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by Charing Ball

As a black woman, I find it particularly odd that my lifestyle choices, finances and other habits are, all of the sudden, under the suspicious glare of the mainstream media spotlight.

If the media isn’t speculating on why as many as 70 percent of us are supposedly single, than it’s citing erroneous research on the various reasons we might not be able to get a man, including: our likelihood to catch an incurable STD, or our over-reliance on Jesus or why we are either undesirable or unlikely to date or marry outside of our race.

Just last week the media decided to pull the curtains aside again in its relentless quest to demystify the black women with a study, courtesy of NYU’s Women of Color Policy Network, which suggested that Black and Latino single mothers are more likely to have a median wealth value of next to zero.

Okay, now I am official depressed.

Call me naive, but I had no idea that we were such a mystery to the rest of America.  Hell, we’ve been here, pretty much since the inception of this country, yet you would think that by all of the coverage that we just stepped off an alien ship from the planet Negrotopia (side note: if we are from the planet Negrotopia, how can I purchase a ticket back to the home planet?)

Nevertheless, after years of close examination of Black music, Black hair, Black dress and Black men, now the attention is squarely on the sistahs and we are sure getting a beating.

I think what bothers me, along with many other black women that are sick of the unwanted attention, about this newfound obsession is that it takes Black women and our “issues” out of context and places us on the defensive, to either explain or justify what’s behind the numbers.  Although the numbers do not lie, it can be twisted to manufacture a reality, which is not typical, reflective or relevant to many women of color.

Moreover, this lack of balanced perspective within the mainstream media is both destructive and disruptive in its ability to promote hate towards -as well as self-hatred among – women of color.  Lord knows I have had my share of useless and tense debates with many Black brothas and sistahs on the various reasons behind why 70 percent of the successful (whatever that means) black women are single.

In a piece for The Guardian UK, Petrine Archer-Straw, author of the book NegroPhilia: Avant-Garde Paris and Black Culture in the 1920s, suggested that black folks in general have historically been the objects of affection or derision in the Western culture and that much of this exploration of difference is done in such a way that best reflects white people rather than their eroticized subjects.

I am inclined to agree with that explanation, as it is clear that all this media attention has little to do with the root, which are the agendas and policies of western culture, of our “issues” rather than the symptoms.

Going back to the study on black single mothers and wealth, or lack thereof, what’s most interesting is that the study’s authors are actually interested in meaningful analysis of both the causes and the policies behind the numbers.

Among the report’s many findings is that over the last 20 years, social support for single mothers have declined significantly and programs such as The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, as well as various cuts in social programs to low income families, have made it impossible for single mothers to become economically secure.

Additionally, among all single mothers, African-American and Latino women have the highest unemployment rate at 11.7 percent and are likely (62 percent) to be over-represented in retail or service industries, which pay lower wages, have fewer benefits and are the first to go during times of company downsizing.

Ironically and most surprisingly, that bit of information is missing from many of the new reports on the study, which tells me that sometimes, it pays to read beyond the headlines.

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