“When I think of the term 'black love' the first words that come to mind are challenged and crisis. I believe that, fundamentally, there has been a marked shift in our culture towards consumerism and a lack of emphasis on very basic principles on living,” says Ebony.com relationship expert Sil Lai Abrams, whose columns often tackle black relationships with equal part wit and tough love.
“Redefining manhood is something that has to happen. Learn how to communicate. If there’s a commitment to growth and belief in a system in something higher than yourself, those kinds of people hold themselves accountable. What I’ve found in my research and own experiences is that commitment and service to our partner isn't something that is emphasized in relationships anymore.”
It’s the lies we all hate. That voice in the back of your mind screaming at you to not get fooled. Do not end up as some sucker for love. Do not get Manti Te’o'd. We men learn it early on and adjust, so by the time we’re adults, the majority have learned the tricks of the trade. We don’t want to get too attached, so we keep the ladies at arms length emotionally. Give them enough to keep them wanting, but never allow them to feel comfortable. It’s easier this way.
Any dude whose girl bounced on him to go and rock with the next man will tell you, straight up and down, be careful. So that’s what we learn. Saying, “we don’t love dem hoes” isn’t just a phrase from a song. It’s a tenant of manhood. I can’t think of one dude I know who hasn’t, at some point in his life, taken that particular stance.
But that way of thinking hasn’t helped us as a community. The divisiveness that runs rampant between black men and women is actually fueled by this arms-length mentality. We’ve done it so well, that we’ve convinced women to take on this way of thinking. Now they do it too and some are better at it than us. But their heart isn’t in it. They do it because they’re scared. Scared to get hurt and scared to end up alone.
They can’t win this particular game. So they started a new one. Any black man with a college degree can tell you that women are beating us at upward mobility and its not close. It’s like a boxing match, except they’re Juan Mariel Marquez and we’re the latest version of Manny Pacquiao. We are getting laid the hell out.
Especially in graduate school, where a staggering 71 percent of African-American post-secondary education grads are women. With many dudes on the opposite end of the education spectrum, this leads to income disparities.
Which means, of course, that every time a dude lets her down she just looks at him like “Ok, wait ‘til I get my money right.” Increasingly, women don’t need our resources, but they do want the option of having them if necessary. And if she feels he isn’t holding his weight, her trigger finger gets very itchy. We pushed them and some are pushing back. And we all fall down.
“Black women don’t really know how to respect their men,” says Tracy Kebatta, who is the director of business strategies for fashion label Michael Kors. “I recall when I first moved to the states (from Nigeria) and there was a woman throwing her boyfriend’s or husband’s stuff out of the house and they were having a fight in the street. And she was like ‘n---- you ain't sh-t and you ain't never gonna be nothing’ and I was like what?? Where I’m from, we aren’t raised that way. I was brought up to work together. Go with his plan and even if it’s crazy or doesn’t work, you work on contingency plan for the family.”
A lot of women will read the prior paragraph and shrug their shoulders. They’ll think that’s settling, figure they can do better alone than trying to co-exist with a less than perfect dude. Instead, they accept a less than perfect life.
Last year the Kaiser Foundation and the Washington Post conducted a nationwide survey in which they asked women to share their lives. Black women played a major part in this study, if only because the responses signaled back the seriousness of our situation. First thing, people should take random surveys with at least two grains of salt. In these anonymous moments people sometimes paint a best-case scenario picture, hoping to fool the interviewer and even themselves into a utopian existence. That said, these are the still the best ways to gather large amounts of info. The survey findings produced some interesting stats including:
· The number of businesses owned by black women has nearly doubled in the past decade to more than 900,000,
· Forty percent of black women say getting married is very important, compared with 55 percent of white women
· More than a fifth of black women say being wealthy is very important
· 63 percent of black women said it is acceptable to have a child without being married – the same percentage as white women.
· Nearly six in 10 black women say they worry about providing a good education for their kids.
The reflex-response is, people are people. It’s doesn’t have to be perfect, but then you read those last two points, you realize how opposing those stats are to the betterment of the black community. The same number of women that find acceptance in raising a child alone, is the same number of women who fear that raising a child without a father is detrimental to the child's future. That doesn’t make any damn sense.
The effects of single parent homes are corrosive for a demographic as historically put upon as African-Americans, who, via the legacy backlog of ancestral invisibility and systematic segregation, need a unified front arguably more so than any group in this nation. But women are taking this route because they are frustrated. They are being painted into a corner and they don’t know what do next.
For Cathy Magdalene, a successful marketing exec in NYC, finding the right guy has a lot to do with breaking stereotypes about what women look for in a man. “When I was younger, my guy had to have a cool, flashy job, but now, I look at this job and wonder if it will keep him away from spending time and juggling the responsibilities of a family,” she says. “Specific jobs come and go these days, so you can’t hang your hat on that. But passion, drive and consistency means you’ll be able to provide for your family forever (no matter what the gig/career is).”
A lot of women share that sentiment. Even if they claim independence and put on a brash front. They aren’t scared to be single, but they definitely don’t want to be single. They are willing to try new things and therefore black men have to be willing to do the same. Starting with these notions:
1. If you want to date a bunch of women, do it, but dead the falsifications. Tell her that you don’t want anything serious. Let her be a part of it. Don’t have this woman thinking about the right time to introduce you to her family if it’s strictly a sex-only relationship. Stop being scared, plus, she might say yes. All you’re doing is turning all these bright-eyed women into cynics. Some of these women are damaged forever. Some will be alone forever. That’s your fault.
2. If you care about a woman, then make an effort to show her. Don’t just click the “like” button on her Facebook page. Do something special for her, if you think she’s worthy. I’m not saying you have to start caking every woman you meet (hell no!), but you can’t get to any place that's authentic by trying to be cool all the time. Be consistent. Be thoughtful. Find out what she likes and bring that into her consciousness. Stop looking around and seeing if you can do better. She’s an eight. Dude, cash your chips and walk away from the table. You can’t beat that!
3. If the relationship happens, then stop playing games and enjoy it. In other words, stop smashing your ex, or worse, stop trying to tap everything that’s offered to you. Newsflash: There are a lot of pretty single women. A lot of them are willing and able, and the whole thing about ladies being more attracted to men with girlfriends is beyond true. But, if you’ve got a winner, and she’s on some “ride or die” ish, then hold her down. It’s not hard, bruh. Most dudes at this point in their lives have had a nice run, don’t blow it for some side action.
4. If the woman ends up pregnant, you stay with her, or at minimum, you support the child. Some sort of way, this became negotiable in the last couple of decades. There used to be a time when, if a man impregnated a woman, the father/uncle/brother of the woman would go see homeboy and have a sit-down with him. We need to bring that back, pronto. Start cavin’ dudes chests in and then we’ll see some changes. There are enough men around to handle that, it’s all about priorities, and I can’t think of anything bigger than that. We spend millions of dollars in this country trying news way to alleviate poverty when the answer has remained the same as ever. Keep as many couples together as possible and watch the numbers for unemployment, homelessness, disease, poor education and crime drop like a freakin’ anvil.
I’m not trying to throw salt in the next man’s game, but, at the same time, I don’t care if I do. This is bigger than one writer’s interpretation or a group of lonely women on a Saturday night complaining about their options. This is about our survival as a community. The future is racing towards us and changes in the way we live, work and even think are occurring at astounding rates. We don’t have to be arguing about naked cell phone pictures or reading each other’s emails for clues about infidelity. It’s 2013, we need to move on to solving bigger issues, but we can’t do that as long as we stay divided. Look in the mirror and ask yourself “am I a sell-out?” Because as long as we as men allow relationships to define so much of the black experience, we are doing a disservice to our elders and ancestors. John Lewis didn’t get his ass beat walking across Pettus Bridge so you can live out your life as reality-TV star. The first step? Getting back to basics.