When the conversation is focused solely on Black women’s issues, half of our community is neglected.
A few weeks ago, I wrote “No Love: The Ramifications of the Pseudo ‘Good Man Shortage,’” in which I focused on how the good man shortage myth negatively impacts the way women treat each other and ourselves. But after reading the latest “if- Black-women-would-only-change-we’d-all-be-better-off” male critiques, I’ve really had enough. I’ve provided the solution for my sisters in my last post,”‘I Will Wait for You,’ The Answer to the Sweet Nothings of Steve Harveyism.” But now, it’s time to talk to my good brothers.
I have heard many different men who provide relationship advice — from Steve Harvey to male bloggers– say that women buy the books, women comment on blogs, and women are the ones involved in relationship discussions, therefore, men who provide relationship advice are more likely to tailor it to women. I am asking you, my brothers, to not see the absence of men in these discussions as a call to cater to basically, the insecurities of women that patriarchy created in them in the first place. Instead, this can be your challenge: to use your platform to engage men and draw them into not only the discussions, but also the responsibility of maintaining relationships and achieving success in life. It is no longer acceptable to say that women are “socialized” to care about marriage and relationships more than men are — it’s time for men to reprogram themselves and each other to care about what’s going on with men, and what impact that is having on the community as a whole.
Because, statistically, women are not the (only) problem! Black women are graduating from college at higher rates, are more financially stable, and are less likely to have criminal records. Without dismissing the systems that are in place that target Black men for failure, (which must be addressed through policy reform), Black men must step up and take responsibility for their role in the break down of relationships, family, and community. Perhaps due in large part to our acceptance of the fallacy that being “strong” (read: unhealthy) is our badge of honor, Black women have been unnecessarily shouldering the burden of the discussions and the fault for resulting community problems for far too long (i.e. “they’re strong, they can take it”). But as brothers who have dodged the traps set up to ensnare you, this is your opportunity to not only show the rest of your brothers the way, but to be introspective about the issues that you have in relationships and why they fail. Instead of dismissing relationship problems as the fault of “crazy women,” ask yourselves: why aren’t we marriage material? What are we doing wrong to break apart our unions, and to inject insurmountable levels of distrust in our relationships? How can we better communicate with our female counterparts to avoid the problems that arise as a result of men and women simply communicating in different ways?
It would be easy to dismiss the idea of Black men willingly shedding their birthright of male privilege as nothing more than utopian fantasy. After all — like the token Black guy in upper-management — you derive great personal benefit from being seen as the “only one.” Let’s face it: this image of the Black college-educated man as a fleeting oasis in the desert allows you a false sense of superiority which is quite comforting. In your mind, you have the pick of the litter, with little to no Black male competition in both jobs and women. Why give that up? Instead, why not continue to perpetuate these harmful myths to women about what’s wrong with them, thereby: 1) keeping them chasing their tails trying to become “good enough,” “desirable enough,” and “acceptable enough,” to the Black men they desire who are making absolutely no changes in their own lives; and 2) solidifying the position of the college-educated Black man with no rap-sheet as a saint amongst men, instead of a person satisfying bare-minimum requirements.
It is a lot to ask you to give these benefits up — but I don’t believe this is asking too much of you. In fact, if not for the extremely low standards society has set for you, we wouldn’t need to be having this discussion. So my standard for you is high. I believe you to be as good as you claim, and wise enough to understand that giving up your personal privilege will benefit you so much more in the end, because your community will benefit. Because you know that when your community thrives, you thrive, and when it is failing, you are failing. And in 2011, we are all failing:
“Although blacks make up only 13.6 percent of the U.S. population, they account for 50.3 percent of all diagnosed cases of HIV….
“The wealth disparity between white and black households has more than quadrupled, regardless of income bracket.” …
“72 percent of black mothers are unwed which eclipses that of most other groups: 17 percent of Asians, 29 percent of whites, 53 percent of Hispanics and 66 percent of Native Americans.”
“Nearly half of the nation’s African American students attend high schools in low-income areas with dropout rates that hover in the 40-50% range.”
“Fewer than half of the black students who enroll in college graduate from four-year institutions within six years…”
“The racial composition of the US prison and jail population as of 2008 was 60.21% (African American (non-Hispanic)…”
24.7% of all African-Americans live in poverty in comparison to 8.6% of all non-Hispanic White, 11.8% of all Asian-American and 23.2% of all Hispanic.”
“The current unemployment rate among blacks hovering around 16 percent, although the economy as a whole has shown some improvement.
These are our problems. This is our community that is suffering, and we each need to take ownership of these issues.
To be clear, I’m not saying that men should be absent from women’s discussions entirely. Just like every child, we need the voice, love, and guidance of both mama and daddy. What I am saying, is that you should not be dominating conversations about Black women and shaping the narrative of who we are and who we ought to be. Not when there is so much of your influence that is needed for our brothers.
I know that there are many of you out here already dedicating your lives to working with our young brothers. I’ve just profiled such a brother– Wes Moore — aptly as “The Archetype” for doing just that. But we need even more brothers to champion this cause and to advocate for our young brothers. Prove me right, that there is no “good man” shortage. Put down your swords that cut up the Black woman into who you think we ought to be. Instead, let it plunge deep into your souls to cut out the cancer of sexism, paternalism, and privilege that is killing your introspection and stifling your growth as individuals and our healing as a community.
And as we have throughout history, you know your sisters will have your back.
DC District Diva