'Is Marriage For White People?': Stanford Law Professor's Views on Black Women, Marriage Deficit

PHOTO: In his new book, "Is Marriage for White People," Stanford law professor Ralph Richard Banks says black women need to look outside of their race to find sutiable mates.
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When it comes to black women and marriage, perhaps the only thing more disheartening than the dire statistics -- 70 percent of them are unmarried, studies have shown -- is the tedious conversation itself. But a new book adds fresh ideas and a new tone to the conversation, suggesting black women need to start looking for suitable mates outside their race.

"Many women would do well to expand their options in the same way people of other races have, and look beyond black men in their search for a partner," Stanford law professor Ralph Richard Banks told "Nightline." "Black women are the most segregated group in our society when it comes to relationships."

Watch the full story on "Nightline" tonight at 11:35 p.m. ET

For his book, "Is Marriage for White People?", Banks conducted roughly 100 interviews with African-Americans about their marriage and dating ideals and experiences. His explanation as to why marriage rates are so low among black Americans is that there is a shortage of eligible black men.

"There's a social catastrophe going on in terms of black men," he said. "Imprisonment numbers, unemployment numbers, under-performance academically, these are crisis not just for African-Americans, but for the nation."

Tomika Anderson, a 35-year-old freelance writer living in Brooklyn, is all too familiar with the notion that 70 percent of black women are unmarried (meaning either having never been married, divorced, separated or widowed), compared to 45 percent of unmarried white women.

"It's really getting old," she said. "I think by focusing so much on the negative, you're missing out on the positive, and the positive is that at any given time, you can decide for yourself not to be a 'statistic'"

In 2009 "Nightline" spoke with four single, African-American professional women in Atlanta about the relative difficulty they and others like them had finding husbands. One of them called it the "black girl curse." Almost two years later, they're still dating, but no one has put a ring on it.

Last year, "Nightline: Face-Off" put the question -- "why can't a successful black woman find a man?" -- to an all-star panel, which included Steve Harvey, Sherri Shepherd, Jacque Reid, Jimi Izrael and Hill Harper, and opened the discussion up to a wide audience. Almost 1,000 people showed up to the Porter Sanford Performing Arts Center in Atlanta to watch.

"Women are looking for men that don't exist," Izrael said at the time. "They're looking for this picture-perfect archetype."

The general consensus among the black men who were on that panel: black women need to scale down expectations and stop being so picky. Misguided advice, according to Banks.

Only about 9 percent of black women are married to men of a different race -- compare that to 41 percent of Hispanic women, 48 percent of Asian women and 58 percent of Native American women in the United States. However only 8 percent of white women marry outside their race. To Banks, it seems like it is time for a change.

"Interacial marriages have actually been rising for everyone," Banks said. "Black women have fought the good fight. They have engaged in what one friend described as a 'noble effort,' trying to lift black men. That's praiseworthy, but at the same time we should recognize that, that strategy hasn't really worked."

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