“Black love” depictions in the media are prized possessions of the Black community. Quite a bit of us, men and women, hold on to those images, fictional and non-fictional, for our own sanity. It gives us hope. Many of us have had dysfunctional images of black love that are broken, abusive or one-sided, but just as many have had positive images. They were blessed with Black love examples, in HD, on the Dolby digital screen that is their life. It’s becoming more common to wholeheartedly embrace rebuilding the Black family image. However, it is disparaging to know that after decades of the same narrative surrounding the Black family, people are in awe of this concept as if it is still so rare and unattainable.
According to some Black man, in 2002, responding to an Ebony Magazine article,
“Black relationships are painfully complex, an we are in need of a renaissance of empathy between the sexes, but the media have enthusiastically magnified and complicated the issues even further. The media has delighted plight of Black relationships and painting a picture of impending doom.”
That was 2002. The year of BlackPeopleMeet. Before Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Before Basketball Wives and Love and Hip Hop. Before the Kardashian Klan. Before the “Mad Black Woman” was born and way before Sandra, Freddie, and Trayvon. 2002. It’s 2017 and we are dealing with the same harsh media portrayal of our people and our relationships. Problem is that it is still happening because it works. The idea of the “Black family” has always been an easy topic to isolate with dismantling dating back to slavery. We are strong together, but terrible when we are pinned against each other.
Black men think of Black women a certain way due to personal and media influences and the same speaks of Black women in regards to Black men. Think about it. We live in the social media age now. Now I’m not saying social media is controlling us. The media doesn’t make us who we are, but it definitely has a stronghold of influence on our thoughts about our own people. It is 2017 and I read more articles about how being successful is a detriment to the Black women. Articles instructing women to live a certain sex-less life in order to become worthy of a ring. Articles and news reports challenging the Black man’s worth and challenging, even more, his role in the Black family dynamic. Media, some not all, helps shape the belief that “Black love” is harder to attain than a perfect credit score.
Back in the day, Ebony was good for providing insight to this “Black love” narrative. In 1977, they published an interview with psychiatrist Dr. Alvin Poussaint. The interview, in summary, highlighted the challenges Black men and women face in seeking relationships. Because there is so much change, it is harder to find the answers to every problem surrounding this topic. However, there was something to take note of in this interview. Dr. Poussaint described the racial conditioning the media has used to pinned Black men and women against each other.
Black women see the following in Black men:
- Exploitation of emotions and their body
- Unemployment due to lack of interest or laziness
- Egotistical attitudes and insecurities relating to their manhood
For Black men, these are the characteristics they see in Black women:
- Dominating in every area of the relationship
- Too strong/Not submissive
- High maintenance and materialistic
It’s even thought that ” Many modern women are so independent, so self-sufficient, so committed to the cause, to the church, to career or their narrow concepts that their entire personalities project an “I don’t need a man” message” (Nelson, 2011, 92).
All of these are stereotypes, but all of us have thought, or know someone who thinks these things. (The images we see helps with this.) Some of us actually do behave the way they have described us above. But it is safe to assume that we all have autonomy in situations of influence. We make the behavioral and character defining choices based on what we feed into our spirits and our minds.
Hurting us, even more, is the new trend that “cheating” is okay. This notion that you can be for everybody and still be whole. Now there is a difference between dating and cheating. That one thing is called commitment. I’ve heard all too often “I’m single until I have a ring.” *rolls eyes* Okay, so what do I need to do now? Carry around a bag of Ring Pops? It’s silly, but it might be the solution. In 1981, Dr. Audrey Chapman thought that for some black women, “the best way to cope with the pain of Black men’s infidelity might be to simply accept it and opt for a shared relationship”. And I’m sure that hits home for a few of the fellas too. That sound familiar?
My man is my man is your man
Her, this her man too
My man is my man is your man
Her, that’s her man
Tuesday and Wednesday, Thursday and Friday
I just keep him satisfied through the weekend
You’re like 9 to 5, I’m the weekend
Make him lose his mind every weekend
You take Wednesday, Thursday
Then just send him my way
Think I got it covered for the weekend
What about now? Giving up the goods on the days you can get your hands on him. Treating him like a King on the days you had to draw up a contract for? He picks his company while you can only pick the location and the days. That’s called settling, sis. Those situations are borderline paid arrangements. Point blank, period. However, so many of us will do this in order to feel the least bit satisfied. Sharing a significant other goes further for us than to be without a significant other. We can’t have the whole house, the ham, and the fence too, so we settle for a piece of someone else’s. Now that’s not a general consensus, but it does apply to some Black women. Probably more on the end of the Black woman spectrum that chooses to bash side pieces, but that’s another topic.
4 Points That Struck a Nerve
Sophia Nelson, Author of Black Woman Redefined, highlighted four gems on page 96, I thought we all needed to read.
- Too many of us have wielded our legendary strength, as one male friend told me, “as a hammer seeking to drive a nail.” It’s like we’re building walls around us to keep others out. So instead of drawing people to us, we repel them. And when we’re with a man, some of us are known to be too domineering and too controlling for our own good.
- Many of us, including the scripture-quoting sisters among us, dwell too much on our past hurts and disappointments. We’re stuck in a place of bitterness and anger, which leaves us unable to forgive. And it shows, sisters–everyone sees it but us.
- Even more upsetting is the fact that far too many of us have been the victims of sexual abuse, sexual violence, or sexual trauma as children or as young adults, and we’ve carried these bricks of pain in silence for years.
- Too many of us were taught that sex was somehow dirty, unnatural, or ungodly. Or we buy into the overgeneralization that all men want from us is sex. Thus, we are conflicted about how to be deeply spiritual, sensual, and sacred, all at the same time, As a result, we hide our beauty, deny our natural human desires, and replace them with connected, short-term, casual sex that leaves us feeling empty and alone.
DING, DING! DAMMIT, DAMMIT DING! The women my age that I choose to surround myself with are like-minded. #Black love is the goal and some of them have successfully attained that. The problem for others like myself is the process. No one taught us how to be a woman, how to love and be loved, or how to play your part. For me, being vulnerable with a man for the first time was met with the warning from the mothers, aunts, and grandmothers of the community to guard my VAGINA. While this might be sound advice, fear was the seed that was planted and an unstable awareness of my body blossomed. This shaped my belief that I was only to be seen in a sexual manner. It perpetuated the view that vulnerability was not a means of allowing a relationship to flourish. Instead, it was a means of entering into a situation where the worst case scenario was pregnancy.
Man + Woman= Vulnerability.
Vulnerability+ Consistency+ Slight Resemblance of Commitment=Babies.
Young women who have been taught this often keep themselves guarded. They equate vulnerability as a gateway to being used and hurt. We push through and hope for the best we can get: A situation to settle in. Something that is familiar for men and women. We stay in toxic relationships because we have been taught to weigh the pros and cons. The problem is we are weighing the pros and cons from one side. Honestly, the insight we hope to find shouldn’t be clarity in a situation, but clarity within ourselves. We have to know ourselves then build ourselves in order to contribute to something that is bigger than all of us, love. You must first love yourself before you can love someone else and that “self-love” comes with holistic knowledge of “YOU”.
We need to spend our energy working on us, making sure that our wants, needs and desires are based on what trulyturns us on and not some fantasy of what having it all is suposed to look like. There’s a great distance between settling on a man (or woman) and choosing a life of solitude.
Just keep sipping,