Black women speak out
Earlier this week, African-American men answered women's question "Do Black Men Still Want Us?' Now women discuss their romantic options and struggles.
By RODNEY THRASH
Published October 2, 2004
Where is the love?
A magazine asks whether black men still desire black women. Eight men offer their answers.
Letters to the Editor: More responses to "Do Black Men Still Want Us?"
Spirited comments about romantic options and worries
When elementary school teacher Patti Hairston picked up Monday's edition of the St. Petersburg Times, she braced herself.
"I knew there would be negative things said about black women by black men," she said.
I'd written a story in which eight black men responded to this question posed by Essence, a black women's magazine: Do Black Men Still Want Us? I didn't want to write a meaty thesis with tons of data and expert analysis. I wanted to speak to real people, not experts. And I wanted to engage black men who were unafraid to speak openly and candidly about black women. Their voices often have been either muffled or absent from this discussion..
I knew their comments would resonate with some, offend many and embarrass others. But more than anything, I wanted the story to spark a dialogue. Statistics show that the black family is in crisis, black women are more likely to live alone than white women are, and we're far more likely to see a black man in a jail cell than in a college lecture hall. Black men and women need to talk about why things are the way they are and how they can be fixed.
The story has forced people to do just that. Days after the story was published, my e-mail inbox and telephone voicemail are clogged with messages from women and men living in small towns in North Carolina and big cities such as Chicago. Still more people e-mailed the story to their girlfriends and social and professional organizations. Here's what some had to say, in their words.
Lori Chung, 28, associate TV news producer, single, Brooklyn
Personally, I don't feel the love from black men to black women and doubt much of that "love" still exists. And I don't buy the argument that white or nonblack women are "easier" or "less challenging" than black women. I have friends of all shades, so I know that to be false. This appears to be an excuse that men use to appease us and themselves and to avoid the realization that they simply feel that nonblack women are somehow better than sistas. They want the envy of their friends, their kids to have "nice" hair and to feel a sense of accomplishment and success through their mate.
I believe the nature of our problem as black women is that we have a strong sense of loyalty (and I would argue misplaced) to black men. I can't tell you how many times I've heard sistas say that "it's either a black man or no one at all," and they're often stuck with the latter. Just as brothers have realized that they have options, we also need to be open to our options. We have more choices than settling for someone not good enough, sharing a man, or being alone. I've realized that there ARE plenty of good men out there, but they may not look like you or share the same ethnic background. Once you open up yourself to love from any direction, you won't feel a man shortage.
Kim Jordan, 38, insurance claims representative, single, St. Petersburg
The gentleman . . . talked about dating a (Polish and Italian) chiropractor. She supported him during a rough time. Black women are probably some of the most supportive women around, but I think it's still not enough coming from a black woman. I think if you've got a black woman and a white woman and they're doing the exact same thing, (black men are) going to look at what the white woman offers as something better than what the black woman offers. It can be the same kind of support. I think it's more about something different. It's something black men were told they couldn't do. I think it's more about that than what the white woman has to offer.
The relationship I just got out of, prior to dating me he'd been in a relationship for three years with a white woman. About a month into our relationship, he (said he) was scared of getting hurt (again). He was able to fight in this three-year relationship with this white woman. That's almost a slap in the face to a black woman. This (white) woman treated you like a crap and you stayed in the relationship for three years, but here all you can do is keep running scared. I don't understand. There are a lot of supportive black women, but it seems that we still lose out. It still is not good enough.
Talice Sanford, 35, eligibility administrator at Ceridian Benefit Services, single, St. Petersburg
Though I agree with some of the points made in this article, I think we have missed one other crucial point. Physical appearance. These days, it seems that appearance matters more than whether this woman is educated or employed. If you put an educated 200-pound woman (with) no children and taking care of her own next to a 125-pound woman with four kids and no job, who do you think he is attracted to?
The fact is most black men these days are looking for the typical "Video Girl." Whether she be black, white or any other race, most men look for the images portrayed on television.
If a black man is having a hard time finding a real black woman, a woman of substance, maybe he should broaden his scope a little. I'm in no way suggesting that he lower his standards. I'm actually asking a question: If you had a choice between a "gift" that is wrapped in the most beautiful paper you've ever seen and one that was cute but not so neatly wrapped, which one would you choose? You would be surprised at what each package contains. We keep passing the buck. Brothers blame the sisters and sisters blame the brothers. We all need to take a long look at ourselves before we start pointing fingers. Both sexes need to realize that who we choose as a partner says a lot about who we are. And if we are looking for a life partner, we really need to scrutinize our reason for choosing that person.
I must say something to my sisters. We complain constantly about the way we are treated. But the fact is, there are some of us who allow it. When a black man meets a strong black woman, part of the reason he doesn't stay around is because he knows that there is a "simpleton" out there who won't demand to be treated with respect. As long as we continue to allow ourselves to be mistreated, it will continue.
I am a professional black woman who has been having problems with African-American men. Just through my personal relationship explorations, speaking with black male friends and reading the current literature on this topic, black relationships are definitely in turmoil.
I have been told that because I am intelligent, ambitious, attractive and somewhat enlightened, I am undesirable to a lot of African-American men. To echo what one of the gentlemen said in the article, I was told that I was not submissive enough for a lot of black men.
Initially that stings. It stings (not only) because I know that I am loving and kind, but because I have all of these other attributes it makes me fundamentally unwanted by a lot of men. It saddens me more because it seems as if the vast majority of black men want a "submissive" woman. What does that say about the state of black "manhood" today? I think that is a sad reflection of the kind of trouble we are in as a race.
Further, let's say I did change myself to become more demure, submissive and feminine so that I am actually desirable to many black men and, as a result, I do find a committed relationship. One has to think, "What kind of man am I committed to?" Am I committed to an honorable, secure, self-assured and decent human or did I just commit myself to a scared little boy who has to be constantly pampered and coddled and who never returns that nurturing? Black women need to be nurtured, too. We just can't give to a selfish and self-centered human being all the time before we ourselves fall out from exhaustion.
I'm a 43-year-old divorced black woman. I've been divorced for nine years now. I am intelligent, attractive, well-traveled and spiritual. Yet I find myself having to go beyond dating African-American men for companionship. I think the issues that black women are facing that were not mentioned in your article are those dealing with trust, respect and commitment.
You made a good point that black women pretend to be strong and independent when we don't really want to be. But in order for us to relinquish that stance or let down our guard to reveal the soft, submissive side that is willing to recognize our king as king, we have to be able to trust: trust that he is willing and ready to cherish his queen. Do you feel that since there are so many women out there looking for love, why should you give in so easily? What you fail to realize is that this perception of settling too soon is in fact limiting your possibilities because the good ones that are intuitive enough to sense that you're not giving your all, and that you're burning the coals in many different fires, will never open to you completely to reveal their true worth. A vicious cycle. Nobody wins. I'm still hopeful that one day, my Mr. Right will come along. He'll see me, appreciate me, cherish me and get in return a very deep and lasting love that he thought possible only in a book or a dream.
Patti Hairston, 44, elementary school teacher, divorced, Gulfport
I desire a black man who wants to be the head and not the tail. I will never give up on black men. I have never considered dating outside of my race, even though I do have black female friends who say they have given up black men because of the way they have been treated. I often wonder if black men who date outside of their race will ever be honest enough to admit that they sometimes treat nonblack women better than they treat black women; some black men seem to hate us just because we're black. I don't understand that mentality when, in fact, it was a black woman who gave birth to them. I wonder if they ever consider the fact that most black men left the black woman and child, leaving the woman to play the role of mama and daddy (which would make a woman of any color strong). I see my brothers on a daily basis taking so much pride in spending time with their mixed kids in the mall, in the park or just taking their kids shopping, and I often I wonder if this brother has any black kids who would love that same kind of attention or, better yet, just would love to be able to be in the presence of their daddy. When I see a brother with a nonblack woman he seems to be so proud to have her on his arm; I always pray that he's with her because he loves her, not because she's not black. For the black men who date white women exclusively, I realize there is a self-hatred going on. To all of the brothers who still desire black women, may God bless you for not giving up on us, because there are a lot of us like myself who will never give up on you.
Ain't nothing like a brotha.
* * *
While most of the responses were from black women, a few black men also responded. Theloneous Massai, 46, was one of them.
Massai, married for 20 years to a black woman, said the article was embarrassing.
"Black women just want black "males' to stand up and be men, to accept the challenge of manhood," he wrote. "Most guys aren't willing to pay the cost to be the boss. If you can't pay the rent/house note, car note, utilities, groceries, etc., then keep your pants zipped up until you can.
"Black men who don't step up to the plate are missing out on the best women in the world."
- Rodney Thrash can be reached at 813 269-5313 or firstname.lastname@example.org
[Last modified October 1, 2004, 08:55:12]