Single black attitude revisited

Ten days ago, Esther Oxford went in search of an answer to statistics t hat show increasing numbers of young black women choosing singledom. Yasmin Ali bhai-Brown looks at why the subject provokes such mixed feelings and, right, tw o novelists reply to the original piece `What future? Why care? Break the rules, Mum, that's all there is'

So, six out of 10 black women, aged between 20 and 39, in this country are single, many out of choice. My friend Rex, a young black man deeply committed to his church, wife and two children, says: "If it is true, this is serious. But I think the reason is simple. We are not talking to each other and too much to that bloody white media out there. This is our problem and we should keep it indoors."

He is wrong. Why this is happening is a complex question that cannot be answered unless we look at the broader historical, social and economic circumstances which have created the black British community. Equally, the question can only be dealt with in adamaging and superficial way if impossible pressures are put on people not to discuss publicly such sensitive topics.

Already, black and Asian people have to grapple with an enormous number of obstacles and changes which they are often loathe to highlight because in the "positive" Nineties we are all supposed to be upbeat. They don't need the additional ordeal of havingto stifle their voices (and pain) because some are made uncomfortable or others feel this constitutes some kind of betrayal of already disadvantaged groups. Such restrictions surely damage the very people they attempt to protect.

So why are so many black women living, and often bringing up children, on their own? Could it have anything to do with the fact that, as the Labour Force survey revealed last month, 60 per cent of young black men in London are out of work? In comparison,20 per cent of black women are out of work. And young black men are now three times more likely to be unemployed than young white men.

One of the reasons for this is that black men are seen as the ultimate threat by white men, who still largely bestow available jobs. Black men, unlike many Asian men, cannot fall back on an alternative economic base such as the family business.

In the Eighties, due to equal opportunity policies, many black women were given more opportunities. Many more of them went back into education, too. Black men still tend not to do the latter and some like Rex would argue that this is because their experiences in school were so negative.

Another recent report revealed that black boys are much more likely to be excluded from schools - those that are not encouraged to run in races and play steel drums, I reckon. In Birmingham, for example, 9 per cent of the pupils are black, but in 1994 they provided 33 per cent of school exclusions. In the prison population their numbers are three times as high as their number in the overall population. Figures show that more than 40 per cent of police stop-and-search incidents involve black men.

Andrea, a young black mother of a teenager who has just been acquitted of a serious drug-related crime, describes what it has been like for her son since he turned 10.

"When he played outside," she says, "people looked at him as if he was a monster. His teachers never saw potential. All they said was that he was aggressive. And he became angry and started strutting around.

"We give them no sense that they have value. Then we are shocked when they take pride to extremes and don't give a damn even about their children. He said to me: `What future? I don't know if the police will get me tomorrow. And I know I won't have a job, so why work? Why care? Break the rules, Mum, that's all there is.' "

This is not to make helpless victims of black men, but it is a profoundly important part of their life experiences which cannot but form their attitudes to relationships.

There are indeed many black men, many in good professional jobs, who are devoted to their families and who rightly get well cheesed off at the stereotypes perpetuated by white people and increasingly by disillusioned black women. But, in general, the gapin expectations, lifestyle and money between black and white men has widened, exactly as in the US.

Terry McMillan's book, Waiting To Exhale, is precisely about that gap and the heartbreaking search for a solution. Black women do want more and as a particular response to the pressures they have faced, black men are prepared to give less. It is one way - though not at all an admirable one - of asserting their power over their lives.

In sexual relations, too, these power games between white and black men and women are being played out. Denied access to real power and influence anywhere else, they try to control the bed at least. The accusations that so many successful black and Asianmen marry white to gain power is not unconnected to this. And it was ever thus. A character called Lazarus, a black man in Soul On Ice by the black writer Eldridge Cleaver, airs these thoughts: "There is no love left between a black man and a black woman. Take me for instance ... I'd jump over 10 nigger bitches just to get to one white woman ..."

In the face of all this it is little wonder that so many black women are opting to make their own way in the world. And they are. They form the largest group now returning to education and training in this country and that bodes well for them, though notfor the integrity and well-being of the community at large.

Those who care about this are very worried and not only about the disenchantment of these women. Macho culture, anger and violence is something that is causing grave disquiet in the black community Andrea is alarmingly open about this: "If all the able women give up on them, if we are going to let the gun, drug and sex culture grow in our community, we will pay a price. And the price will be high in this society. Our children need more not less protection and confidence than white children, who will be excluding them as adults.

"Walking away from children, treating black women like they are nothing, is not the way. Black women are the strongest women in the world. We will not be destroyed. But what will our community become without good black men? And how long can we not talk about this?"

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.


ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    The Richmond Fellowship: Executive Director

    £66,192 per annum including car allowance of £5,700): The Richmond Fellowship:...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

    £16575 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity is ava...

    Recruitment Genius: Office Junior

    £18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Assistant Site Agent

    £22000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This traditional family company...

    Day In a Page

    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
    Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

    Why are we addicted to theme parks?

    Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
    Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

    Iran is opening up again to tourists

    After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
    10 best PS4 games

    10 best PS4 games

    Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
    Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

    Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

    Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent