Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Numbers Game

In the course of discussing the "subversive crotchgrab in menswear" maneuver in the new Ciara video (featuring Reggie Bush), Matt Yglesias goes on to make an interesting point about the dating pool:

Unfortunately for Ciara, though, a healthy share of the responsibility for the behavior she deplores seems to have deeper structural roots in the high rate of incarceration and low life expectancy of African-American men combined with the persistence of substantial social pressures against inter-racial dating. Note that "nationwide the Census Bureau calculates that among single non-Hispanic whites in their 20's, there are 120 men for every 100 women. The comparable figures are 153 Hispanic men, 132 Asian men and 92 black men for every 100 single women in their 20's of the same race or ethnicity." Insofar as people date intra-racially, that means African-Americans are facing a very different climate from whites, Asians, or Latinos.

There's a lot of directions this can go from here. First off, speaking from personal experience, I agree 100% that a black male or female living in a major American city (with the off the top of my head exceptions of New York, D.C., Atlanta, Houston, L.A., and probably the San Francisco Bay Area) will have a tougher time finding a mate of the same race than almost any other group. If you add in education levels, it gets even harder. College educated blacks are still fairly rare in America (salient fact from the link: In 2005, only 17% of African Americans over the age of 25 had at least a B.A.). Even in the cities I mentioned, it's just very simply a different thing to date as a black man. Few groups carry the social stigmas that black men do, from being violent (we're all angry!) at one end, to being sexual studs (Mandingo, anyone?) on the other. However, for as bad as black men have it, black women have it much worse (see this link for more). There are simply less black men for them to choose from and black men, for reasons I can't really explain, have been able to cross over, if you will, into dating people of other races more easily than black women have (NOTE: it's still not easy, it's just easier). For black women, this further depletes what was, at the outset, a fairly small pool of potential mates to begin with.

This is oversimplified, to be sure, but this strikes me a simple question of, for lack of a better way of putting it, choice. If you are a black man or woman (or a member of another minority group, for that matter) in a city where there are not a lot of people who look like you, you have a few avenues to explore. One is to make a dedicated effort to frequent places where you can meet people who look, sound, and act like you. The other readily available choice is to broaden the scope of people you would date.

Some people might take offense at that last statement, but I think that all depends on your view of people. If you are honestly of the belief that only a person of your race could make you happy, then there's not much I can offer. However, if you're willing to believe that there's more than one potential mate out there for you, and that the factors and circumstances under which you could fall in love with someone depends on a myriad of factors (which may or may not even include race), then I think you have to take the broadly inclusive view of things and make an effort to explore your potential interests, whatever they may be, and let the chips fall where they may. It's often been said you can't control who you fall in love with and I think that's true. Finding a soul mate is hard enough, so limiting yourself by skin color, to me, is a way of closing yourself off to the potential of an amazing experience. Variety is indeed the spice of life.

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