Black and Single: Is Marriage Really for White People?

Dionne Hill, CNN, July 22, 2008

Mrs. Allen had it all.

A career she enjoyed, a nice home, two adorable children and a husband. She shared her tools for success with me at an early age. She went to college, got married and waited until she was 26 to have her first child.

The perfect life. The perfect plan. It was one I decided to model.

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And there are millions more like me. Forty-five percent of black women in America have never been married, compared with 23 percent of white women, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey in 2006. {snip}

The difference between Mrs. Allen and me: She was white.

The numbers, undeniably, are not in my favor. But they have never been. Born black, raised in a single-parent home and primarily educated in low-performing public schools, I am not supposed to be a success story. But giving weight to statistics in my personal life only contributes to a culture of fear surrounding marriage.

This fear causes some women to make hasty decisions like staying in unfulfilling relationships that lead to unsuccessful marriages, which end in divorce (another dismal statistic). Or just the opposite: Women become so fearful of making the wrong choice, they find themselves surrounded by a moat with no bridge to their final destination: marriage.

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Why are you still single? I hate that question. {snip}

One reason: personal responsibility. Among the men I have dated, there were definitely some who were ready for something a little more significant than I was willing to give. Did I drag my feet because I wasn’t ready? Or was it because those men weren’t right for me? It’s debatable and probably a combination of the two.

Mrs. Allen was white, but she was also part of a generation of people, like my parents, who married at an earlier age. Today, black women outnumber black men almost 2-to-1 in higher education. But white women are also surpassing white men in college enrollment and completion, according to the National Center on Education Statistics.

What is a rooted example in the black community is also sprouting legs among America’s other racial groups. I am part of a generation of Americans who are choosing to postpone marriage while they pursue their careers.

{snip}

On a macro level, the horizon is grim, but my personal experience reflects stories of black women and men who are married or very seriously considering it. Social and economic conditions are very strong influences, but so is the desire for love.

If I remain in my current statistical category, a single black woman, it will be because I missed someone while gazing at the ancient obelisks of Egypt’s Karnak Temple, partying with expats in Hong Kong or simply spending time with family and friends in America.

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