Are you limiting yourself to Black men?

Remember that book I mentioned last Thursday, “Is Marriage for White People?” It was by Ralph Richard Banks, the Black Stanford law professor who suggested Black women stop exclusively dating Black men.
He wrote an essay for the Wall Street Journal yesterday. “Black women confront the worst relationship market of any group because of economic and cultural forces that are not of their own making; and they have needlessly worsened their situation by limiting themselves to Black men,” Banks said. “Black women can best promote Black marriage by opening themselves to relationships with men of other races.”
Instead of blaming Black women’s “attitude”, weight, high expectations, etc. for why 42% of Black women are single, Banks points to socio-economic factors that affect Black men such as the high incarceration rate, low pursuit of higher education, and limited economic opportunities. His essay about Black marriages is the only in my recent memory that was written by a Black man and didn’t blame Black women for the downfall of Black marriages. Yet, Banks’ received massive criticism from readers who found his suggestions preposterous.
Jezebel writer Erin Gloria Ryan was one of them. “This isn’t economic policy; love isn’t a logical decision…” Ryan said in “Can White Men Fix Black Relationships?” Suggesting that Black women react to their smaller dating pool by simply changing their tastes and abandoning the hope that they’d be able to raise a family with someone from a similar cultural background is borderline absurd.”

Is it really? What may be absurd is that most Black women continue to date Black-Only. We have made a priority out of men who have largely made us options. On top of the socio-economic and political factors that prevent many Black men from being eligible partners, up to 20% of Black men marry other races of women.

Perhaps it’s time for unmarried Black women to consider what our loyalty is likely to fetch. During my interview with Banks for the September issue of ESSENCE, he pointed out, “if you’re a college educated Black woman, and you’re going to be with a Black man, most of you will be with men who are not doing well, who are less educated and earning less than you.”

Banks added: “The reality is… you have less in common with the guy you grew up with who’s driving the UPS truck and more in common with the White guy who sat next to you in history class in college.”

If single Black women want something that they’ve never had — marriage or committed relationships with men who’s accomplishments match their own, they are going to have to try somethings they never have. Insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. And continuing, en masse, to date Black-only sounds just a little insane.

“If [a man] knows that you’re going to expand your horizons, he’s going to have to give you a better deal to keep you,” Banks said. “Your options outside the relationship determine what happens in it.”


Demetria L. Lucas is the Relationships Editor at ESSENCE and the author of “A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life” (Atria) in stores now. She has recently been nominated for an African American Literary Award. Vote for her now on

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