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Mirror Mirror on the Wall, Who’s the Pickiest of them All

"There is a popular discourse about whether black women are too picky, but from all that I have seen, it is black men, particularly sought after and successful black men, who are the pickiest of all"- Ralph Richard Banks in Is Marriage for White People?

The cover of the first Essence asked the question: "Sensual Black Man...Do you Love me?"

It also addressed issues of identity, beauty, class, and careers. So it was no surprise, decades later, I was reading an Essence magazine a few months ago that was a full issue dedicated to black women, dating, career, mating and our general woes. I was annoyed to say the least. Haven’t we exhausted this issue enough? Goodness gracious. [insert eye roll].

 But an article featuring author/historian-lawyer-social economist Ralph Richard Banks intrigued me. I raised an eyebrow. Wow…finally a book that doesn’t point fingers but really is looking for issues and explaining everything from a socio-economic standpoint, not an emotional one. What I was most intrigued about was one of his solutions to the problem of unmarried black women: marry outside your race. I raised an eyebrow and my soul winced (as Jill Scott so eloquently put it) a little.

Nevertheless, I pre-ordered the book for my Kindle that same day.

At first, I thought I would instantly dismiss this book. But I didn’t. I kept reading and reading. His analogy of marriage/dating to the capital market and “marketplace” was brilliant. He really held no punches. And although he was and is a learned and erudite scholar, he wrote everything pretty plainly.  In a nutshell, his thesis is this:

The marriage market is saturated with women and not enough men. Men are aware of this. They know and see this as an option, leaving women to fend for the “scraps on the social table”. This has affected all women. But other social issues exacerbate the problem with black women. Thus, unlike their white counterparts, black women are left out in the cold. If they do marry, they marry a less educated man, a poorer man. Yet will not marry across color lines. Men of the same class rarely marry, settling instead to date concurrently for years. And if they do it is rarely a black woman…. Thus, black women need to seek “alternative” views of marriage

I can go on and on. He had so many great points. And the fact that a black man wrote this says a whole lot. I could tell by his tone he was disappointed with black men. Disappointed in the society that is unfair to them socially and economically. Disappointed in their low educational rates, where women are not meeting enough eligible men as they climb the educational and career ladders at astronomical rates. And disappointed with their behavior in general, pervasive of a “sexual macho” bravado, resistant to monogamy. Furthermore, he’s disappointed that black women have to negotiate a hostile “marriage” market.

I couldn’t help but be shocked that he put much of the onus on black men. They are setting the tone for the nature of relationships these days. They have the upper hand and we know it. Thus, we do this crazy negotiation dance. We whore ourselves out, negotiating sex and cash for companionship. We put up with cheating.  We (women) put up with the lies and STDs. We just put up with a lot of crap we don’t need to.

Banks says that most black men would rather co-habitat for years, have concurrent relationships with no exclusivity (even while co-habitating), rather date many women and get all of the perks of a marriage/relationship, than to actually get married. Men will have children and baby mothers without commitment. They fear that the sex will get worse. But more negatively, they date so many women, taking the best from each of them, and having this grandiose idea (according to Banks) that this “all-star” woman exists. The woman who has ALL the best things of every woman they have ever date has. Because of this unrealistic expectation they do not commit. Banks argues that their “unrealistic expectations” is what is killing the black marriage rate. No woman will be everything and everywoman to you. That isn’t what marriage was designed for.

 Or worse, when they do commit, they are far too nostalgic about their “single days” and may even try to relive them via extramarital affairs and more days of non-committed relationships. And sometimes, those men who are successful often do not choose black women as their partners. 

I can count how many times I’ve heard black men say “I just want to chill” and do not date. Or say, “I don’t want to get married”. Or feel that the “perfect woman” isn’t out there. This is such a lie. A lie they are telling themselves to not actually take a chance. They say they are just “picky” when the truth is they are masters of manipulation, knowing that they have the upper hand. I know marriage isn’t for everyone but I truly don’t believe that.  Marriage is for everyone. There is someone out there for you. Even the LBGT community fights so hard for a right to marry that too often we piss away or shrug at. So…what do we do, as black women who desire to be married if our men have no desire for marriage?

(Banks, his wife Jennifer (PhD at Stanford), and his gorgeous boys)

“It's time for black women to stop being held hostage to the deficiencies of black men.'” Ralph Richard Banks

Banks basically doesn’t want us to wait with baited breath for black men. Truly, they are not waiting on us. Banks himself is married to a black woman, by the way. Yet, he wants us to live our lives, and whatever the race of the man may be, give him a chance. Loyalty be damned since black men are opening their options up. If I were reading this at age 21, I'd think this man was crazy. But now that I am 32, posited within the new dating “market”, divorced, celibate (which btw...more black, educated women are than any other race according to Banks) and without a single date in a while, I need to broaden my horizons. Be open and just see what happens. It’s a hard enough time waiting on a black man, why not just be open to a guy of equal footing who happens to be non-black. While I wont exclusively be looking for non-black guys, I will just see what happens. I admit. I shed a few tears at the thought. “Is this what it has come to?” Maybe. But guess what, no brother is shedding tears about this. So why should I?

Truth is, I wish guys would just grow up/be realistic and women stop accepting crap/be realistic. Stop accepting the statistics and thinking that “Oh well…I guess I got to take this dude, etc.” all in the name of “loyalty”. Lawyers have no business marrying garbage men (and if they do marry and are successful, it is rare indeed, divorce rates among these types of marriages are VERY high). What on earth will you talk about? How on earth will you build generational wealth that way? Other races are never encouraged to marry down, except black women are constantly told their standards are high, when in fact, they probably are not. They are simply reflections of mobility and class structures that education has afforded us.  Basically, you need to be equally yoked regardless of race. Thus, why not date someone who may not be black, but is of your same educational, class, and social standing. [This is not what I am saying. I am truly paraphrasing Banks (but I believe him)] He’s not an elitist or a classist. He’s just a realist.

But you know what pisses me off even more?

This book is about basically, how black men need to get it together and how women don’t need to play this game of selling themselves short in an unfavorable market.  Again, Banks isn’t too thrilled with black men right now. But they (black men) probably wont even pick it (the book) up. They think (as my ex once and still declares) that “nothing is wrong with them” and that their behavior is just fine and dandy. It’s mostly women reading this book, which is fine, but most certainly not Banks’ aim.

But what are white men thinking (as Banks' title and his "solution" to the marriage problem alludes to them) ? As I was reviewing the reader reviews on Amazon, I saw this one by a guy named "Abraham"

This book makes for an interesting read, but is kind of tilted towards unrealistic absurdity (wishful thinking, maybe?) in some ways. First off, I am a white man and though I am not a racist, I am not typically attracted to black women for the purpose of forming intimate relationships. Furthermore, most if not all of the white men that I know are not either, for varying reasons. So, to keep it short and sweet and to add some realistic balance, I am saying this to say: WHITE MEN ARE NOT THE ANSWER FOR BLACK WOMEN. And I'm absolutely certain that black women should not look to white men to "rescue" them, as it seems this book suggests that they should do. Again, I'm not racist, I am just being honest.


That basically negates Mr. Banks' thesis. And begs the question: Does anyone, even our own men, even other men, want US?

As I go through my period of self-reflection, purging, fasting and praying, my prayer is that one black man reads this book and evaluates himself. I pray that they see their faults and open their eyes to their missteps. Most of all…I pray that they open their eyes wide enough to see the sister in front of him, who just wants to love them, be their wife, and live a life of extraordinary purpose.

But first…let’s get that “picky” thing together. And take a look in the mirror.


  1. Great Post. I saw the book in Essence and on Black and Married with kids website.

    I am still keeping the faith that I will be married to a black man. I am not into white men but I do love me a papi owwww!!!

  2. Wow! I agree with a lot of the things he has to say. I think what lends credence to his argument is the fact 1) that he's a black man and 2) that he's happily married.


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