single black ladies

Apparently the relationship status of black women has reached “crisis” level (42% are single). But don’t fret ladies, ABC News/ Nightline is on the case. They’ve also sought the assistance of comedian-turned-relationship guru Steve Harvey. Harvey’s advice to fine-looking, twenty and thirty-something black women: get you an old cat daddy, they knows how to treat y’all. (insert eyeroll here)

“Blah blah blah blah, blah blah by myself.”

I don’t mean to be callous. But the “why black women are still single” narrative is getting a bit trite. So why am I posting about it again? In short, I’m a cultural critic and am especially concerned about black women as subjects. What troubles me most about the news stories and articles that profile the state of single black women is that most of these pieces hover fairly closely to black pathology theses. Black women are too picky/snobby/overeducated/emasculating/status-driven … blah blah blah blah. Black men are players/in jail/undereducated/all dating white women … blah blah blah blah.

Needless to say, these profiles make a number of troubling assumptions (most that are conservative, heterosexist, divisive along gender lines) that ultimately affirm that something is “wrong” with black people.

Is the marital status of black women a debate that should be played out in the media? And if so, how can such a conversation become more productive? What do studies that predict the improbability that a black woman will marry a black man hope to gain by trotting out bleak statistics? Can these kinds of debates be reframed in a way that doesn’t blame black women for being single or that presumes that something is inherently wrong with (you for) being single?


About jennifer williams

Jennifer D. Williams is a writer and professor of English and Women's and Gender Studies. She has published in academic journals and online at, PopMatters, among other sites. Jennifer is currently working on a book that looks at black women's urban literature between the Depression and the civil rights era.

2 responses to “single black ladies

  1. Hello Jennifer. I was online this evening trying to do some research on “Single Black Women”, and ran across your blog page. I thought I'd leave a comment, because you are so on point when you speak of the media portraying us black women as possibly being the cause of us remaining single. I am currently working on something with my cousins as well as a few friends to discuss the state of Black Relationships as a whole, because I just simply refuse to believe everything I read or hear in the media regarding our status! I refuse to believe that all of these statistics are accurate! So with that being said, continue to do what you do…continue to write they way you do. I was talking with a friend of mine a few weeks ago, and she posed a question: “Where are all the Black women leaders? Who do we really have to look up to as mentors or quality leaders in this day in age or in this generation?” It's really sad, but we were saying that we'd like to lead by example to this next generation, and if we don't, then who will stand up for us? The time is NOW to try and reshape the younger ones behind us. Keep up the good work!

  2. Thanks so much for reading and commenting. I do think more of these discussions have to take place and am collecting stories. Would love to hear what you and your friends and cousins have to say about the matter.

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