What’s Killing Black Love?
*Note: I speak from an American perspective. I don’t know if this holds true for black people in other countries. Also, no offense to my LGBT community, but I’m focusing on heterosexual black love here.
It’s not interracial relationships.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of 2014, 87% of black men marry black women and 94% of black women marry black men.
It’s not the lack of men.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of 2010, 48.8% of black men are “never married” compared to 45.2% of black women. (Side note: these figures are so high because it includes black men and women aged 15 and over. Don’t know about you, but I definitely never planned to get married by 15.)
In 2014, there were 364,000 more married black men than married black women. Not a great disparity. We end up single at pretty much the same rate.
It’s not violence.
According to demos.org, “Black-on-Black homicides have decreased by 67% in 20 years, a sharper rate of decrease than white on white homicide.” That’s due to black community leaders who saw the problem and worked on it. (So y’all “what about black on black crime” purveyors can kiss it.) More black men are in college than in jail, states the American Council on Education.
And by us I mean hate. It’s simple, really, in the sense that the opposite of love is hate.
We hate each other.
Or is the opposite of love hate? I believe love’s true opposite is indifference. There’s a reason why the saying goes, “There’s a thin line between love and hate.”
Hate requires some love. If love was truly absent, one wouldn’t care. One would be indifferent.
Anger requires SO much energy. You wouldn’t waste it on someone you didn’t love or care about.
That’s why I think there’s hope for us. After all these great obstacles that force us apart, that force us to hate each other, we still love each other. Because we hate each other.
How did we get here?
This is the most important question to answer. Here’s the criticism I often see from black men and women:
Black men are no good cheaters who stay in and out of jail.They don’t go to college, raise their children, or pay child support. They don’t have jobs to support their families. They can’t be faithful. Black men are a bunch of Peter Pan ass niggas who refuse to grow up, only good for their dicks. Niggas ain’t shit.
Black women always talking about they don’t need no man. They got too much damn attitude and wear too much weave. They’re fat, ghetto, and got too many damn kids. They think they’re better than us. All they want from us is money and to nag us to death. So damn independent, huh? That’s why they end up single and lonely anyways. Bitches ain’t shit.
Here’s what I interpret:
Women: I need you, but I’m afraid to say it.
Men: I don’t think you need me and it hurts because I need you.
I could reach back to slavery and explain how a man couldn’t be a man if he wanted to keep breathing. I could say how our families were ripped apart as we were sold like cattle. A man couldn’t do anything while his wife got raped. Black women had to subject themselves to rape because they were merely property. Devastating, horrible things.
There’s plenty of books and articles on the lingering effects of slavery, but I don’t want it anymore. I want to love a black man with all my might one day. I want to carry his child and his last name. (Preferrably, but I’m open to dating outside my race.)
I mean to say that this thing killing black love—whatever it is—has got to go.
It’s true. I could tell you about how my father was beaten because he was the darkie of the bunch, a mentality that derives from slavery, and that I think it contributes to the reason why he’s over 50 and never married. But I don’t want that.
I want us to wake up and solve it. Don’t let it lay dormant so it can expand and kill like a turmor. Surgery! Let’s do some deep surgery, my black men and women.
It involves a lot of tearing, cutting, and bloody pain, but that’s the only way to save us.
Not easily broken
There’s this common perception of black women as controlling and brimming with attitude. We’re the strong, angry black woman who doesn’t need a man.
For instance, there’s this film called Not Easily Broken starring Taraji P. Henson and Morris Chestnut as a married couple who are having a rocky marriage. The wife is a career woman who doesn’t make time for her husband and refuses to have his child because she’s too busy. The husband is a perfect little league coach with a struggling business who tolerates his wife’s attitude and disrespect.
I call bullshit.
I’m not a fan of when a woman is painted negatively while the man is portrayed as just so innocent and perfect. I am an even harsher critic of a woman being criticized for having a great career, as if women can’t be a great mother and wife and bring in bread. But then I looked around.
Sometimes I’d cringe at the way my mom addressed my stepdad in arguments. Sometimes she even threw being the breadwinner in his face.
And just a few days ago, my friend overheard an interracial couple arguing in the airport. It was a Black American woman and a Spanish man.
“When I tell you to do something, you just need to do it,” she told her husband. Yes, she said this to a grown ass man. “Got her a white slave,” my friend remarked.
These are just two examples of many that led me to go, Okay, maybe there was some truth to the movie. A lot of black women can be overbearing.
This quote stuck with me from Not Easily Broken even though I only watched it once years ago:
Down through history, men have always been measured by how hard they worked and cultivated, how well they protected their wife and children. In the old days, women saw their men as conquerors, providers, heroes. But somewhere along the line that changed. Women started to become their own hero. Maybe it was because their men forgot to be heroic or because women don’t want to be protected anymore or maybe women had to be their own hero because of the pain they had to endure in life. But whatever the cause, the world took away a man’s reason for being a man. It told him he wasn’t important anymore and when that happened, it turned the whole world upside down.
After having to depend on ourselves for so long, it’s hard to unlearn that, but listen: Jill Scott is my idol for a reason. In her song “Fact Is (We Need You),” she expresses how even though we women can do all this shit without you, even though we claim to be just fine on our own, we need you, men. Some things just don’t change. Raising a child without a father is possible, like driving with your feet, but that’s just not how it should be done. We don’t want to have to protect and provide for our families alone.
In that same vein, black men could use a lot of work, too. A lot of black women feel as though black men hate us. They don’t even think we’re good enough to partner up with. Black women are slandered on social media daily. By black men.
Malcolm X asked black men to be held accountable for how they treat black women in one of his iconic speeches. He said the most disrespected, unprotected, neglected person in America is the black woman. I think that this still holds true today.
“I’m making it plain, yes,” he said, “[Muslims] will kill you for our woman. We believe that if the white man will do whatever is necessary to see that his woman gets respect and protection than you and I will never be recognized as men until we stand up like men and place the same penalty over the head of anyone who puts his filthy hands out to put in the direction of our women.”
Fight for us, black men.
I remember walking with a friend to school and he was telling me about how he sends morning inspirational texts to the young men he mentors in his fraternity. I said how come you never send me any? I need some motivation, too!
Right away he answered, “Women don’t need motivation.”
I instantly felt offended. Was he insinuating that black men have it harder?? “What do you mean we don’t need motivation?! Of course we do! Do you know what we go through??”
He shut me up with, “Y’all find this strength and motivation from somewhere we don’t even know about.” Wow.
Black women, your strength does not go unnoticed, but sometimes it’s okay to let someone be strong for you. We must continue to uplift our men, but men should not make it harder for us to do so and should try their best to uplift us as well.
Pointing the finger
Most importantly, what we shouldn’t do is point the finger. It’s not solely black women’s faults or solely black men’s faults. It’s both of our faults.
Look at the picture above. Aside from painting the woman in a completely negative light, it only shows a single story. I asked my madre, a married woman of many years, what she thought and she said that there are so many varied reasons why people get divorced. This is just one of hundreds.
I’m not discounting it. I’m sure it has happened. It happens the opposite way, too. But don’t be so quick to pledge to a married-free life just yet. Every marriage is different.
You shouldn’t point the finger at women for the demise of marriages. Pointing the finger gets us nowhere. I addressed this “who has the most pain mentality” briefly in my post on feminism. Arguing over who has it harder gets nothing accomplished. We both experience pain. We must work together to find ways to assuage this pain.
The odds are against us. Society expects us to fail. But instead of making black love fail before we even give it a try, let’s fix this and heal. We need each other.