For years now America has appeared to be obsessed with the love lives of African American women. In any given month you won’t be hard pressed to find a news article spinning the tale of the single black female who is destined to die an old maid. The reasons for this perpetual loneliness run the gamut from the lack of eligible black men to the notion that black chicks have too much “attitude.”

Right now the hot topic is black women dating outside their race. The Wall Street Journal has broached the issue and in his book Is Marriage for White People? How the African American Marriage Decline Affects Everyone, author Ralph Richard Banks argues that sisters need to stop holding out for the brothers if they want a shot at a healthy and happy marriage.

While I, personally, do think that race should be removed from the equation when looking for Mr. Goodbar, assuming that “white is right” when it comes to relationships is quite problematic.

But when it comes to the tired (and often insulting) lonely black woman meme, what concerns me most has little to do with romantic relationships. I fear this narrative is harming our friendships with other women.

I am a believer in sisterhood. For some reason I’ve never been able to explain, I feel this kinship or, as my pastor calls it, a supernatural love for every woman and girl on this planet. Seriously. And so I find myself overprotective of the idea of sisterhood as if this concept is a person I can reach out and touch.

Therefore when I come across something that I believe threatens sisterhood, I get pissed. All the stories and theories about why so many black women have never been married not only foster ridiculous stereotypes (such as of the angry black woman who’s eager to emasculate her man) but also have the potential to divide women of all colors. Let me explain.

This spring Uptown Magazine caused quite a stir with Andrea Michelle’s article Love: Why White Women Are Winning. The article was not a roast of black women as I expected from the title, but it did suggest black women were too focused on education and careers and didn’t start husband hunting soon enough (unlike their white counterparts) and it set white women’s relationship behavior as the standard, thus suggesting that we’re, of course, doing it all wrong.

But one of the things that bothered me most about the article was the word choice, as the language set up an “us against them” paradigm. To say white women are winning and African American women are losing implies we’re in competition and white women become the enemy. And unfortunately, some women are buying into this.

Shortly after this story went live, a friend of mine posted a link and short summary of it on her Facebook page. Soon her wall was full of comments from women complaining about “white women stealing all our men.” One woman was outraged that a Caucasian woman at a party she’d recently attended dared to flirt with a black man at the soiree when there were plenty of available white men present.

Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t dare assume that these women speak for the majority of black women but the influence of the sad and lonely sister story on at least a small group of women is obvious. How long will it take for this attitude of white woman as enemy  to morph into all women are the enemy? Or is it beginning to do so already?

Think about how this topic seems to open the flood gates of criticism of black women from other black women.  LaShaun Williams, in her response to the Uptown magazine piece, tells black women that we need to learn when to “shut up,” that we should be more submissive, and we need and learn to give our men center stage.  (Side eye.)

Furthermore implying that marriage is or should be every woman’s goal creates a further divide and by suggesting that the women who have jumped the broom are somehow better than those who have not.

Be honest, have you, when griping about a single woman with whom you’re having a conflict, ever quipped “That’s why she can’t find a man,” as if relationship status determines character?

I’ve been a happily married woman for several years now and I know marriage takes work. People with successful marriages should be applauded, but we should not be viewed as some sort of elite class nor do we have the right to disparage women who are single.

For the sake of sisterhood let’s celebrate and support one another instead of condemning one another or seeing other women as competition. Then, we’ll all be winning.

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  • In case it isn’t clear, I’m not agreeing with either of the articles I mentioned in this post. For example, I don’t think black women (or any women) should start “husband hunting” sooner because frankly, I don’t think women should be husband hunting at all. I don’t knock women who do, but I just don’t think love works that way.

    The point I’m trying to make in this post is that all the stories about black women being doomed for eternal loneliness is not only degrading but can also be divisive if we buy into it. My message here is don’t believe the hype.

  • D. Noble

    interesting article! i agree that people with marriages “should not be viewed as some sort of elite class,” but marriage has always been a class issue. it has been a constant organizing principle defining bourgeois white heteronormativity while simultaneously alienating and maligning women of color, specifically African American women. for decades now, certain narratives about black women and marriage and domesticity have underscored some of the most vicious stereotypes and public policies impacting the black family… i appreciate this post, but i believe our conversations need to be centered around the real work these narratives CONTINUE to do and less about how they ruffle our identity politics

  • Alexandra

    In some ways it does divide women and creates misconceptions about the other. I’ve met two Black women in the recent years who choose not to make friends with women who are not Black, because they see them as competition for Black men. It upset me a lot.
    That Uptown article in particular seems to be doing exactly that; dividing women. How many Black women now view White women as competitors after reading that? I don’t share the same mindset a lot of women have. I place marriage and children in the same boat & both are far from my mind, especially children. I was single for two years (in the midst of all these stories) before meeting my guy. It never bugged me, because their objective is so clear. It’s just unhealthy to focus on something so trivial. No one person can tell you what your life will become. During all stories/debates, were there no Black women that got married (between 2010-2011)?

  • Veeery interesting article. I personally dont like the idea of the white woman being the enemy when it comes to black women’s dating life. If there is one thing I want sisters (for the ones this applies to) to do is let go of this jealousy of the nonblack woman and quit giving attention to brothers who date out and the nonblack women who take those brothers in. they are no longer a factor. however I do believe in sisters taking personal accountability on why they are single. true there are women who really like being single and prefer to be single and there is nothing wrong with that. this does not apply to them. however to the women who do not want to be single, AND IS VOCAL ABOUT IT, yet cant seem to find the man that they want, I still believe that those sisters need to take accountability for their own situation.

    I will admit that I have thought to myself when I come across an associate, friend, or family member who is a black woman and I see a certain behavior or they say something that make me think “this is why they are single”. and no I didnt single out a sister who was single and loving it. these are women who are vocal about being single yet do not want to be anymore. these are women who talk about wanting a partner. so of course if I see ways that I think a man would be turned off…the thought will come to my mind. not because I think the wives club is somehow more elite than the single club. but its because the woman in the singles club wants to be in the wives club but never seems to look at why she is in the single club. I mean lets be honest. if many of these black women were not vocal about the state of their marriage prospects nobody wouldnt say anything. however these are women who do not want to be single. so they are going to get criticized. it is what it is. the black women we hear about who are single are the ones being vocal about their own singleness themselves. its not like they are picking women who tell the world that they are single and loving it and dont want change it lol. the media pick women who are saying to the world that they want someone….so of course they are going to be criticized on if they are mate material or not. I mean if the topic of discussion is a woman who says “I want a man” well the audience is immediately going to ask the question “why she is single” and that is what she is going to be critiqued on.

    So for the black women who are single and NOT loving it yet dont want their dating lives to be put on blast, then stop talking about it, look within yourself, take personal accountability wherever you can to fix your situation (since you are the one who think its undesirable then only you can change it). Again the women who are single and loving it? This doesnt apply to those women. They dont care about the state of black womens relationships because they are okay with being single, and nobody is hating on those women. The only women who are getting criticized are the ones who are vocal about being single and dont want to be anymore.

  • Buttons

    Unfortunately, the current culture that we live in promotes singleness. Today’s social environment perpetuates dysfunctional relationsips. Songs and media images are about sex and “friends with benefits” (a la “I just want a quickie”) and sadly, many people have adopted this way of thinking. There seems to be no exclusiveness; everybody sees multiple people at a time; relationships are not clearly definded; it’s not highly favored to openly express that you want a relationship or marriage for fear of putting off the other person. It’s like marriage has lost its value over the years and although many people still desire to be married, because of the difficulty finding a suitable mate now a days, particularly for black women, marriage is no longer a necessity, but a choice.

    Also, I can’t agree with “Jamesfrmphilly” on black women strictly dating black men. Black women have always loved and sought black men, but sometimes black men dont always love us. We have always been loyal, but when the loyalty isn’t reciprocated you have to move on. When someone doesn’t place the same value on you, that you place on them-you have no obligation to that person.