What Happened to Black Love?
After the meaningless nonsense of the past few days, in fact, past few years, I’ve finally accepted that Black Love is in a bit of trouble. I ADORE Black Love itself – as corny as it may sound, there’s something so intensely beautiful about the concept that has made me seek it almost exclusively. At my age I’m finally trying to take the idea of settling down seriously, but my usual approach to life has not been cutting the mustard. I’m far from desperate and haven’t had much trouble catching who I want. But I believe in fate, luck, chemistry, being in the right place at the right time, and not strategizing too much, so maybe that’s why I’m single. Or, perhaps it’s because I’m not the dopest chick out there. Or, perhaps, and I hate to say it, it’s because black love is on the endangered species list right along with hip-hop and my beloved black sitcoms.
Don’t get me wrong – it happens for many of us. But something has to be going on when I look at my female friends and all but a handful are single and looking, unhappily involved, or dating non-black men. Something has to be going on when I look at my male friends and they claim that the cool black female is a rare breed, and once they find one the situation is tenuous at best. Just what are the underlying issues behind all of this and how can we maintain faith in black love in the face of them?
#1. The Death of Monogamy and Marriage. It’s not just a black thing – marriage has become a joke in America and is as easy to undo as your auto insurance provider. Meanwhile, black folks are making haphazard “families” out of wedlock every day, and the expectation of monogamy is particularly low. Some blame feminism for releasing women from financial dependence on men, others point to a general decline in morality. I personally think that life has gotten a little bit long for all of this til’ death do us part stuff, and people are taking notice.
Who Gives Me Hope: There’s still something suspicious about Will & Jada, but instead of going with the rumor mill I’ll go with my gut, here. Will has declared that the key to a successful marriage is that divorce is simply not an option, an idea so antiquated that it made headlines.
#2. Chronic Incompatibility. I’ve always considered the “black male shortage” a media-driven myth, but part of my personal problem has definitely been the lack of selection. It seems too much to ask that a black man be child and felony free, have a college degree and a job, and generally act right. These are all traits that I’ve long ago stopped seeking just for the sake of having fun and companionship and not setting myself up for failure. The way I see it, I can’t be mad if applesauce doesn’t taste like chicken. Applesauce is applesauce, and I’m hongry! So we jump-off, we flirt, and we do what we can to bide time. Of course there are plenty of black folks on my track, but considering that so many of us aren’t, finding a stand-up Negro to jump the broom with has become a needle-in-a-haystack search.
Who Gives Me Hope: Angela Basset is one of the most accomplished actors black Hollywood will ever see, and her husband, Courtney B. Vance, is not. Period. He’s ok with it, she’s ok with it, and we’re ok with it. Black women can achieve and deal with having a man who is not as high-power, and black men can accept that it’s not all about them in a relationship…right?
#3. Man vs. Woman. The black community spends so much time on issues of race that we forget how powerful gender roles can be. Black men are supposed to be strong providers, heads of households, hyper-masculine, and keep their women in some form of check. Black women are supposed to support their men, rear some black babies, have a little Negro Temptress fire, and fix plates. In fact, the biggest relationship skill I’ve learned in 29 years is how to fix a good plate for my man. They say that black men are shiftless and can’t control their women. They also say that black women are aggressive, over-worked, and can’t be controlled. I’ve never really known what to do with that since I’m all of those things in spite of, not because of, the fact that I have melanin in my skin and pair of ovaries. The bottom line is that our expecatations are so rigid that we never get as far as we should together.
Who Gives Me Hope: Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson are grotesquely compatible. If they aren’t meant for each other, who is? They’re both weird and accomplished enough that neither would dare stray from that union. Her braids have been literally stuck 3/4 of the way towards done since 1984, and his perm game is almost gender-bending. He looks like a woman with a moustache, is absolutely un-masculine, and she sure doesn’t think he’s not a real black man because of it.
#4. Playing Games vs. Having Game. The things that make me so Thembi-licious, like my Ivy League degree and searing wit, have been negative attributes when it comes to dating. I wish I could say that I’ve ever considered myself “too good” for a guy, but the reality is that they tend to consider a woman like me way too much work. As soon as foolishness jumps off and we call you on it, women are demanding and don’t know how to treat a brother right. Be feeble-minded and keep it real, or be a brainiac and tell me lies, but please don’t underestimate my intelligence. On the other hand, and I’m guilty of this, women want a man with some edge and adventure, and buttoned-down investment banker types, momma’s boys, and other such “nice guys” often get passed over in favor of someone who brings a little more excitement. In short, laziness and the pursuit of superficial qualities keep many of us from being real and seeking real.
Who Gives Me Hope: Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis are my favorite black couple of all time just on the cuteness principle. But what you may not know is that their 57-year union was an open marriage. They believed that without the need for lies and deception, they could always make it work. I don’t know if that’s the only way to make it stick, or if it even counts as having stuck, but they were down for each other until the day he died. Kind of makes you wonder, hunh?
#5. The Brotherman vs. The Otherman. Thanks to integration we don’t have to sneak off into the woods to date inter-racially and usually no one gets lynched for it. In fact, a few years ago I created the Brown Nipple Theory™. Basically, men love to go to the “locker room” and tell other men about their exotic exploits, one of which, in some circles, is having seen a brown nipple firsthand. Therefore, non-black men, especially immature ones, can’t wait to experience a black woman just for the sake of post-modern exoticism. In short, good-old fashioned male conquest brings the races together in a way that has assured black women that we can date who we want, when we want, and not think we’re too dark or nappy for a non-black man to take interest. I’ve always been open-minded and there are simply more white people to be had in this country. I’ve always thought that intentionally dating outside of one’s race is pathetic because love is way more organic than that – it usually “just happens” and most interracial relationships have nothing to do with color. But I’m starting to understand the rare breed that openly decides to give up on the brotherman to exclusively date the otherman. And don’t get me started on the stereotype of the black man who becomes successful and gets himself a white woman, because I’ve personally seen it in action.
Who Gives me Hope: Have you ever asked yourself why Barack is married to a black woman? If so, have you asked why Michelle isn’t with a white man? Probably not. Race is so irrelevant to me in its finer points and who knows what childhood pathologies are ever coming into play on an individual level, but Barack loves his black woman and black family. Barack can denounce whatever church ideology he wants to, but I know that he believes in his old church’s pro-black-family stance, even if he lacks the political strength or patience to explain it to America just yet.
I’m really interested in hearing what you all think. Is black love in crisis? Can you inspire me with more examples of strength even if you just want to shout out your own boo? Should I continue to amuse myself with not-good-enoughs, snag myself a white guy, or draft a strategy to keep black love alive? Discuss.