found that MH Black men are the ones who are in fact picky. He makes this statement for two reasons. First, the variety of women that the MH Black men have access to makes it less likely that they will desire marriage as they may want a woman who represents a combination of all the best attributes of the women that they currently date. This is a profound point.

His second tidbit is that MH Black men are less likely to think that their sexual life will improve with marriage. Sexual politics within monogamous and non-monogamous relationships are dynamic, negotiated and vital.

The third tidbit is that both many Black men and Black women assume that Black men are the only option for MH Black women. According to his interviews, Black women want to marry a Black man, so that they can have Black children. They see partnering with Black men as “fighting racism” because “we should never give up on our Black men”. However statistically, MH Black men have not been committed to marry MH Black women. And there is the rub gina.

The fourth tidbit is that Black women who date white men report more acceptance of their natural hair from their White male partners. I thought this was really interesting. I would like to see a conversation online about this!

The fifth tidbit is that he cites research which states that lighter skinned Black women tend to marry higher earning Black men, in comparison to their darker skinned counter-parts. In terms of erotic capital, I find this finding fascinating.

There are three things that could have been done in this book that were outside of the scope of the project as it stands today, but it would have made a more richer discussion.

It would have been interesting if he devoted a section of the book to looking at MH Black women who have been both married and divorced. Hearing them speak about the current discourse around Black women and marriage, having been married gives them a vantage point that could make for a much more nuanced and richer conversation.

The second thing that I would have liked to have seen explored more is the decline of the middle class in the US and the low marital rates of MH Black women. Place their marital options, choices and patterns within this context would make for a more nuanced conversation.

Many of the women he interviewed are either middle class, or high income earners. Statistically these African-American women are likely to be  “the only one” within their companies. As Black women they deal with both racism and sexism, and depending on their class background classism as well. It would have been interesting if he opened up a conversation about how middle a middle class or high income earning Black woman shaped her willingness to get married. Or to put it another way, how does navigating racism and sexism at work, the loneliness of this space impact Black women’s desires to marry. Giving the health statistics of around Black (and Latina’s) health in the academe, I wonder to what extent does navigating work issues of race and gender shape Black women’s desires to marry.

By and large the book is an interesting read, even if the title is in many ways sensational.

So, having written all of this I am left with a few questions.

When will he have a conversation about how dealing racism and sexism at work may or may not influence MH Black women’s desires to get married?

What does it mean that so many institutions are examining the marital desires of Black women?

Is this another way to call Black women deviant?

Pariah and Red Tails: Film Finance, Sexuality and Race.

I will be writing a series of posts about Pariah. This is the first of three or four.

Dedicated to @Very54. I missed you too.

The conversation around Red Tails and Pariah is interesting in it brings the politics of black stories and professional Black storytellers to the forefront. (Peace to James McBride for the language of professional Black storytellers.)

This post isn’t about the content of the films, but about how audiences perceive movies, the history of White hollywood and the politics of getting stories made and distributed that feature Black subjects.

George Lucas personally financed Red Tails, after the Hollywood establishment decided that a film with all Black leads isn’t viable.  Forrest Wickman in Slate writes,

George Lucas, who produced the movie, has said that he was forced to finance it on his own—to the tune of $58 million—when studios balked at the marketability of a film with all black leads.

Last week, after the release of Red Tails,  on John Stewart’s show, Lucas went on record saying that the Hollywood establishment did not know how to market Red Tails with an all Black lead casts.  Sofia Hernandez writes,

He continued, “They don’t believe there’s any foreign market for it and that’s 60 percent of their profit…I showed it to all of them and they said ‘No. We don’t know how to market a movie like this.’ ”

Unlike the Matthew BroderickDenzel Washington Civil War drama Glory or other films depicting black soldiers in battle, the World War II pic Red Tails does not feature a white protagonist, said Lucas, “It’s an all-black movie. There’s no major white roles in it at all. It’s one of the first, all-black action pictures ever made. It’s not Glory where you have a lot of white officers running these guys into cannon fire. They were real heroes.”

As a scholar, I do the political economy of culture, which is a fancy way of saying that I examine the way race, gender and institutional power impacts how art (music and films and books) is made.

The fact that the overseas market plays such a huge role in determining whether or not the Hollywood film establishment would support Red Tails is significant.

Filmmaking is capital intensive and historically the domain of White men. For me, it would have been interesting if Lucas mentioned that movies featuring Black subjects have a hard time within the Hollywood establishment and went on to mention the fact that it is a miracle that Pariah has been made. This would have opened the space to talk about films made featuring Black people by a seasoned White male filmmaker and a new comer Black woman filmmaker. It would have opened the space to ask how does money, and race, and sexuality impact their films similarly and differently?

I’ve seen Pariah twice. The first time was at a screening with the producer, Kim Wayans, Dee Rees the director, Nekisa Cooper the producer and Adepero Oduye the star. The second time was with a nearly all Black sold out crowd at an art house theater.  I’ll see Red Tails next weekend.

Based on my notes from the Q&A on Pariah, the film cost approximately five hundred thousand dollars to make, and it took them 18 days to complete it. As of January 22nd, 2012 it made $497,579. This is a second career for the director/producer duo as Cooper and Rees met while they were both in corporate America, working a Proctor and Gamble. Cooper and Rees also fundraised and used credit to get the film made. Lastly, many of the crew members were willing to work without pay (temporarily) because they believed in the project.

Given the fact that the birth of film in the United States is largely thought to be “Birth of a Nation” it is in fact a miracle that Pariah was made in the first place.

What is interesting to me is that Reese and crew’s narrative has been one of we did it, come out and support, I have been working on this story for a while, no it is not autobiographical, but there are parts of me in here and I am glad we were able to make it.

So my questions are.

Why were Black folks in social media spaces and in comment sections of the mainstream press seemingly more willing to rally around Lucas’s film but not Reese’s?

Yes, the films are two different audiences, but they both feature Black casts, they both have awesome and interesting back histories in terms of film finance and they both feature stories that need to be told.

Is Black homophobia working here?

If we take the statement “We need to support Red Tails because if we don’t the Hollywood establishment may not make anymore movies featuring us” then don’t we assume that we have more control over film finance than we actually do?

Why would a Black person in 2012 assume that they can control which films come out of Hollywood, when it is clear that “overseas marketing possibilities” have far more control, at least with Red Tails?

I love writing about movies the way I use to Love writing about rap music. I hope it shows.

On Black Girls and Pleasure

Waaaaay back in 2008 I wrote a blog post in the summer time, right after we learned that Erykah Badu was pregnant with her little bear about the fact that Black women’s bodies do not belong to themselves.

Looking back I realize that I was inspired by the fact that that in public people feel entitled to touch our hair and our bodies, and in private our families and loved ones feel that they have say so about our hair texture (nappy vs. straight, or re: going natural).

So. This brings me to this morning when I finally figured out WHY I am writing about Black women’s sexuality.

Saturday, I got no work done. Nonya. This was the first time this year where my schedule got completely upended.

Last semester was on #Aquemini Saturday. My boo’s do be my muses. o.0

Rather than go to read and write on Saturday morning, we drove to Balitmore for brunch and that shit was luxurious.

Then I slept. Then we went to the movies.

Granted, I was behind as shit on Sunday, because so many chores didn’t get done.

So this morning, I was saying that I wanted to GO BACK to Saturday; It was impromtu and fun; it felt like a vacation.

Then Goldy turned around and called me greedy. I was like, “I am greedy because I want to hang out the you and not be running 5011 errands for two or three hours straight?” “I don’t think it’s greedy, I think I am being a human being.” She got my point.

It was in THAT moment that I realized why I have been writing about and invested in Black womens sexuality and the social and economic forces that shape how Black women make sexual choices at home and in public.

Many of us are told by our mothers that all we need to do is “work” because “you can do bad all by yourself.”

When many of us were little, language is used with Aunt’s, Uncles, and grandparents to discourage them from giving us stuff or being nice to us otherwise we may get “spoiled.” Spoiled food is rotten and inedible.

All of this leaves me with a few questions.

Out of a desire for our mothers to protect us, and make sure that we have tools to deal with a fucked up world, did they make Black girls and pleasure two mutually exclusive categories?

Did our mothers socialize us to run away from pleasure?

Does enjoying pleasure mean being “ruined”? Ruined for who?

Why are the boys in our family not talked about in the same way?

Are the boys in our family ever described as being “spoiled?”

Does it have the same meaning when it is used to describe girls?

Black Women and Resistance: I was Free

It was in mid semester last year that I learned, while reading Damita Jo Brown’s dissertation, “History is a Hungry Traveler: Black Female Subjects and The Grammars of Liberation” about how Black women who worked as washer women during reconstruction would meet together and discuss who to work for, who to avoid, who paid well, who would try and rape them as employees, etc.

My understanding of what resistance look like began
to expand.

It was in this moment that I realized that resistance looks
different based on the situation that you are in.

It can mean grunting, yet coming in to work on time or
even a little late.

It can mean standing up to your boss and saying that
an email or comment was racist, sexist or homophobic.

It can mean being silent and speaking up later, because
saying something at the time will get you killed.

It can mean that while on a date, and someone says something
derisive about gay Black men and you say, “Um, Everyone has a right
to be who they are.” Hard stop.

I was pleasantly surprise to see a book review of Jesus Job’s and Justice in the NY Times. Today. Not because it was in the paper, but because
the idea of Black women’s resistance being moved from
margin to center is awesome.

Within Sociology the trope is that White people are racist
and that Black folks are victims. Uh. No.

A historical book about Black women and resistance totally
negates this reasoning. In reviewing the book, Richard Thompson Ford writes,

Despite these affronts, black women have remained the most faithful and abiding servants of the church, and they have been among the most diligent and effective activists for racial justice. In ?Jesus, Jobs, and Justice,? Bettye Collier-Thomas, a professor of history at Temple University, tells the untold stories of scores of religious and politically active black women, their organizations, informal gatherings and intellectual movements. For readers who imagine that the religious and political activism of Sojourner Truth, Mary McLeod Bethune and Rosa Parks is exceptional, the book will be a revelation. The author details the contributions of black women to almost every important aspect of the struggle for racial justice. The book weaves its many smaller stories into the broad fabric of the black experience, beginning in the early days of slavery and covering the Civil War, Reconstruction, Jim Crow and the civil rights and black power movements, before arriving at today?s tense moment of renewed hope and familiar anxiety.

Last week, I listened to Erykah’s new song “Jump Up in the Air” and read a passage about White mistresses? in Thavolia Glymp’s The Gender of? Violence all in the same day, and I haven’t been the same since.

Glymph analyzes how violence is gendered masculine, so
historians just DON’T typically deal the violence that White
slave mistresses carried out on enslaved Black women. The
general narrative is White slave mistresses were dainty, passive and generally and embodiment of Victorian mores.

In Out of the House of Bondage, Thavolia Glymph
provides a really interesting analysis of how violence is
gendered and the impact that this has on how the history
of American slavery has been written.

Violence on the part of white women during and after slavery is not only considered different because of who wielded it, it is transformed and made different through a gendered analysis of power. The power of white men was unquestionably formidable and it was more visible entity, recognizable in the most tangible forms: property ownership;the vote; access to public office; control of civic life; the legal subordination of white women, slaves free black people; and the sexual abuse of black and white women”

…The power of slave holding women seemingly, then, is mistaken as powerlessness and taken less seriously, not because it was invisible or unrecognizable as such, but primarily because the prevailing ideology, then and now presumes it to not exist.

…The power of the plantation mistress is exposed to view when we realize that in the American South, as elsewhere, the domestic realm was a site of power for women. It was also and therefore a site of struggle between women.”

It was only in reading this that I came to understand how
my personal experiences with work place dynamics are totally
rooted in THIS particular aspect of American history.

I wasn’t crazy.

Sites of power will be locations where struggles occur.

Hmmp.

It is what it is.

Given that, it certainly helped me feel a little less bugged out about conflicts that I have had, with bosses (especially in
when I was younger and fresh out of undergrad) and others who have more power that I do in certain situations. Especially when I take both their racial, and gendered histories into consideration.

In fact I felt like I #jumpedintheairandstayedthere.

I was free.

Quoted: Dorthy Roberts >Black Womens Reproductive Rights

For too long, Black women’s struggle against the most degrading repression has been left out of the official story of reproductive rights in America. But it is their struggle that highlights the poverty of current notions of reproductive freedom. It is also their struggle that can lead to a more radical vision of reproductive justice. …A vision of liberty that respects the reproductive integrity of Black women is a critical step towards a just society for everyone.

She goes on to say, speaking about the very definition of liberty,

The Supreme Court as elevated reproductive liberty to the level of a fundamental right against government interference deserving of the highest judicial scrutiny. But Black women’s reproductive choices seem to fall outside this sphere of protection that is supposed? to apply to all citizens. There is something drastically wrong with a conception of reproductive freedom that allows this wholesale exclusion of the most disadvantaged from its reach. We need a way of rethinking the meaning of liberty so that it protects all citizens equally. I propose that focusing on the connection between reproductive rights and racial equality is the place to start.

Dorthy Robert’s, Killing the Black Body is a thorough treatise on the history of both Black women’s bodies, issues of reproductive justice and the American Medical Industry.

When I read this last semester I was floored at the ways in which our bodies, post slavery, have been treated like nothing by the American Medical establishment, especially if we were low income.

Roberts analyzes forced sterilizations of low income women, non consensual sterilizations pregnant teens, removal of babies if we were addicted, the trial and error methodology of new and unproven and frequently harmful medicines such as Depo Provera, on our bodies.

In fact, I remember reading The Source in the early 90’s and there were ad’s for Depro Provera, and I always thought it was odd that such a masculinist magazine had ads for implant contraception. Essence had those ads too, come to think of it.

Dorthy Roberts goes on to say at the end of her book, both succinctly and eloquently, that laws that have a disparate impact on Black women’s reproduction are antithetical to an American democracy, in light of the ways in which our reproduction was tied to this nations beginings and subsequently, American wealth as a whole. She writes,

The reason legislatures should reject laws that punish Black women’s reproductive decisions is not an absolute and isolated notion of individual autonomy. Rather legislatures should reject these laws as a critical step towards eradicating a system that has historically demeaned Black motherhood. Respecting Black women’s decisions to bear children is a necessary ingredient of a community that affirms the person hood of all its members.

Why are we so silent around reproductive justice?

Is it that I am not listening in the right places?

Your momma ever talk about pre-Abortion United States?