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Author of "Is Marriage for White People?" at USC, Wednesday

Monday, Oct 3, 2011


USC Center for Law, History and Culture sponsors event

- By Gilien Silsby

Ralph Richard Banks, author of the provocative new book, Is Marriage for White People? How the African American Marriage Decline Affects Everyone, will take part in a panel discussion on Oct. 5 sponsored by the USC Center for Law, History and Culture.

Banks, a law professor at Stanford University, will be joined by Kim Shayo Buchanan and Camille Gear Rich of the USC Gould School of Law, Melissa Murray of the University of California, Berkeley, and Douglas NeJaime of Loyola University. The scholars will discuss the decline in marriage among African Americans and society at large.

Los Angeles Times columnist Sandy Banks, the author’s sister, will moderate the discussion, which will be held at the Davidson Continuing Education Center from 4 to 6 p.m. A book signing will follow the event.

“We are certain this will be a probing and interesting conversation,” said Nomi Stolzenberg, co-director of the USC Center for Law, History and Culture.

In his book, Banks attempts to answer the question: Why are black women half as likely as white women to be married and three times as likely as white women never to marry?

Since its release on Sept. 1, the book has lit up the blogosphere and generated lively debate in a variety of publications. Many people have taken issue with Banks’ analysis of the supposed problem of marriage decline and plight of black women.

The controversy and criticism surrounding his book will be a prime topic at the USC discussion, which intends to address the issues raised from a variety of angles, including challenges to the traditional family.

In the book, Banks examines race, gender and class among African Americans, and he highlights the economic and cultural factors that have contributed to the declining marriage rates among African Americans, as well as people of other races.

Synthesizing research from law, sociology, economics, psychology and history, Banks interviewed more than 100 African-American women about their relationships. He also offers a controversial recommendation: With 70 percent of African-American children born to unwed mothers, black women should consider marrying outside their race.

African Americans marry less than others not due to cultural differences, according to Banks, but because they confront different circumstances.

“A pivotal factor in the African-American marriage decline,” Banks said, “is that as black women have moved ahead, black men have fallen behind. One in four black men will spend time in prison, and only half as many black men as women will graduate college. As a result, there are too few black men who are able and willing to be the sort of husbands that black women deserve.”

The event is free and open to the public. To RSVP, contact USC Gould Faculty Services at or call (213) 821-1239.

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