Um…I’m not even sure we should dignify this with discussion. It manages to be racist and sexist all at the same time. It’s about as insulting as CNN’s Black in America Part 2: Black and single: Is marriage really for white people? This — despite the fact that  I’m a successful black woman myself who remains unmarried, for the moment. Doesn’t mean I don’t like men. I like them a lot! Like most Americans according, I believe marriage is no longer about making babies (or the financial security needed to facilitate this), but about mutual happiness and fulfillment. I am happy right now, dating, self-sufficient, got my own thing — as Ne-Yo sings:

said ooh its somethin about
kinda woman that want you but dont need you
hey i cant figure it out
there’s something about her

cause she walk like a boss
talk like a boss
manicured nails to set the pedicure off
shes fly effortlessly

and she move like a boss
do what a boss do
she got me thinkin about getting involved
thats the kinda girl i need oh

she got her own thing
thats why i love her
miss independent
wont you come and spend a little time?

I definitely both walk and talk like a boss AND my nails always look good (2 snaps up, if you feel me, sistas). There’s a reason this song is at the top of the charts. It speaks to a lot of men and women in the black community. Dr. Melissa Harris-Lacewell did such an excellent job pointing out what is so very wrong-headed, unnecessary and irritating about ABC News’ decision to run this story in this way. Read the whole thing. Here are my favorite parts. Lord knows, Harris-Lacewell is my hero. From her devastating post at the Nation:

The never-ending story “Why Can’t a Successful Black Woman Find a Man?” received another public forum on Wednesday night. This time it was neither BET nor TV One spewing the oft repeated statistic that 43% of black women have never been married. This time it was the more surprising venue of ABC News’ Nightline insisting that a crisis exists because 70% of professional black women are without husbands. The conversation itself was far more dismal than these figures. The serious, interesting and sensitive social and personal issues embedded in these statistics were hijacked by superficial, cartoonish dialogue that relied heavily on personal anecdotes and baseless personal impressions while perpetuating damaging sexism.

Wednesday night’s program was co-hosted by comedian Steve Harvey and ABC News Nightline Correspondent Vicki Mabrey and welcomed guests Sherri Shepherd (“The View”), Jacqui Reid (journalist), Jimi Izrael (blogger) and Hill Harper (actor/author).


However, given the distortions of or absence of black women in most mainstream media outlets we are skeptical that Nightline was primarily motivated by a desire to address the human needs of African American women. Instead, we suspect marriage is a trope for other anxieties about respectability, economic stability, and the maintenance of patriarchy. Which social issue appears on the public agenda is never accidental. In this moment of economic crisis, social change and racial transformation it is meaningful that black women are being encouraged to exclusively embrace traditional models of family and to view themselves as deficient if their lives do not fit neatly into these prescribed roles.

In the 1960s, the Moynihan Report blamed black women heads of household for social deterioration in black communities. In the 1980s single black mothers were vilified as welfare cheats responsible for the nation’s economic decline. In the 1990s black women were blamed for birthing a generation of “crack babies” that were predicted to burden the nation’s health and educational systems. The Nightline conversation was suspiciously reminiscent of this prior reasoning. As the nation copes with its anxieties about a black president, a shifting economy and a new global position, black women suddenly reemerge as a problem to be solved.


Despite its role as a news program, Nightline failed to call on any sociologists, psychologists, historians or therapists who could have contributed context, statistics or analysis about the “marriage crisis” among African Americans. Instead, these delicate and compelling issues were addressed by comedians, actors, bloggers and journalists. If Nightline deemed this story to be worthy of coverage then it had an obligation to cover the story with as much integrity as another social issue. It is hard to imagine Nightline assembling a panel of actors and comedians to discuss the economy, the war in Iraq, the Catholic Church or any other relevant issue.

As @baratunde will tell you, black people are the future. And we’re on a trend that says that a man has to make a good case for marriage these days. We’re on the cutting edge of a nationwide curve (Pew Social Trends):

On the national level, the Census Bureau survey showed that a shrinking share of Americans are married2 — 52% of males ages 15 and older and 48% of females ages 15 and older. The proportion of Americans who are currently married has been diminishing for decades and is lower than it has been in at least half a century.

For blacks, here are the numbers: 33% of black women and 44% of black men were married in 2007. So…we’re about 10-15% points off. That hardly seems like it’s worth an entire segment of a show. Black women can get a man just fine — the questions folks should be asking:  whether black women want one and whether black men want to get married themselves. After all, it take 2 to tango.

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