Tariq Nelson on race, marriage and Black America

Tariq Nelson has opened up a can, actually a few cans, of worms and sent them racing across the floor over on his blog. After warning readers to leave their emotional baggage at the door, Tariq writes about African-Americans (AA) marrying other races and some of the motivations for it. For Muslims living outside the United States, the problems faced by AA Muslims don’t get much coverage.

But, as Tariq frequently points out, the AA community faces some serious challenges.

Of particular interest is the observation that there is a correlation between income and education, and mixed race marriages.

To illustrate this, at the highest income level ($100,000 and above) there are nearly as many black/non-black couples as there are black/black couples. (86,443 both-black couples vs 75,410 mixed race couples). On educational attainment, couples with graduate or professional degrees were again almost even, with 160,367 black/black couples vs 146,763 black/non-black couples (More information on this can be found at here) One also has to wonder how many of those high SES black/black couples include high-yellow (’Yella’)or redbone wives

The reason, Tariq suggests, is that as people rise in income, there comes with it the opportunity to effectively “opt out” of being black. In other words, ensuring the future children and grandchildren are “lightened up”.

Keeping those stats in mind, I stated my belief that America is moving away from a white/non-white dichotomy toward a black/non-black dichotomy. This means that it will be good to be anything but black in America. Once a black moves up the social ladder, he has the option to marry someone that is not black and give his/her children or grandchildren – depending on their appearance – the increasing chance to ‘opt out’ of being black.

The post continues to make some very cutting observations about racism in the Muslim world and some of the effects that this has had on other Muslims, particularly African Americans.

Reading the comments, of which there are now over 100, it becomes clear that many African-American women are unhappy with what appears to be a trend skewed towards AA men/non-AA women. As a result of so many of their menfolk marrying non-AA women, it has led to a surplus of AA women that are unable to find suitable husbands.

That trend can be seen more clearly in the following graph, taken from Steve Sailer’s 1997 article on the subject of interracial marriage for the National Review.


From reading the comments, it would seem that this disparity is present even within the AA Muslim community and that many AA Muslim women, particularly educated women, are finding it hard to find spouses because significant numbers of educated (and therefore upwardly mobile) AA Muslim men are gravitating towards non-AA women. As Aneesa writes:

The problem here is that African American men are the ones who are flocking to non-African American women in great numbers, however, the reverse can not be said. AA women have a hard enough time finding a good AA man as it is, so if we were to see an increase in inter-racial marriages, where would that leave AA women in all of this?

Of course, AA men marrying non-AA women is not the issue. There’s nothing particularly offensive about that and it could almost be seen as a healthy sign of a society that has become more enlightened as to issues of race. The real problem is that AA women are now finding it hard to marry men of equivalent education and social status and are either having to remain single or marry beneath themselves.

One possible reason why educated and upwardly mobile AA men may gravitate towards non-AA women is because in order to reach that position, the men have had to engage in behaviour that is considered by many of their peers to be, “acting white”. In other words, by the time they reach the point of being able to get married, they have, through their good grades and hard work, found themselves alienated from the rest of their community. That good grades are associated with imitating whites and poorer social interaction with other minorities is born out, for example, by research [PDF] by Fryer and Torrelli. They found:

Among whites, higher grades yield higher popularity. For Blacks, higher achievement is associated with modestly higher popularity until a grade point average of 3.5, when the slope turns negative. A black student with a 4.0 has, on average, 1.5 fewer same-race friends than a white student with a 4.0. Among Hispanics, there is little change in popularity from a grade point average of 1 through 2.5. After 2.5, the gradient turns sharply negative. A Hispanic student with a 4.0 grade point average is the least popular of all Hispanic students, and has 3 fewer friends than a typical white student with a 4.0 grade point average. Put differently, evaluated at the sample mean, a one standard deviation increase in grades is associated with roughly a .103 standard deviation decrease in social status for Blacks and a .171 standard deviation decrease for Hispanics. For students with a 3.5 grade point average or better, the effect triples.

It is, of course, an extraordinarily complex issue and I don’t think there is any one explanation or solution to the problem.  Mercifully, it is an issue that I don’t believe we face in Australia.  Although there may be many Muslim men choosing to marry non-Muslim women, I suspect that any reduction in the supply of suitable men would be offset by immigration.  However, it would be interesting to see any statistics on inter-religious marriage in Muslim Australia before assuming we don’t have any issues.