As Daniel Patrick Moynihan learned to his dismay, the topic of the black family is a minefield. In Is Marriage for White People?, Ralph Richard Banks, a Stanford Law Professor, goes where few dare to tread, seeking to
“[r]eexamine everything . . . and tell the truth about it,” in the words of the book’s epigram by James Baldwin. His candid treatment of this divisive topic casts a bold eye on uncomfortable truths, but the blinders of ideology ultimately defeat him. He succumbs to the reductionist shibboleths of social science, refuses to “blame the victim,” and resists explanations relying on cultural dysfunction. These defects mar his assessment of the black family’s dilemma and his proposed corrective.

Banks begins with the fact that blacks are “the most unmarried group of people in our nation.” Rates of matrimony have dropped steadily since the 1950s, with nearly...


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