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Monday, July 15, 2002


Mickey Kaus has an interesting spin on a recent Atlanta Journal-Constitution article by John Blake about black women dating white men. Blake cites statistics showing that there's a huge upturn in black woman/white man marriages, but interviews mostly unmarried people.

Blake suggests that white guys benefit from their more "romantic" approach ("I haven't found any black men trying to take me to the museum," says one interviewee), while black men... well, from the text: "A disproportionate number of black men are in jail, or are murder victims. One in every 20 black men older than 18 is in prison, the 2000 Human Rights Watch report concluded. Black teenage males are seven times more likely to be murdered than white teenage males, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported."

Those black men not in jail or dead have "less incentive to treat a black woman well," per another interviewee, owing to their scarcity .

Picking up on this analysis, Kaus, expectedly, pegs the shift to welfare reform. "Hundreds of thousands of black women who are now working rather than on welfare come into contact with non-black men at work," he says. "When you're working, the virtues of pooling your income with a male earner are now far more obvious than in the days when that could cost you your AFDC check."

Kaus allows himself some fantasies on the subject. One goes like this: "How will black men react when black women start getting all sorts of favorable publicity (in newspaper stories like this one, and advertising imagery) for going out with non-black men? Anger seeems one short-run possibility." (The other is about "black male sexuality." He makes much of this, but offers no conclusion. Maybe he just likes talking about it.)

Something barely mentioned, though hanging like a shroud over both articles, is the fact that black men traditionally and to this day make less money than white men. The preference of women for partners with greater incomes has been well-covered, and those readers unacquainted with the research may avail the novels of Thackeray or the works of Atlanta's own The Brains.

That increased social mobility removes an arbitrary barrier from this Darwinian pursuit is indeed laudable. But it's curious that neither Blake nor Kaus has considered this angle (though Blake mentions in passing that "Black men have traditionally shrugged off these criticisms from black women, saying they are too demanding or obsessed with status and money"). To do so, of course, would be far less romantic than a museum date, and less cheering than a celebration of welfare reform.

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