Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Interracial Dating and "Good" Black Men

I know I'm about to open a can of worms with this post, so I'm going to tread carefully.

I was sent an email asking if I would be interested in sharing the following infographic on my blog. I am assuming that the marketing team for this site came across my blog because I talk about race and interracial relationships and are soliciting requests from a number of blogs that meet those criteria. Anyway, here's the infographic they requested I share with you:

Where Are All The Good Single Black Men
Via: Best Black Dating Sites

After receiving it, I did some searching and found it being linked to several articles around the web citing it as evidence that there are only three "good" Black men for every 100 Black women. That certainly is an attention-grabbing headline. 

As a white woman married to a Black man, I am sensitive to this conversation. I try really hard not to be dismissive of conversations about how Black women feel about this particular interracial pairing, and I am definitely not trying to be dismissive of the fact that there are power dynamics in play when it comes to why white men and Black women don't pair up in the same numbers. These are all conversations we should have, but they are societal, systemic conversations. When they turn to my individual relationship (as they have on occasion in the past), I am less open to talking. To ask me to justify or defend my ten-year relationship with my husband along racial lines is unacceptable, and I won't play.

That said, it is my personal relationship that made me react the way I did to this infographic. If I had not been a white woman married to a black man, I probably would have just read through it and then moved on. But because this infographic makes some assumptions about people in relationships such as mine, I bristled. Upon bristling, I did some further examination of the statistics presented in this infographic.

The place where I first got confused by their data is box number three. It ostensibly eliminates Black men from the pool who are not interested in Black women, but it does so by eliminating the 8.5% of Black men who are married to white women. I agree that these men shouldn't be considered in the "Black single men" pool, but only because they are not single. They are married. Shouldn't all married men be eliminated?

Otherwise, we're saying that married men are still eligible as potential mates. Technically, this is true as those men could divorce their current spouses. But if that's the case, the Black men married to white women could just as easily divorce their spouses as a Black man married to any other race of woman, so it doesn't make sense to single them out exclusively (even though this article somehow conflates being married to a white woman as evidence that the Black man "aggressively pursued" her. Shudder.) Being married to a white woman definitely indicates that a man is no longer available, but it does not indicate that he is "not interested" in Black women anymore than it indicates that he is no longer interested in any woman other than his wife.

If we are going to compare single Black men to single Black women, we need to eliminate everyone who's married, which means that we actually need to change the initial numbers in this chart.

The total Black population (according to 2011 census data) is 18.2 million men to 20.8 million women. Of those, 28.3% of the women (about 4.6 million) and 35% of the men (about 4.7 million) are married. The actual number of single Black men to single Black women (before we start eliminating for the other boxes on the chart) is 13.5 million to 16.2 million (83 Black men for every 100 Black women).

From there, we can take their statistic that we need to eliminate a net 2% loss for men because more men are "exclusively homosexual" than women. (Though, to be fair, I think we should argue that since there are more women who identify as bisexual, that means that we need to adjust the numbers in both directions because those women could potentially be removed from the pool by finding their mates in other women). To not quibble, though, fine, we'll reduce two more percentage points. Now there are 81 Black men for every 100 Black women.

All of the rest of the qualifiers are too one sided to be of any use. They eliminate all of the Black men who have ever been to jail because someone who has been incarcerated is no longer "good." Setting aside social questions over whether this is a fair reason to eliminate someone, what about all of the women who have also been incarcerated. Don't the qualifications need to hold steady on both sides of this equation? Black women have a 3.6% chance of going to prison (and since this infographic rounds up Black men's chances from 28.5% to 30%, let's just go ahead and call it 4%). Now there are 51 Black men for 96 Black women.

When we get to the one about obesity, we definitely need to examine it more closely. First of all, it's appalling to suggest that someone cannot be obese and attractive and it's downright statistically untrue to suggest that someone cannot be obese and fit. In fact, most people who are very muscular would show up as obese on the BMI chart. Furthermore, I think it's very unfair to ask that a mate be "good" by meeting qualifications that we don't meet ourselves. Doesn't that mean that we would have to reduce the number of eligible women using the same standards? If we eliminate all of the obese men, then we have to eliminate all of the obese women, too. They eliminated 24% of Black men for being obese, but their source doesn't have comparable numbers for women. Using this chart instead, I'll eliminate 39% of Black men and 59% of Black women. Now we have 12 Black men for 37 Black women. Of course, this kind of math does nothing to take into account that many of those people may have already been eliminated for the previous categories, but I'm trying to match the (il)logic of the original infographic.

The rest of the qualifiers need to be applied equally, too. If one person is required to have a job and make $30,000 a year to be considered a "good" potential mate, then shouldn't the other person in the equation meet the same standards?

In short, separating off any two groups of people for comparison puts them in a numerator/denominator relationship. If you then start applying filters to the numerator but do nothing to the denominator, you are of course going to end up with a very low ratio of numerator to denominator by the end. (Dr. Boyce Watkins demonstrates a similar takedown of this "study" in this post).

If you take a group of 100 women without any qualifiers whatsoever and then you start applying arbitrary standards to the group of 100 men to reduce them, you are going to end up with more women than men. Period. Always. Every time. No matter what.

Using this logic, I could make any two groups of people look like they are in a crisis. I could show that there are hardly any "good" white women in comparison to the total number of white men. I could show that there are hardly any "good" male infants in comparison to the total number of female infants. Adding qualifiers to one group without adding any to the other will always end with a lop-sided ratio. This isn't statistics; this is sensationalism. It may have done a good job of grabbing a few headlines, but it does nothing to shine light on what may very well be a social situation worth discussing.

There, I shared it. People are probably going to stop emailing me things, huh?


  1. The thing I don't get about things like this is why this isn't considered racist in nature to even post things like this. If you talk about a group of people seeking another group based solely on ethnicity or skin color, it's racist when the involved parties are Caucasian. It isn't when they are any other skin color or ethnic background.

    Perhaps the best solution to this "problem" is for black women to consider their mates the same way that white people are supposed to - according to compatibility and not skin color. I'm sure you chose your husband based on his personality and character traits, not his skin color, and that he chose you for the same reasons. It's rather fortunate that neither of you limited your options based on wanting someone based on skin tone.

    The pool of available mates opens up greatly when you don't choose based on arbitrary attributes.

  2. My ex and I used to discuss this topic when we were a couple (black male, white female) and he always used to say that the reason he didn't date women who thought like that was not because they were black, but because they were narrow minded. The irony of it is that he's currently single, but he's got two strikes against him according to this info graphic, but he's still a great catch (just not for me). Oh, and his last GF was black.

  3. That was an awesome post. I thought the same thing when reading it: where did they cut out the men already married to anyone? Also, I would like to suggest that just because a Black man marries or dates a white woman once doesn't mean that he is against having a relationship with a Black woman at all. Maybe the man just sees more than color in his dating choices. Maybe he will date a Black girl next time.

    And Orchid makes a good point. The question should never be "where are all the good Black men," but "where are all the good men" when it comes to choosing a partner.

    However, the very last statistic that only 1/3 of Black children live with their biological fathers was pretty heartbreaking.

  4. You're right. That statistic IS heartbreaking. In fact, I think that's what makes me so frustrated with this infographic. All of these statistics point to larger systemic issues. Why are 30% of black men going to jail? Could it be because they are prosecuted at higher rates and sentenced to harsher punishments for the same crimes as white men? Isn't THAT the part of this problem that needs talking about? But instead this infographic takes statistics that point to real problems in people's lives and uses watered down versions of them to create a false "crisis" to drum up traffic. That's shameful.

  5. i think you handled this way more fairly than i would have. i couldn't get past the first assumption: that EVERY one of the 100 black women requires EVERY one of the mentioned criteria in the same person. So I was pretty much finished with it on slide one. For every slide, we'd need to know how many women care about the current criteria in addition to the previous ones. Leaving that bit of information out is why the woman's side of the binary never changes. They don't appear to have data for that, but rather, applied "common" desires of black women to all black women then assumed they all want all of the qualities together in the same person. I found it to be a completely racist representation of black men as inadequate.

  6. "I found it to be a completely racist representation of black men as inadequate." Yes! And that it's put together by a dating website . . . it's really disturbing.

  7. Great point - this infographic comes across as saying "black men have a lot of problems," with nothing that speaks to WHY the percentages may be higher for black men than for other demographics.

    Interesting side note - I was attending a seminar today on the new diagnostic manual for psychiatric disorders and there was discussion of how "recurrent substance-related legal problems" is being removed from the diagnostic criteria for substance use disorder. Why? Because we know that people of color are more likely to have problems with the law, even if they aren't actually breaking the law more often, and this could in turn result in more people of color meeting the diagnostic criteria for substance use disorders. Fortunately, the psychiatric community recognized this and it is reflected in the new criteria.

  8. A very balanced approach, Balancing Jane. ;) Seriously though, you did a great job dissecting this. Another flaw in the infographic is the assumption that the 9 criteria they use don't overlap at all - for instance, the men who make less than $30K are a different set than those who have not earned a high school diploma/GED. They've assumed the categories are distinct, which is surely not the case.

  9. Google doesn't care if you don't like the infographic; you've still linked to it and added to that site's credibility with the search engines. Add nofollow="true" to your HTML A tag to reduce the chance that Google actually makes the site rank higher thanks to your denouncing it...

  10. Thanks for the HTML tip. I am always torn on how to talk about things critically without just spreading them further, especially when so many things get linked without context (like on Pinterest, for instance). I didn't know about the "nofollow" thing. Thank you!

  11. @twitter-18076855:disqus

    It's not racist because it's about black people dealing with issues between black men and women in OUR communities. It's not about Caucasian people, so stop hollering about it being racist, because it's not about YOU.. If it was about Asian-Americans or anybody but black folks doing the same thing, you would be saying, "Oh,they're just dealing with issues within their culture," which is exactly what that whole graph chart is about.

  12. Personally I'm not worried about black men/white women relationships. Despite all the hoopla the MEDIA places on them, they are OVERRATED, No where near as common as people say they are, and are the MOST likely of any relationship pairing to end in divorce. CHeck the statistics for divorces in the US.

  13. That statistic is very misleading. Not living with your biological father does not mean he's not in the child's life. Black men are the LEAST likely to get married so its much harder for the goverment to actually track whether or not the child is in their life or living in both parent's home. The assumption is that if the parent's are not married, the dad isn't there living in the home. How would they know that? Plenty of black couples live together for YEARS before getting married. It also CLEARLY doesn't take into account the black children that DO have a father figure like a step dad but he is not the biological dad.

  14. You're in serious denial if you don't think whites choose mates based off skin color. Plenty of whites WILL NOT DATE a non-white.

  15. Yeah. That statistic is another one of the very misleading, over simplified stats in this infographic designed to paint a very specific (and negative) picture.

    All of the stats are too simple to really give any information, and if they are pointing to real problems, they are certainly too simple to offer any solutions.

  16. Why would you ever "worry" about someone else's marriage? My marriage isn't "hoopla." It's a marriage, much like any other marriage.

  17. Amanda Roberts-AndersonJune 4, 2013 at 5:11 AM

    That's a great analysis. Thanks for bringing it up.

  18. Amanda Roberts-AndersonJune 4, 2013 at 5:18 AM

    "We can't only fight for issues that personally impact us if we want to fix the problems in our culture."

    Completely right! Straight people can fight for gay rights issues, men can fight for women's issues, and whites can fight for black issues. In fact, many of these oppressed minorities wouldn't be able to get their rights if people in the opposite majority didn't stand up for them. I'm am American but I live in China; I make it my business to commentate on Chinese issues every day because I want to see change as much as they do. Don't tell me I can't just because I'm not ethnically Chinese.

  19. The chart has already been dispelled by the Toldson and Marks study on Black marriage in 2011..

    Most Black men of all economic and educational backgrounds marry Black women; the researchers looked at figures from the U.S. Census and went to major metropolis' to determine whether there was some real imbalance of Black men to Black women based on having advanced education and there was not--in fact in Atlanta and D.C. 65% of Black women with Ph.d's were married to Black men and 54% with master's were married to Black men respectively.

    Society slandering Black people is nothing new; but as a Black woman who has had male members of my family date white women--it was not uncommon for their girlfriends to harbor resentment towards random Black women. I have seen the reverse (white men with Black women resenting Black men) as well. Which just goes to show that individual acceptance is not group acceptance.

    Anyway, there are several things that do and can destabilize the building and sustenance of African-American based off decades of institutionalized racism. IME--the white people i know personally that have a Black spouse are not willing to to be honest with their Black spouses and half-Black children about the instances in which they are being mistreated based on skin color.

    When charts like these surface, it:

    1. Add stress to single Black women (and Black men) and further alienates them from one another
    2. Paints white people in a paternalistic manner (they know what's best for us dysfunctional Black people)

    This is nothing but a game being played.


  20. "I found it to be a completely racist representation of black men as inadequate."

    It's racists towards Black people, deb.

  21. "Anyway, there are several things that do and can destabilize the building and sustenance of African-American"

    That should read: Anyway there are several things that do and can destabilize the building and sustenance of African-American families.

  22. Thanks for the info on the 2011 study. It does indeed seem like this is a game being played with people's lives and feelings.

    I completely agree with you that "individual acceptance is not group acceptance." And connecting one-on-one with someone of a different race/religion/cultural upbringing does not equal a passport to understanding.

    You say "IME--the white people i know personally that have a Black spouse are not
    willing to to be honest with their Black spouses and half-Black
    children about the instances in which they are being mistreated based on
    skin color." I am in no way trying to discount your experiences, as I'm sure that this is true for many people, but I also know that many white spouses in interracial marriages try very hard to understand and check our own privilege and to be aware of how racism impacts our own families. I'm sure we all make mistakes (I know that I have), but I do not think that loving my husband and raising our daughter in a loving and supporting home is destabilizing African-American families (as this chart suggests, among all of its other flaws).

  23. "but I do not think that loving my husband and raising our daughter in a loving and supporting home is destabilizing African-American families (as this chart suggests, among all of its other flaws)."

    You are right, i do not believe that an individual interracial marriage has anything to do with Black people as a whole. Hence why i mentioned decades of institutionalized racism (staffing unqualified teachers in urban schools, the erasure of Black and other teachers of color out of public schools; i do believe inequality starts with education, etc) .

    However, i will say that misinformation--like that above--only helps to alienate single Black men from single Black women. This is because although the negative focus may be on Black men, it is also negative towards Black women because when it comes to racism, one can't separate Black people by gender. Well, at least i don't believe you can. For example, if many professional single Black women have internalized the message in the chart that they are unwanted simply because of having obtained college educations, they are likely going to go around spreading it because its research and no one should question research, right?

    However, professional single Black men who otherwise are looking to connect with single Black women will have heard this narrative so much from Black women in the media and other places that he will begin to believe that there is something foul and feel unwanted.

    Fortunately for me, i'm no longer in singlesville and can actually speak about this :-).

    Anyway, i do understand that there are white people who have Black spouses and children who are doing the best they can to counter racism--i just don't know them personally. Kinda wish i did though--it would make for very interesting discussions.

  24. "This is because although the negative focus may be on Black men, it is also negative towards Black women because when it comes to racism, one can't separate Black people by gender."

    I think you are absolutely right. This entire infographic is racist and demeaning. It undercuts the value of Black people as individual human beings and turns everyone into a product on the dating "market."

    "Anyway, i do understand that there are white people who have Black spouses and children who are doing the best they can to counter racism--i just don't know them personally. Kinda wish i did though--it would make for very interesting discussions."

    I know you don't know me in real life, and I can't say that I always get it right, but I do always love interesting discussions!

  25. Hi Balancing Jane. This is the first time I'm leaving a comment here. I'm disagreeing with you, but I'll do so respectfully. I'm not one to be like a troll.
    Whenever a study is conducted, people usually have a control. The standard where they will measure everything else. I think the standard here is that most people prefer to marry and date within their own race. Not just black people, all other groups show this pattern as well and have for centuries. Marrying the opposite gender in their group becasue thats who they know the most and whom they feel most comfortable with. Hence looking at the various aspects that might prevent one gender from pairing up with the other gender are important. Given that this is about black people marrying each other, I'm guessing that eliminating all married men, i.e those from other groups as well would not be helpfull, because the theory is that people prefer to marry within their own race, hence black women with black men. Hence married black men are the only men who are going to make any differnce in the marriage options for black women.
    Married black men who are especially married to white women is going to read as men unavailable to marry black women. Given that he is not single and the women who want him are black, it will stand that if he married a white woman he may not want a black one. You pointed out that just because he married a white women doesn't mean he wont marry a black or any other women for that matter. But that is exactly why these men must be left out; because there is no way of telling. There is no "guarntee" that such a man would date a black woman. Its all circumstancial, he may divorce as well as he might not. Given that women are jusdged on the physical and the physical sometimes transfers into race, then no one can tell for sure that this man would date a black woman.
    But just to put it in laymans terms. I don't think telling women to hope pray and wish that a man married outside his race leaves his wife to marry her or atleast not exclude him "just yet" is exactly right. Asking that these women do so, so that you wont feel "bad" is a bit assanine. Sorry you read this as being relationships like yours. You speak as though you are verse on white priviledge.....well you also may want to check your......( gulp) white guilt :-(

  26. Disagreeing with me certainly isn't trolling, and I have absolutely no problem with you doing so.

    However, your argument isn't making much sense.

    I didn't tell anyone to "hope pray and wish that a man married outside of his race leaves his wife to marry her." In fact, I argued that ALL married men should be eliminated from the pool. I just pointed out that it didn't make sense to eliminate only men married to white women. If we're looking at SINGLE men (which is what it claims), the we need to eliminate ALL men who are no longer single. The creators of this graph didn't do that because they are invested in demonstrating a very particular narrative, and they weren't afraid to completely break the rules of logic to do so. They were preying on the animosity some people feel toward those in interracial relationships to help spin a graph that would get views (and ultimately get them people on their dating site).

    I also have to take some serious issue with this claim: "I think the standard here is that most people prefer to marry and date within their own race. Not just black people, all other groups show this pattern as well and have for centuries."

    Well, when it's mandated by law that people can only marry within their own "race," I guess that is going to be the tendency. That hardly proves anything other than the racism inherent in the society that makes the laws. Your claim of how this is backed up by "centuries" means nothing.

    I certainly won't say that I never feel white guilt (I do), but in this case, white guilt has nothing to do with the fact that this chart is very poorly created with many, many flaws.

  27. Michelle (in Florida)July 26, 2013 at 4:42 PM

    I think the author of this piece of 'misinformation' is asking the reader to assume that since 8.5% of black men are married to white women, then that implies that 8.5% of single black men are seeking to marry white women. It is a ridiculous jump, and I'm not sure there is a statistically valid method to determine the number of (single) black men seeking white women based on the current number of black-man-white-woman marriages.

    While I am disinclined to deconstruct love and loving relationships, any discussion on this topic would be remiss without acknowledging that, yes, there are some black men who exclusively date white women. Because of the influence (an understatement) of white supremacy on virtually every aspect of our culture, sometimes this exclusivity goes beyond mere "type" preferences ("I like blondes, brunettes, plus-size, petite, athletic, short, tall, etc.") and is an implication of societally-ingrained perceptions of beauty, social status, and power.

    It is, perhaps, uncomfortable for a woman to consider the impetus behind her suitor's attraction to her--whatever "color" they both happen to be ("Do I remind him of his mother?" "Did he have a poster of Farrah Fawcett on his ceiling growing up?" "Does he have a foot fetish?" "Do I resemble the 'one who got away' in college?"). Forgive me, but do we ever really know why someone is drawn to us? This is true for anyone, in any type of relationship. I suppose what matters is that two people are drawn together and love is allowed to blossom.

    I hope that one day soon, for the sake of our children, race--for lack of a more suitable term--will not matter.

  28. bitch keep dreaming only 2% of black men marry outside their race and .9% of are to white women 98% of black men are married to black women and 84% black men are wealth marry you guess it black women sorry i don't no where you're pulling these number your ass i guess and look out for your tenth year of marry because 98% of marriage between white women and black men end by then i know my husband left his white wife from me i am black if you did not guess yet who and she hate my nappy head ass her words not mine but funny thing is she have to black daughter lol you white women make me laugh stop believe black men when they say they don't date black women their will tell you anything to get in your pants my husband don't date black at lease that what he told her lol

  29. You're being dishonest Phoebe. The only subject you comment on all over the blogosphere is the topic of white women with black men.

    You should not be masking your very negative feelings here. The reason why you're pretending to be supportive is because of the audience.

    Be honest - you really have a problem with white women, period. You really hate interracial relationships, period.

  30. I think she's got the right idea. Roughly 8.5% of US blacks are worth a dam and the rest are thugs and ghetto morons who's only contact with non-black women is ooking and eaking at them.

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  32. I agree. It also implies that black women are "too picky" eliminating black men who are considered obese. Even the language "I want a man who looks good and is in shape" seems offensive to me.

  33. Community slandering Dark people is nothing new; but as a black who has had men associates of my family time frame white-colored women--it was not unusual for their lovers to harbour anger towards unique black females.

  34. Phoebe here.

    I make no secret to the FACT that i comment on a wide range of issues that deals with white hegemony ALL over the blogsphere, which in many cases does involve interracial relationships,as white hegemony DOES negatively impact the human activity area of sex much as it does other areas of human activity: religion, politics, economics, entertainment, law and education for the purpose of helping Black people understand what in fact we are dealing with.

    Since you have been following me like a stalker, you know that i make the same comments about Black women in relationships with white males.

    "Be honest - you really have a problem with white women, period."

    There is NO ONE on the face of the earth who HATES white females more than white males. White females are MORE likely to be killed, raped and abused by white males.

    "You really hate interracial relationships, period."

    Again, using a term than white people coined, "miscegenation" laws were thought of, written and implemented by white males--a historical FACT.

    Not Black people.

    Thirdwheel, are you a white person?

  35. This is a very good article. As a white guy who dates black women, sometimes I wish everyone was one color. That way people would stop questioning why I or others date interracially. There are "good" and "bad" men and women of all races. I will be the first to admit that my attraction also has to do with physicality; I think that's normal for most people. But there is more to it. Before choosing an online dating site that caters to my desires, I look at review sites like http://datesitesreview.com/dating_reviews/black-dating-sites/. There I use personals site ratings to find the site I wish to use. I do think that interracial dating is a good thing, not just because I do it, lol, but because it helps with people understanding different cultures. One day I will find the one person that will take what turns out to be my short term dating habits unfortunately, into something long term.