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Is Marriage for White People?, Ralph Richard Banks

2011/12/10

The provocative question in the title of Banks’ new book may evoke a puzzled look or a resounding affirmation, depending the person being addressed. The book opens with a scene from President Obama’s inauguration; Banks discusses this as an example of Black success, but then points out that “as African Americans, they are extraordinary in the most ordinary way: They are a married couple raising their children together” (2). He presents the known data: the unbalanced graduation rate of black women as compared to black men, the increasing socioeconomic and educational gaps between women and men, the high expectations that are placed on marriage regardless of race and class, the overall decline of marriage in American society, the role of children in a society of educated, unmarried Black women.

As someone who has never dated an African American, I am sadly lacking in first-hand knowledge of much of their culture and society; I do have friends who are African-American men, although by their being in pursuit of higher education, they are already anomalous according to this book. Much of research in this work does have implications for relationships and marriage regardless of race, especially the points about the increasing education and earning power of women contributing to a socioecomonic gap. However, the non-black reader may find most of this to be irrelevant to themselves, and not bother to look beyond the cover or shrugging off the question with a laugh.

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