Ralph Richard Banks

Let us sit upon the ground and tell sad stories about black women. Things can be tough. African-American women get all of the sexism white women have to deal with, and all of the racism black men have to deal with. Successful black men tend to fulfill their own self-loathing destiny by running away from black women (not me, I’m married to one). Cultural representations of them are used to sell syrup or chicken, or involve a black dude dressed up in a fat suit (if William Tecumseh Sherman were still alive, he’d be waging war against Martin Lawrence and Tyler Perry). And law professors at prestigious universities try to profiteer off of their difficulties.

That last one is somewhat recent. But I don’t know how else to describe the new book by a Stanford Law professor, Ralph Richard Banks. His upcoming book is entitled Is Marriage for White People? (affiliate link).

Now, if I were a blogger looking to make a quick buck, that’s exactly the kind of book I’d write. In fact, look for my upcoming book, “Why White People Can Afford To Piss Away Time & Money in Law School, But Blacks Can’t.”

But Ralph Banks isn’t a blogger, he’s a Stanford Law professor. Shouldn’t we expect less sensationalized bullcrap from him?

I haven’t read Professor Banks’s book. Note again: blogger = being able to comment on things you haven’t read. Stanford Law professor should = reading things that support your fundamental point. But according to The Root, Banks didn’t do very much of that:

[T]hat’s pretty much what Stanford Law professor Ralph Richard Banks’ Is Marriage for White People? How the African American Marriage Decline Affects Everyone (in stores this September) is all about. The provocative, headline-grabbing big question (inspired by a journalist’s 2006 account of her conversation with an African-American sixth-grader) turns out to be there mostly to signal, “Attention, black bloggers, hosts of urban radio shows and white people, too: This is about to be a controversial analysis of marriage and race. Get ready for a lively debate with lots of interrupting.”

By the time you reach the solution presented at the end of the book — that black women should shift the power balance by opening themselves to interracial marriage — you realize the author hasn’t even attempted to explore, let alone answer, the cover’s quandary…

It’s safe to say that the solution offered up in the final chapter (marry interracially!) is less than universal. It’s presented solely to black women looking to “shift the power balance” between themselves and black men. Thus, anyone else who picks up this book hoping to discover how the plight of the women whose stories animate its pages… relates to their own lives will be left without much to take away. That is, unless you count new insights into the cultural forces that can make natural hair a challenge when dating black men and the nuances of “swag.”

Whether black women should, or should not, marry interracially is not my concern. For what it’s worth, I have no problem whatsoever with interracial marriage. I do have a problem with black men hooking up with white trophy wives to show off their “status,” but it’s really hard to judge any particular relationship from a distance. If the two people say they are married because they are in love, all you can really say is “mazel tov” and move on.

So whether or not Professor Banks has a worthwhile point, my objection rests with the way it was stated. I do this every day. I know a sensational headline when I’m looking at one. I’m familiar with how one writes generally reasonable arguments for 90% of a piece interspersed with ten percent of barely coherent hyperbole. We live in a culture where getting heard over the white noise sometimes requires you to shout a little bit. I get that.

I just don’t see why we need that from Stanford Law School, and I don’t see why we need it on a topic where there has been so little top-notch scholarly work. I mean, let somebody from Bossip write the “sista, go find yourself a white man” book. Couldn’t the Stanford Law professor give us something a little bit more than Is Marriage for White People? Couldn’t the SLS prof tell his publisher (who, dollar-to-donuts, is the one who came up with this title): “Come now, that’s dumb. After the initial shock value, people will just say I’m being dumb, and that’s not going to be good for sales.”

Anyway, six weeks shy of my seven-year anniversary to a black, female attorney, I can emphatically say: “No, marriage is not just for white people, f*** you very much.”

Review: ‘Is Marriage for White People?’ [The Root]
Is Marriage for White People?: How the African American Marriage Decline Affects Everyone [Amazon (affiliate link)]


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