“You Can’t Find A Good Black Man If You’re Not A Good Black Woman”
Okay, I know. The title alone has some- if not all- of my sistas ready to throw down in defense of their honor. It’s an understandable albeit knee-jerk reaction to be called out in such blunt fashion.
Before you take my head, allow me a few disclaimers.
First, I am not speaking to or talking about every Black woman out there. That would be unfair. So if you read this and feel it does not apply to you, great. I’m certainly not going to argue with you.
Second, I am giving this opinion based on my own personal experiences, which I’ll get to later. I point this out because I don’t want you to think I’m doing little more than standing on a soap box wagging my finger- I don’t like it when people do that to me so I’m not about to do that to you.
Third- this post is not an effort to condemn Black women, but instead to point out where we can do better, regardless of what is going on around us, or if other people are doing their best to be better or not.
With that out of the way, let’s begin.
There has been a lot of talk lately about the state of Black women when it comes to relationships. The mainstream media would have us and everyone else believe that we don’t get married, can’t maintain positive relationships, and so on. It is important to understand that this is a myth, just like most things the media pushes about us.
That being said- there is still a very real problem in the relationships Black women are having- or in this case- are not.
There isn’t a week that goes by that I don’t see or hear a Black woman talk about her vain attempts to find a “good Black man.” It’s expressed in conversations with their friends, rants on their blogs, and biting comments on twitter and facebook. Here are a few examples:
“Will the real Black men please stand up!”
“What does a sista have to do to find a good Black man, clone Denzel?”
“Ladies, Black men ain’t shit.”
“Like TLC said n*gga, I don’t want no scrub, if you make less than $250k a year don’t bother tryin’ to holla.”
“If a Black man doesn’t have a Bentley, a condo, a 401k and a vacation home, he shouldn’t even get out of bed in the morning. FAIL.”
I could go on for pages, but hopefully you get the point. It’s also important to note that these comments come from Black women of varying backgrounds; high school drop out, high level executive of an internationally respected company, middle school teacher, teen ager, divorcee, preacher’s daughter- again, hopefully you get the idea. Black women from all walks of life have a rigid view of what makes a Black man “good” and what makes him worthy of her attention, affection, respect or love.
This attitude is reflected in their everyday interactions with Black men. I’ve witnessed countless sistas cuss at or otherwise chastise a brother for looking at her, let alone talking to her or asking how her day is going, let alone trying to ask for her phone number.
If I had a nickel for every time I saw a sista cuss at, yell at, roll her eyes at, smack her lips at, scoff at a Black man, I’d be rich.
As if that weren’t bad enough, apparently another reason Black women can’t find a “good Black man” is because White women are “stealing” them away.
We’ve all heard the comments and conversations, perhaps even participated in them. White women are thieves and Black men are their unwitting prized possessions considered traitors against Black women for allowing themselves to be stolen by the white woman.
Between the Black men who “ain’t shit” and the Black men stolen away by the White woman- apparently there aren’t many choices left.
The truth is, we are the problem. More pointed, our perception of the Black man.
I won’t pretend I haven’t been guilty of the behaviors I listed above. I won’t pretend I haven’t made the same arguments. I just didn’t know any better.
When I was about 18 or 19- that changed.
One day I was out with my aunt, a woman I have always had an enormous amount of respect for. I don’t always agree with what she says, but I make it a point to listen. I can’t even remember where we were exactly, or what we were doing. Just that at some point a brother tried to engage me. I gave him the “how dare you” glare, rolled my eyes and turned my back on him.
When I turned to say something to my aunt, I was surprised to see her staring at me.
“What?” I said, completely oblivious.
“What was that all about?” she asked.
“Oh him?” I rolled my eyes. “He tried to talk to me.”
“What’s wrong with that? What’s wrong with a Black man talking to a Black woman?” Her question was genuine.
“What do I look like? I’m gonna just fall over myself and give him what he wants because he wants it?” I was indignant.
“What do you think he wanted, exactly?”
I huffed. “You know.”
“No. I don’t. But I do know this much- you didn’t make his day any better with your attitude; he didn’t do anything to deserve the way you treated him. What do you think he thinks about you?”
At that point, she gave me a lecture:
Not all Black men want to get in your panties or your pocket book. Most Black men just want to experience the momentary connection. Most Black men want to feel the authentic love of a Black woman.
“Well I guess they need to go find them a Black woman to love them then.” I retorted, “I don’t just love like that- plus he hasn’t done anything to deserve my love- I didn’t even know him and here he comes talking to me.”
“I love all Black men.” She said.
I was stumped. “Why would you want to do that?”
“Because,” she said simply, “that’s our job. It’s what makes us good- divine even. More sista’s need to know they’ll never find a good man, let alone a good Black man if they’re not a good Black woman first. It’s not about the cars, or the money. A rich man can beat you just as horribly as a poor one.”
Of course, I was certain I was a “good” Black woman. I was driven, independent, smart, loving…I wasn’t running around randomly committing crimes or having half a dozen babies I couldn’t take care of while simultaneously sitting on my ass collecting a check from the state. But that wasn’t her point. She wanted me to realize that in relation to Black men I wasn’t “good” at all.
Through multiple conversations with my aunt, I learned that I had embraced a stereotypical, degrading perception of Black men. I had oversimplified their existence by categorizing them as either “good” or “bad”, and even those determinations were based on material things and not the man himself. I didn’t really care about Black men; I was never compassionate towards them, understanding or supportive.
I needed to redefine for myself what a “good Black man” really was.
“All Black men are good,” she told me. I of course argued this down in immature fashion. What about rapists, killers, drug dealers, abusers?
“All Black men are good,” she would say, “and they deserve to be treated that way, particularly by you.”
What she said next changed my life.
“There is nothing more powerful in the life of a Black man than the love and respect of a Black woman. I have the power to positively affect any Black man I come into contact with.”
Once again, she was right. I started watching her when we were out. I noticed something I hadn’t in the past- she spoke to every Black man she came across, whether they spoke to her first or not. She would give a warm smile and ask how they were doing.
Nine times out of ten, their faces would light up.
Now, my aunt is a happily married woman, so it’s not as if she was ever flirting or trying to engage these men in any other way than a sister talking to her brother, uncle, son, or grandfather.
No matter what they looked like, what they wore, how they spoke- she treated every Black man the same- with deep respect. Of course, some men would try and take the opportunity to ask her out or get her phone number- she let each one down gently and with dignity.
I came to the understanding within myself that my perception of the Black man was based on external factors; mostly the media and the entertainment industry. Slowly I stripped these concepts from my mind. I made it my business to understand the history of the Black man as well as his place on the ladder of social stratification. With that knowledge and perspective, I made the conscious choice to change.
Hard as it was, and as much as I wanted to argue it down, I accepted that all Black men were “good Black men”… and then I worked hard to treat them accordingly. I smiled. I spoke. I welcomed their random conversations in the grocery store, at the mall or the bus stop. Business men, truck drivers, gang members, artists, students, single fathers, teachers, lawyers- all Black men from all walks of life.
I stopped pointing the finger at white women for stealing all of our “good Black men” because I realized that good Black men were everywhere- I’d just been too blind to see them and accept them for who they were; I was the problem in the equation- not them.
Does that mean Black men are “perfect”? Of course not. But then again, neither are we. In reality, we’re no better as Black women- certainly we are no less diverse in our circumstances.
Am I advocating for women to have zero standards for the kind of man they’ll accept into their lives? No. But my aunt was right. I rich man can beat you just as badly as a poor man. A man with a doctorate can be a horrible father to his children. A man with the most expensive car can be capable of not supporting his wife. These external, material factors do not make a man “good”, nor are they proof of the same.
Black men struggle. Black men fall down. Black men fail (for a host of internal and external factors) to reach their potential.
Nevertheless…am I my brother’s keeper?
Yes. I am.