Is Marriage for Rich People? A Book Review of Ralph Richard Banks's Is Marriage for White People?
13 Pages Posted: 2 Jan 2012 Last revised: 9 Sep 2012
Date Written: May 11, 2012
Blacks have the lowest marriage rate of any racial group in America, and black women are more than three times as likely as white women to never to marry. Ralph Richard Banks’ monograph Is Marriage for White People? provides a searching inquiry into the condition of black singleness. He argues that, as the result of a shortage of "eligible" black men, black women often face the unappealing dilemma of "marrying down" -- that is, marrying a man of a lower socieoeconomic class -- or remaining single. He advocates that black women would serve both themselves and blacks more generally by opening themselves to "marrying out" -- that is, to marrying a man of a different race.
The changes Banks envisions, played out to their logical conclusion, would reduce the racial disparity in marriage at the expense of widening the socioeconomic disparity in marriage and instantiating current socioeconomic gaps. Banks is correct that objections to interracial marriage are often overstated. But a better solution to the marriage disparity would both discourage hostility to interracial marriage and avoid reifying class distinctions. One place to start involves our thinking about both “marrying out” and “marrying down.” If we recognize both alternatives as potentially legitimate choices, we would make progress toward wearing away existing barriers of race and class.
Keywords: race, class, interracial marriage
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