Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Black Athletes, White Women and the Economics of Modern Love

There's an old shibboleth that mothers used to repeat to their daughters: "You can marry a rich man just as easily as you can marry a poor one." The message is clear, and one is tempted to paraphrase Tina Turner; it's not at all clear what love has to do with it.

Recently, I turned on the television and saw a news report about a local fundraising fashion show. In attendance were many members of the Tennessee Titans football team. It looked to be a bit of a gala affair, and reporters were working the room, extracting supportive comments from players and their wives. I was struck by the fact that veteran Titans defensive lineman Kevin Carter's wife was white. So too was defensive back Andre Woolfolk's. A few weeks back I'd seen a TV feature on Titans tight end Erron Kinney and his family. His wife too is white.

I'm gonna betcha that there is at least one other black Titans player who is married to a white woman. Which means there are probably a whole bunch of black NFL players whose wives are white. Possibly a hundred or even a lot more, if you take the Titans as a typical group and do the math.

Now, I'm a firm believer in live and let live. And I've got nothing against white women marrying black men. Or vice-versa, for that matter. But it wasn't very long ago where interracial marriages were still considered fairly controversial in American society. There are still people who just aren't automatically comfortable with the idea, no matter how much social progress has been made since Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. I don't know about you, but, practically speaking, I still don't see interracial marriages very often.

Clearly, this is only a serious problem for those who have a serious problem with it, and their numbers are dwindling. With every passing day, you will find fewer and fewer Americans who would raise an eyebrow at an interracial marriage. And that's a good thing for social progress.

So let's say for the moment that indeed the doors to interracial marriage have eased open quite a bit, and there's pretty much access for all. Now, I want someone to do a demographic study and compare the percentage of white women who have married black professional athletes versus the percentage of white women who have married a) black dishwashers; b) black taxi drivers; and c) black hardware store clerks.

I used to work in a restaurant with a black dishwasher named Carl. He was one of the coolest guys I ever met. Great sense of humor, loving, patient, and sensitive. As a man, I'd stack him up against any professional athlete you can show me. Funny, I didn't see any babe-licious white ladies hanging around him. Carl went along his hardworking way, and eventually married a very nice lady named Joanne. As far as I know, they're very happy.

But the cynic in me says that the situation in the NFL, where interracial marriage is so easily accepted, has nothing to do with racial openness or true love but has everything to do with economic reality. Mother was right: You CAN marry a rich man just as easily as a poor one, and why not expand the preferred pool by targeting the whole new class of athlete insta-millionaires? Sure, some of them are white--one wonders how many of them have married black women--but the majority are black, and mother never put a color-coding on that old adage. Except maybe the color green.

I'd love to believe that these jock wives totally fell in love with their husbands. That 24-year-old Andre Woolfolk's young, blonde wife worships the ground he walks on. But athletes these days are like rock stars, and you gotta wonder about the driving force that, within this self-contained world, suddenly has everyone way more color-blind than people probably are in almost every other area of society.

But hey, more power to the white girls. They're roping in prime studs who earn millions---presuming they remain at the top of their game, or don't blow a knee out in their rookie season. Mother'd be proud.

I don't guess your average black hardware-store clerk worries too much about why white babes aren't flocking around him. And sad-sack white guys in dead-end jobs never have a shot at ladies like that anyway.

But I do wonder this: Does it piss off the black girls?

1 comment:

yoni cohen :: said...


Came across your blog today. Great stuff. Very interesting post on race (and yes, though I'm neither black nor female, I understand it upsets black women).

Noticed you're a sports fan. Hoping you could add a Blogroll link to my "College Basketball Blog," I've very much appreciate a link on your site.

And would gladly return the favor, adding a link form my site to yours.


Yoni Cohen,
College Basketball Blog