As many reasons as there are people
Wednesday 08 February 1995
Esther Oxford posed the question: "Why is it that more than six out of 10 black women are single?" She neither answered nor examined it in any depth. Instead, she offered an ill-conceived, ill-researched, white stereotypical view of black womanhood.
More disturbingly, in allowing the author Mr Patrick Augustus to promulgate the hoary, banal myth that black men prefer white women because their attitude towards sex is different from black women's, the argument was reduced to absurdity. As a black woman I don't think I have read anything so sad and alarming.
Why then are so many black women single? The reasons are as wide and varied as the individuals themselves. The shallow way this was dealt with meant that no allowance was made for the differences between black people. We were lumped together in one amorphous mass, no differences, no layers, no shades, no strata. Curious how white people get neatly divided into socioeconomic groups - professional and non-professional, working-class, middle-class, upper-class, underclass - yet black people are just black people.
Take the differences between successful black career women and young girls just out of school. In my novel Single Black Female, I explore the relationships of, mainly, black thirtysomething professional career women and their search and troubles finding committed partners. It's an area about which I feel qualified to write and talk because I am thirty-something, own a PR agency, the Grapevine Press, and am black and single. Of course black women will share reasons for being single, but there will be many differences which reflect their positions in society.
The issue of single parenthood, so beloved by right-wing politicians and leader writers, is one, albeit powerful, side of the singledom debate. It's not one that I would want to comment on without doing a lot of research. A little more than a few quotes from a 15-year-old babymother and a couple of anonymous black boys in a Brixton McDonald's, if you get my drift. A thirtysomething black woman has a choice about being single; a 15-year-old babymother hasn't.
One of the main reasons why growing numbers of black women choose to be single is that there is a widening ambition gap between black men and black women. Many black men have trouble dealing with the career success of black females. The same is true of white men. Many white men feel threatened by the rise of females in the workplace. For black British women this is a more recent phenomenon.
Perhaps one of the reasons many black men are falling behind black women is because they are scared to compete, frightened of their macho image being challenged. More and more professional black women choose not to tolerate that attitude and now remain single. I do not believe, as Ms Oxford suggested in her article, that low self-esteem is the main reason for male promiscuity - whatever that's supposed to mean. What a cop-out that would give men: Honey, I'm screwing around because I don't think much of myself. I would never offer any man that kind of excuse.
I think somewhere along the line she got sold the myth of black woman as victim. Well, I've got news for her, some of us ain't. We come in all shapes and sizes, with different minds and different aspirations, separate backgrounds and separate ambitions. And some of us aren't buying this male nonsense of what we should be like.
A black woman, no matter what the status of her relationship, needs to feel respected to be happy. Black women who know and feel their strength are claiming health, prosperity and happiness as their right and are proving they can be winners. It is natural, to be sure, for them to want close, warm loving relationships with men. But more of us are saying not at any price.
Finally, let me deal with Ms Oxford's risible and racist assertion that I chose my current boyfriend because, as a white man, he can help me climb the social ladder. I care about a guy's personality and the amount of love and affection he can give me andI can give him. If that's not there, neither is he, whatever his skin tone.
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