In all the hysteria around the dating lives of single black women, there's always this discussion of whether white men, and to some extent black men, actually find black women attractive. Many factors, stretching across races and political ideology, are at work here. There is history--the corollary to the white supremacist notion of lazy and stupid black men, has always been overly masculine, coarse, unattractive black women. There is a peculiar, but human, reaction to demographics: interracial marriage has grown exponentially since the '60s, but black men marrying non-black women is still a relatively rare event. But we'd rather obsess over the motives of the eight percent of married black men who have non-black spouses, and pretend that those fictional motives say something about the remaining 92 percent do not.
This is the black version of the kind of hysteria that that tends to crop up in women's magazines ("13 reasons why you're inadequate"). And there's more--the lower marriage rate of black women, old angst between both genders, and the broader sense that the black experience is somehow different and perverted. But with all of that said, I think it's worth remembering that a relationship is work between two individuals, and that many of us have a bias toward minimizing that work.
I once had a white co-worker who in a candid moment, talked about a black woman who he dated for few months. He liked her quite a bit, but ultimately ended the relationship because he could not cotton to the idea of raising biracial kids--and thus black kids--in this country. It was work that, when he looked into his heart, he realized he just wasn't willing to do.
Though we came at it from different places, I instantly related to his story. As I said in comments last week, I like to think that if I were single, I would seriously date whoever. In fact, when seriously imagine myself dating interracially, the further I move away from black, the more work I imagine. To be crude, the scale runs roughly from Puerto-Ricans in East Harlem (a minimal amount of labor) to a blonde from Texas (Herculean). You think about the work of an ordinary relationship, and you pile on to it, the looks on the street, the awkward explaining to family, the extra weight of failure, and you just say "Why bother?"
I think, though I don't know, that for a number of white men looking at black women, there must be a similar thought process. The black-white chasm is unlike anything else in this country, hence comparing dating between whites and Latinos or whites and Asians doesn't do it justice. None of those relationships bring to bear the crushing weight of the legacy of white supremacy in the manner that black-white relationships do. It's intimidating to bring that with you into a relationship, and I suspect, while all the factors I listed are at work, equally at work is the "Why bother?" impulse.
Again, this is the kind of post that explains but does not excuse. In point of fact, all relationships are work. It's not clear that, say, getting past race will be any harder than getting past the fact that your spouse doesn't like to drink or drinks too much, or that he or she goes to church every week and you haven't been in five years. I tend to think that after a few months race likely recedes into the background and you move to the mundane work of building a life
But that said, I think women should remember that men--all men--are often fucking scared and intimidated. I know a lot of women are offended by lad magazines, but their subscription base says a lot about precisely how scared men are. And not "scared of a commitment" or "intimated by your success," but literally scared of women. No one likes rejection. No man walks into the bar and says "You know what will be awesome? If I strike out repeatedly tonight." Very often, men--no matter the race--don't approach the woman they're most attracted to--they approach the woman who they think they have the best shot at.
For the record, I think that's generally a mistake, but it's an understandable one. When we look at all these factors, and try to suss out what's actually going on, I think it's worth turning down the temperature a little and remembering that you're talking about human beings.
*The picture is of the French politician Rama Yade, who serves in Sarkozy's government.
A new survey suggests the logistics of going to services can be the biggest barrier to participation—and Americans’ faith in religious institutions is declining.
The standard narrative of American religious decline goes something like this: A few hundred years ago, European and American intellectuals began doubting the validity of God as an explanatory mechanism for natural life. As science became a more widely accepted method for investigating and understanding the physical world, religion became a less viable way of thinking—not just about medicine and mechanics, but also culture and politics and economics and every other sphere of public life. As the United States became more secular, people slowly began drifting away from faith.
Of course, this tale is not just reductive—it’s arguably inaccurate, in that it seems to capture neither the reasons nor the reality behind contemporary American belief. For one thing, the U.S. is still overwhelmingly religious, despite years of predictions about religion’s demise. A significant number of people who don’t identify with any particular faith group still say they believe in God, and roughly 40 percent pray daily or weekly. While there have been changes in this kind of private belief and practice, the most significant shift has been in the way people publicly practice their faith: Americans, and particularly young Americans, are less likely to attend services or identify with a religious group than they have at any time in recent memory.
We’ve been flying around the country for the last three years, visiting dozens of towns that are reinventing themselves after some kind of big economic or demographic change. I have also, in a way, matched those flights stroke by stroke in America’s public swimming pools. On our first day on the ground in any town, I search for a public pool. I started swimming around the country as a way to maintain some sense of normal in my physical activity after all that flying. And then I came to appreciate it as another window into the culture and spirit of the towns we visited. I wish Ryan Lochte could share some of my experience.
Like much of America—and I’m betting most of the many hundreds of kids I have seen swimming in pools around the nation, too—I was glued to the Olympic swimming events. Katie Ledecky, Maya DiRado, Michael Phelps, truth-teller Lilly King. And then, enter Ryan Lochte.
A hotly contested, supposedly ancient manuscript suggests Christ was married. But believing its origin story—a real-life Da Vinci Code, involving a Harvard professor, a onetime Florida pornographer, and an escape from East Germany—requires a big leap of faith.
On a humid afternoon this past November, I pulled off Interstate 75 into a stretch of Florida pine forest tangled with runaway vines. My GPS was homing in on the house of a man I thought might hold the master key to one of the strangest scholarly mysteries in recent decades: a 1,300-year-old scrap of papyrus that bore the phrase “Jesus said to them, My wife.” The fragment, written in the ancient language of Coptic, had set off shock waves when an eminent Harvard historian of early Christianity, Karen L. King, presented it in September 2012 at a conference in Rome.
Never before had an ancient manuscript alluded to Jesus’s being married. The papyrus’s lines were incomplete, but they seemed to describe a dialogue between Jesus and the apostles over whether his “wife”—possibly Mary Magdalene—was “worthy” of discipleship. Its main point, King argued, was that “women who are wives and mothers can be Jesus’s disciples.” She thought the passage likely figured into ancient debates over whether “marriage or celibacy [was] the ideal mode of Christian life” and, ultimately, whether a person could be both sexual and holy.
Polling within the margin of error among African Americans, the Republican tries new outreach—but his approach seems doomed to failure.
Although Donald Trump has long claimed to “have a great relationship with the blacks,” the polls tell a different story, with Trump frequently polling in the single digits among black voters. Over the last few days, the Republican nominee has added a new passage to his stump speech, reaching out to the African American community.
Our government has totally failed our African American friends, our Hispanic friends and the people of our country. Period. The Democrats have failed completely in the inner cities. For those hurting the most who have been failed and failed by their politicians—year after year, failure after failure, worse numbers after worse numbers. Poverty. Rejection. Horrible education. No housing, no homes, no ownership. Crime at levels that nobody has seen. You can go to war zones in countries that we are fighting and it's safer than living in some of our inner cities that are run by the Democrats. And I ask you this, I ask you this—crime, all of the problems—to the African Americans, who I employ so many, so many people, to the Hispanics, tremendous people: What the hell do you have to lose? Give me a chance. I'll straighten it out. I'll straighten it out. What do you have to lose?
Chain restaurants, which for so long used their decorations to celebrate America’s past, are now focusing on a (clutter-free) future.
T.G.I. Friday’s is losing its flair. In place of the casual-dining restaurant’s traditional, signature look—a little bit Antiques Roadshow, a little bit Hoarders—the chain announced earlier this year that it would be adopting a new, modernized aesthetic: blond wood, clean lines, bright-but-soft lighting. In appearance, decidedly sleek; in vibe, decidedly Upscale Cafeteria.
In that, Fridays’ is going to be looking a lot like … Applebee’s, which recently announced a similar update to its front-of-the-house situation. And Chili’s. And Ruby Tuesday. And Olive Garden. And also like fast-food chains, which are, like their up-market competitors, embracing the strategically pared-down style that you might call “high meh-dern”: McDonald’s recently unveiled a series of new “design concepts” for its stores, all of them replacing the chain’s signature primary-colored formica with, yep ... blond wood, clean lines, and bright-but-soft lighting. Burger King has been giving its restaurants similar facelifts. So has Wendy’s. And Arby’s. And KFC. And Taco Bell.
Two decades ago, Osama bin Laden officially launched al-Qaeda’s struggle against the United States. Neither side has won.
Exactly two decades ago, on August 23, 1996, Osama bin Laden declared war on the United States. At the time, few people paid much attention. But it was the start of what’s now the Twenty Years’ War between the United States and al-Qaeda—a conflict that both sides have ultimately lost.
During the 1980s, bin Laden fought alongside the mujahideen in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union. After the Soviets withdrew, he went home to Saudi Arabia, then moved to Sudan before being expelled and returning to Afghanistan in 1996 to live under Taliban protection. Within a few months of his arrival, he issued a 30-page fatwa, “Declaration of War Against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places,” which was published in a London-based newspaper, Al-Quds Al-Arabi, and faxed to supporters around the world. It was bin Laden’s first public call for a global jihad against the United States. In a rambling text, bin Laden opined on Islamic history, celebrated recent attacks against U.S. forces in Lebanon and Somalia, and recounted a multitude of grievances against the United States, Israel, and their allies. “The people of Islam had suffered from aggression, iniquity and injustice imposed on them by the Jewish-Christian alliance and their collaborators,” he wrote.
Intensely emotional and uncompromising, the singer’s long-awaited new album meditates on the passage of time.
Frank Ocean is still thinking about forever. One of his two new albums is called Endless, even though its songs all seem to end too soon. The more significant release, called either Blonde or Blond depending on where you acquire it, repeatedly laments nights, season, and years that can never be retrieved. The first time his unadorned vocals appear on that album, Ocean sings, “We'll let you guys prophesy / We gon' see the future first.” The line comes across as a challenge to get on his level and unhitch from the present—a necessary step before accessing the deep pleasures of his uncompromising new music.
Ocean’s obsession with time has been well-documented by now. His 2011 debut had the self-explanatory title Nostalgia, Ultra and his 2012 breakout, Channel Orange, was inspired by a teenage summer that, he said, seemed “orange.” He’s like the memory machine in Pixar’s Inside Out, processing the past into gemlike objects that can be sorted by visual cue and emotional essence. The blonds and blondes of Blond(e) are, on one level of interpretation, ex-boyfriends and ex-girlfriends. He references car models—Acuras, Ferraris, X6s—as shorthand for life phases. And on the luminous new track “Ivy,” he describes a callous breakup but keeps saying that when he thinks about the relationship, “the feeling still deep down is good.” Good: one simple word explains and colors all the complexity he’s sung about elsewhere in the song.
The Republican nominee is pledging to follow an approach that resembles President Obama's.
Donald Trump is stepping back from one of the main themes of his presidential campaign: a promise to crack down on illegal immigration. He is now pledging to pursue an immigration policy that resembles President Obama’s.
On Monday night, Trump said in an interview on Fox News that “the first thing we’re going to do if and when I win is we’re going to get rid of all of the ‘bad ones.’” As for the immigrant population as a whole, “we’re going to go through the process,” Trump said, adding, “What people don’t know is that Obama got tremendous numbers of people out of the country. Bush, the same thing. Lots of people were brought out of the country with the existing laws. Well, I’m going to do the same thing.”
Bad holidays with a spouse can start to feel like a broken promise.
Many people hate swampy, sticky August, but to some, it’s an especially bitter time. A new working paper finds that, in addition to March, August is the month in which divorce filings peak.
For the paper, the University of Washington’s Brian Serafini and Julie Brines analyzed the 15 most recent years of divorce filings in Washington, a state whose records make it easy to collect divorce data. Here’s what they found:
Divorce Filings by Month
These results are yet to be peer reviewed, but they are buffeted by some nation-wide, anecdotal evidence. Online searches for “divorce” and “child custody” surge early in the year, peaking in March, they point out.
Entering its third season, the ’80s-set AMC show portrays the tech world with nuanced, character-driven narratives that its rivals lack.
When dramatizing the world of technology and the history of invention, perhaps the hardest thing to portray is the act of creation itself—the colliding of inspiration and circumstance that leads to great ideas (and, of course, to terrible ones). AMC’s drama series Halt and Catch Fire has handled that challenge effortlessly, while proving itself as one of TV’s most elegantly crafted shows. Currently entering its third season, Halt continues to be a terrific accounting of the miraculous, human ways the tech world stumbled into its biggest advancements—even if it’s disguised as a low-key workplace drama. Most importantly, Halt knows that the best way to sell viewers on its characters’ lofty ideas is by making you care about them long before they succeed.