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“You Can’t Find A Good Black Man If You’re Not A Good Black Woman”

April 28, 2010

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.”

“Why?”

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.

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14 Comments leave one →
  1. April 28, 2010 3:18 am

    Loved this! I keep telling women that I meet good black men all the time and I get this look like, “yeah, right”.

    We have look at ourselves at times and see what is going on with us and realize there is a breakdown in our relationships.

    Greatly appreciate this entry.

  2. April 28, 2010 3:26 am

    Thanks Rhonda. I had SO much to say in the post, and some things I left out, but I think I got the point across that we have to stop looking elsewhere all the time and be strong enough to look inward. To challenge our beliefs and perspectives. Up until the point my aunt said something to me, I had nooooo idea my perspective was the problem it was. It has profoundly changed my life and I am forever grateful she took the time to share her insight.

  3. eRiC permalink
    April 28, 2010 5:29 am

    TruWord. I believe the media is so pervasive…it has handicapped the vision of Black Men AND Black Women. I like the way your essay illustrates one woman’s (your) transcedence above these messages.
    GoodStuff!

  4. juleh permalink
    April 28, 2010 11:21 am

    Well put. Very well put. I love that you ended it like that (re: Am I my brother’s keeper?) I agree with Rhonda, I meet humorous, determined, nice black men just as much as I meet an ignorant white man (since my sistas want to try that route automatically.) All we have to do is say “Hi” back. We assume a man hollering at us on the street is up to no good. Like “Oh no, it’d be one thing if he holla’d at me in the library”. Are we serious? We were walking down that same street, what if someone pre-judged us? With that said I will play advocate:

    It seems like “ghetto girls”, promiscuous girls, crime-ridden girls have NO problem finding a black man. Is it because they know they can’t judge? Maybe. But I feel like women that are climbing the professional ranks are so “distraught” in their searches because, just as rare as it is for me to see another black established face in my university, it is even more rare that it would be a black MALE face. I think somewhere somehow women threw their nose in the air and have this idea “well if I can make it here, so can He. and He has no excuse not to be in my same shoes.” We fail to realize our “grind” is most times different from a black man’s. We discredit his passions because he didn’t follow our footsteps of a flashy lifestyle. Anyway this is getting long, but all-in-all great blog. 🙂

  5. Phyllis permalink
    April 28, 2010 10:05 pm

    Your aunt is a sweet, wise person! Very positive!

  6. MissBlurbette permalink
    April 29, 2010 4:45 pm

    That’s heavy!! Well done, SV!! You’ve given me pause and I can say with certainty, every brotha I see from here on out will get a better greeting and reception from me. Sharing this with EVERYONE!!

  7. Monique permalink
    May 5, 2010 1:30 pm

    Bravo SV! I have had this discussion with my sistas and brothas alike. There is nothing more beautiful to than a Black man’s smile of apprecition for having someone positively acknowledge him.

  8. Blackpearl permalink
    May 12, 2010 10:38 pm

    I enjoyed reading this. I treat every Black Man with respect no matter what his station in life. But when it comes to relationships the men I meet run even though evey thing is going well. I get excuses like I’m not on your level I am still working on making my mark. I don’t care if someone is there or tying I just want a good man that’s ready to be in a relationship and not run like a little boy because they feel inferior even when you try to do every thing you can to let them know material things don’t matter. Yes I do want someone who can take care of himself, but I don’t need him to take care of me. I want to work together to build something for life.

  9. HBoogy permalink
    May 20, 2010 12:36 am

    All I can say is “hallelujah”. It’s so hard nowadays to find a black woman willing to look in the mirror and say “maybe some of this is on us”. It gives me as a black man hope for the future of our race.

    I am so sick of the “y’all just can’t handle a strong black woman” crap that it makes me wanna vomit. To me that is just another excuse to not look in the mirror as I stated earlier. As is well known, men (of all races) say EXACTLY what is on our mind, because we are simple like that. So when a black man is asked why he would avoid a black woman or flat out refuse to be with a black woman and he responds “because I don’t feel like arguing 24×7” or “too much drama” or anything of the like, then black women PLEASE stop telling us that what just came out of our mouths isn’t the real reason. I mean, how retarded is that, to tell someone that what they said is not what they really meant?

    And as far as the strong black woman is concerned, let me be clear about this. I have NO PROBLEM with strong black women, in fact I love them intensely. But save that “strength” for your enemies, not for us black men that love you. Contrary to what your girlfriends tell you, it is not a federal crime to show some kindness to us black men. You will not receive 20 years to life in prison for smiling at your black man when you see him and telling him you are happy to see him.

    I personally think this is one of the biggest reasons some black men choose women of other races. Which brings me to the “stealing” thing that some black women like to invoke as well.

    My sistas, it’s this simple. A person cannot “steal” something from you that you have already decided to throw away. Please stop being mad at women of other races for finding treasure where you may only see trash. I would personally be embarrassed if I constantly saw blogs and pages with black women stating that they feel more loved, cherished, completed by a man of another race than me. I take pride in saying that no one can be a better mate for a black woman than me, a black man.

    When black women decide that they are no longer going to let a woman of another race be better at showing love and kindness to black men than them, this will be a problem of the past.

    And again, my beautiful sistas, we are not the enemy. Stand with us and save the “strength” for those in the world you need to show it to.

    One Love

  10. akosua permalink
    May 27, 2010 8:26 pm

    First of all, beautiful article. I too make an effort to speak to black men as well as black women in my daily walk. We are so alienated from one another. It’s like it is a crime for us to acknowledge one another especially when we are around white people or other races. I do get comfort and sometimes feel like it is my duty to speak to brothas who are struggling to make their way in this world…..acknowledging their humanity and not some external possessions.

    @hboogy. Just my observation… it would be nice if black men speak to black women in passing as well. I have passed & observed numerous black men in public divert their eyes or look straight w/o blinking an eye and not speak or smile for that matter to a sista in passing (however not so when it is women of other races).

    I would challenge you and you male friends to speak, smile and show kindness & respect to a sista in passing acknowledging her humanity and not her physicality, I can guarantee sistas will return the favor and smile and respond back with a hello and much respect. The majority of black women have always stood by black men. We are just waiting for you guys to stand by us.

  11. HBoogy permalink
    June 3, 2010 1:38 pm

    akosua,

    You are absolutey correct in that BOTH sides need to make more of an effort to reach out to the other.

    That being said, the next logical step (IMO) would be to find out why that is not happening like it should. As I am not a black woman I will leave it to you to elaborate on why BW do not make that effort.

    However, as I AM a BM I can offer some insight into why we are not making the same effort. Simply put, we have grown weary of just what was described in this article, making the effort to reach out and then having it thrown back in our faces. Now there are PLENTY of BM that don’t know HOW to properly approach a BW with decency and respect. Those are really not the ones I’m referring to. But when even those of us that act politely and respectfully when approaching/greeting BW are looked at like we should be slapped silly for even daring to speak to a BW, well sadly after a time we give up, and unfortunately we speak to the one’s (non BW) who speak back nicely. I can promise you there are millions of BM that would testify that not one woman outside of their race has ever responded rudely to them just for saying hello. But ask them about how many times they got the “hand to talk to” from our own women and I promise you they will fall over each other to be the first to tell you their “how I got dissed for saying hi” story.

    Now please understand that the following is just my opinion and remember that I did acknowledge that we too need to increase our efforts to bridge the gap.

    I just feel like when there is a barrier between two parties then the one that erected the barrier has a little more responsibility for tearing it down. Women like you who do take the time to say hello to a BM even before he speaks to you, are doing more than your part and I commend you for that. But please spread the word among your BW friends as well. Hey, it’s not a crime to be nice to us. Men of all races are surpisingly easy to reach. In a way we are like dogs, we’ll do anything for a treat and a good rub on the belly, LOL. But all in all, great response and good point. Hope to hear more from you.

    One Love

  12. June 3, 2010 9:00 pm

    I love this dialogue!

  13. Ziya permalink
    June 19, 2010 12:37 pm

    Thank you, I really enjoyed reading this blog (many of them actually, since I’ve just discovered you on facebook)! It reminds me to work harder as a person to acknowlege others, not to judge them too quickly and to be as kind and understanding an individual as possible both in my personal and professional (urban public library) life. Not always easy for this snarky, overly intellectual white lady!

  14. December 13, 2011 11:26 am

    Brilliant piece of writing. Excellent and honest. So very true; and every word of it can apply equally to how black men treat our sisters. We need to treat them better. Thank you for this.

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