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Aug 28, 2009
“Marriage eludes high achieving black women"
What does that headline say to you? Before I delve into the article itself, let’s explore the implications this headline has to offer: either marriage discriminates, or high achieving black women aren’t getting married.
I’ll go with the latter.
Even when I asked my boyfriend what he thought the headline meant, he said "[The headline implies that] marriage is hard for successful black women." So, before I even read the article, I had this preconceived notion that this was going to be based on the stereotype that all women are supposed to get married. But I was wrong.
According to the article on msnbc.com, the "fact" that most successful black women are choosing not to get married defeats the purpose of affirmative action. Now, I’ve heard the arguments that single women are statistically less happy than married women, or that women who do not bear children are contributing to a population decrease detrimental to society, or that married women live longer than single women. But never have I heard that single (and successful) black women are defeating the very purpose of affirmative action. It’s an original (and ridiculous) argument.
"This defeats the goal of affirmative action…The idea behind assuring that blacks had access to higher education and graduate school was that after a generation or so, African-Americans would reach a kind of achievement parity after generations of suffering educational and career restriction. But if black women, who comprise 71 percent of black graduate students, do not have children, the rate of achievement reaches a kind of familial dead end."
Well that’s a nice way to put it: a familial dead end.
Though this article isn’t about affirmative action but rather the sexist overtone the media has over successful women of color, I feel a personal obligation to clarify the goal of affirmative action: to ensure diversity and to allow those typically unable to afford private tutoring to reach the same opportunities as those able to afford such luxuries. In fact, Stanford’s Encyclopedia of Philosophy states that "Affirmative action means taking positive steps to increase the representation of women and minorities in the areas of employment, education, and business…"
Keep in mind that virtually every college and university in the country gives preference to legacies, or the children and grandchildren of alumni. Since many colleges (including all of the Ivy League) admitted only white males for a good portion of the 20th century, legacies are often white students–serving as a disadvantage to minority students.
But I digress. I’m surprised that this article slyly neglected to mention Condoleezza Rice, a truly successful black woman in the United States. She is single, and has never given birth, yet she doesn’t seem to exhibit any signs of depression, as this article would suggest. Despite what others may think, Rice may just be living the life she *gasp* wants to live! Unfortunately, many people still honestly believe that every woman dreams of a big, fancy wedding in lieu of a career. Answering to an awkward online question as to why Rice was single, many people made it clear their suspicion of and dislike for the former Secretary. One such comment stated "No wonder she is so bitchy…"
Other comments were just as cruel, sexist, and wholly untrue. A Boondocks cartoon even contributed to these sexist comments by adding fuel to the fire.
It seems to me that the general public is still uncomfortable at the thought of professional single women of any color. Articles have been published about single white women and their poor quality of life (a la Concerned Women for America, which blatantly states some unusual statistic that working women are somehow jealous of homemakers.) And just yesterday, this article surfaced targeting successful black women for choosing not to marry.
I’m sitting here trying to sum up my analysis of this article in a concise manner without getting too political—but it’s just too hard. So, I’ll leave you with this: It is indeed possible to be a professional woman, a great wife, and an awesome mother. Just like men will never need to sacrifice their jobs to maintain a happy family, women should never have to sacrifice professionalism for motherhood.