In December 1975 and January 1976, respectively,  Ebony Magazine published “Mistakes Black Men Make In Relating To Black Women” and “Mistakes Black Women Make Relating To Black Men”.  I’ve long since come to hate such blanketed statements that indict an entire race or gender (and there’s 99 million ways to express the same idea without sounding like you mean everyone…come on, old Ebony!), but the actual articles are more fair than the titles would imply.

The major complaints discussed in the first piece include insensitivity (particularly as it relates to sexuality: he wants it when he wants it and he don’t care if you get yours, girl), lack of communication and the expectation that the man is to be treated as king, even if he doesn’t provide a ‘royal’ offering (or queen-like treatment) to his woman. The writer, Carol A. Morton, spoke to women who felt that their partners felt that their struggles as Black men took precedence over their own issues as Black women. In the second piece, men presented their frustrations with sisters who they found to be sexually uptight, insecure, hostile and too willing to share relationship problems with outsiders. Oh, and the male-to-female ratio was an issue as well.

In a nutshell- ain’t nothing new under the sun.

Having the painful burden of being born human, Black men and women will continue to have challenges in fostering long-term, loving relationships so long as the race continues to exist and so long as racism has us in its vice grip. Moreover, those challenges will be unique and particularly damning at times.  While I acknowledge that there are many brothers and sisters who display no such behavior as what was discussed in this 36-year-old piece, I will say that my modern eyes have seen these bad habits made manifest. And I’ve also seen women do the things assigned here to the menfolk and vice versa.

The author, Carol A. Morton, mentions the unique impact that racial discord and injustice have on Black relationships, which are also challenged by shifting gender roles and other “normal” life experiences. She cites Dr. Frances Welling as stating that some “90 percent” of the problems that Black couples face are the result of the “social system”.  Also, for each ‘charge’, there is an explanation from psychologists, relationship experts and counselors as to why Black women and men may be having such issues.  For example, Dr. Alvin Poussaint stated that Black women are decried for being hostile, when they are simply trying to be protective of themselves:  “Black women are used to being abused and mistreated and they have adopted a defensive attitude because of it.” The other article makes mention of the idea that Black men’s insensitivity towards their women may be a coping mechanism employed to manage the challenges of being Black and male in a racist society.

Morton states that brothers who display what is referred to as “sensitivity” are often decried as ‘weak’ or ‘gay’ ( I say “what is referred to as,” because in reality, anger, aggression and violence can also be indicators of sensitivity). There is a deadly societal pressure placed upon Black men to be hyper-masculine; even the gent who wants to be a bit more gentle or compassionate may find that these actions are not well received by male peers, relatives or even women. In a “it would be funny, if it weren’t so damn sad” display of irony, some fellas will alter their kind or chivalrous behavior towards women in order to avoid being called gay by other men.  Avoiding behavior that attracts women, in order to please men, in hopes they won’t consider you to be gay…has your brain exploded yet?

I digress. While many women of all races encounter equality issues when it comes to sexuality, I would like to believe that the world has seen some improvement in attitudes about female sexual pleasure since the time this article was on newsstands. There is a lot of Puritanical nonsense that still lingers, but we do speak about sexuality more freely now and many women don’t encounter the same sort of judgment for being openly sexual with their partners that some of the women in Morton’s story complain about. Progress!

The biggest differences between these two pieces and what we typically see in magazines today are the references to race, racism and the impact they have on relationships (while this would of course be a more pressing issue back then, they deserve more attention than we give to them now) and the fact that room for improvement for both genders was discussed with equal attention. Today, it seems that a vast majority of the relationship chatter involves the shortcomings and needed action steps for Black women alone.

I’d recommend that anyone interested in the romantic plights and progression of Black men and women take a look back at these pieces.  I appreciate reading such a nuanced and well-researched discussion of these issues, but it’s disheartening to see how far we still have to go in resolving them. It’s possible that our children may be able to read Ebony in 2035 and not see these same problems being lamented, but we are going to have to do some major legwork if that is to be the case.

24 Comments

  1. I got sense!

    @Sargewp
    I don’t think you truly read my response but instead read what you wanted to read. you also didn’t really answer my question but got on a soap box about the things you didn’t like or thought should change. You have implied, assumed and made numerous generalizations (what black women understand, see, want, need, etc.) that simply were not stated (by me at least) and on top of that asked very few questions to get clarity (if you indeed misunderstood my post). You seem very sure about your stance and that sir, is a flaw that you have. I do not know your educational level but you seem pretty smart. I am however curious to know how many (if any) leadership courses you have taken at a college or university. Much of what you stated is the opposite of what a leader should do and be. I am also curious to know your age (if you don’t mind sharing, no big if you don’t) because much of what you said sounds very old school. I get where you are going but I don’t feel that you truly understand what you are saying “between the lines”. The other thing is that everyone isn’t like that. There are tons of intact black american families. There are tons of dysfunctional non-black american families. Times are hard for everyone but black americans definitely have a unique situation at hand. I feel like you are frustrated and angry (my opinion from your style of writing) and need to expand your horizons. Again, everyone is not like this and if you surround yourself with like minding people your dialogue turns from angry and finger pointing into how can I help?

    My next question is what do you think black women should be doing in relation to the community? If you could, concisely, state your insight on this I am curious to know.

    • @I got sense!

      WOW – ur post was so empty it wasn’t even funny – and that’s not to make an attack at you but if you are going to respond at least have a decent comment with some content.

      So basically with all the various points I made you do not have one solid rebuttal.

      “You have implied, assumed and made numerous generalizations (what black women understand, see, want, need, etc.) that simply were not stated (by me at least) and on top of that asked very few questions to get clarity (if you indeed misunderstood my post). ”

      LOOK AT THE BLACK COMMUNITY – THE EVIDENCE OF THE TRUTH I SPEAK IS ALL AROUND YOU. Your stance against my first comment is further supporting evidence of the fact that you are indeed apart of the group of women who have to varying degrees the mentality that I speak up because otherwise u would have responded in the first place other than with supportive agreement.

      We are talking about the community – why is it every time black men point out the mentality of black women that black women are more than willing to proudly profess and state to the world that when black men call black women out on that as a whole black women make the claim that it’s “THOSE WOMEN OVER THERE NOT ME” ignoring that the mentality is pervasive and ubiquitous in black female culture.

      Black women can profess, they are strong, independent, don’t need a man, going to the moon and back, so educated, carry the black race on their backs – are the back bones – implying that black men have no back bone.

      Then when black men say – THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT U JUST SAID – and come with crushing arguments using black women’s own words. Black women’s narcism ends up bitting them in the face (collectively).

      Now to answer your question here:

      “My next question is what do you think black women should be doing in relation to the community? If you could, concisely, state your insight on this I am curious to know.”

      Black women have to drop the sisterhood and this notion of independence, which I don’t think is going to happen anytime soon. Once you have the taste of power its only natural for people to want to hold onto that power, problem is black women refuse to see what it’s doing to their men – they deconstruct the role and significance of men everyday – but yet still value the most basic elements of manhood but yet still expect it to be there.

      Example – One minute – women say – “I DON’T NEED A MAN I CAN RAISE A CHILD ALL BY MYSELF!”

      …the child grows up to be dysfunctional – “WELL ITS CAUSE HE DIDN’T HAVE HIS FATHER”

      wait thought men were not needed nor required?

      …let the child actually become someone raise by a single mother “I DID IT ALL BY MYSELF!”

      See it all depends on the final outcome which determines black women’s stance.

      This is one of the primary reasons women are UNFIT to lead because it’s an accountability issue.

      If black women want to say black men were $H#tty leaders and we failed miserably – then fine I’ll take that –

      But I’ll be damned if black women are going to profess that they are the back bone the rock and foundation leaders and matriarchs of the community but then I turn and look at the messed up situation that the black community has only to discover that black women are trying to dish that off on black men when THEY are professing to be leader.

      AWWW HELL NAH – see Sharizad Ali tried to break it down back in the 90′s – NO ONE WAS LISTENING – 20 years later – has the situation gotten better or worse?

      The women need to have their roles just like the men have their roles – but when u have women greying the roles – the result is ur going to have men greying the rolls where now u have men doing this that were traditionally seen as feminine as in i.e. being taking care of by another person – or being dependent on another person – AND see THAT’S what alot of black women don’t like – and it’s understandable – HOWEVER! – WHAT DO U EXPECT WHEN U ARE WEARING THE PANTS? – Did u think that both of u were going to wear pants?

      Couples don’t agree on everything – someone has to stand down- and truth is women don’t even have to fight for power because the smartest women know that they can have a man feel like a man be a man – and still get what they want and then some – without lifting a finger.

      Foolish women try to wrestle the man into doing what they want – and often times it does not work.

    • I got sense!

      @Sargewp
      I’m sure you won’t be responding but…
      Okay I’ll go your route, since you seem to like it.

      1. “LOOK AT THE BLACK COMMUNITY – THE EVIDENCE OF THE TRUTH I SPEAK IS ALL AROUND YOU.”

      Not all black people live in a black community (predominately black occupied neighborhood). Not all black communities are as you speak of. This is fact. The census proves it.

      2. We are talking about the community – why is it every time black men point out the mentality of black women that black women are more than willing to proudly profess and state to the world that when black men call black women out on that as a whole black women make the claim that it’s “THOSE WOMEN OVER THERE NOT ME” ignoring that the mentality is pervasive and ubiquitous in black female culture.

      I haven’t ignored anything. I simply stated not ALL people are the same. This is fact. Everyday life proves this. I agree with some of what you have stated. Example: Example – One minute – women say – “I DON’T NEED A MAN I CAN RAISE A CHILD ALL BY MYSELF!”

      …the child grows up to be dysfunctional – “WELL ITS CAUSE HE DIDN’T HAVE HIS FATHER”

      wait thought men were not needed nor required?

      …let the child actually become someone raise by a single mother “I DID IT ALL BY MYSELF!”

      This is a classic DOUBLE STANDARD towards men. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

      3. This is one of the primary reasons women are UNFIT to lead because it’s an accountability issue.

      If black women want to say black men were $H#tty leaders and we failed miserably – then fine I’ll take that –

      This leading this like whatever to me. Why, because not everyone is meant to be a leader and not everyone wants to be a leader. As a follower, I choose my leaders wisely. So for me it doesn’t matter who’s leading. I’m not going to follow someone who is going to lead me into the valley of the shadow of death so ALL MEN can lead and women are unfit. I’m okay with that because you are only a leader if someone is following and not all men will have followers. I guess they aren’t leaders then huh? Just for the record I don’t think all men are bad leaders (another generalization about what women think?).

      4.But I’ll be damned if black women are going to profess that they are the back bone the rock and foundation leaders and matriarchs of the community but then I turn and look at the messed up situation that the black community has only to discover that black women are trying to dish that off on black men when THEY are professing to be leader.

      This I understand and will simply say it’s a double edged sword. You can be the back bone of a family or a community and not be doing a good job whether you are male or female. From what you have typed I guess you are saying if women were not leading (or had sisterhood or independence) everything would be fine. No women “leading” doesn’t men no issues it means different kinds of issues. This is a fact. History has proven this.

      5. The women need to have their roles just like the men have their roles – but when u have women greying the roles – the result is ur going to have men greying the rolls where now u have men doing this that were traditionally seen as feminine as in i.e. being taking care of by another person – or being dependent on another person – AND see THAT’S what alot of black women don’t like – and it’s understandable – HOWEVER! – WHAT DO U EXPECT WHEN U ARE WEARING THE PANTS? – Did u think that both of u were going to wear pants?

      This statement screams of “we are the victim”. If men are stronger than women how did we grey the roles. Did we force you to do something or convince you to be a certain way in every black community across the nation collectively? Damn, you make us sound so powerful and connected. I appreciate the compliment but it’s undeserving. We don’t have that type of power/control/influence over anyone let alone black men.

      6. Couples don’t agree on everything – someone has to stand down- and truth is women don’t even have to fight for power because the smartest women know that they can have a man feel like a man be a man – and still get what they want and then some – without lifting a finger.

      Foolish women try to wrestle the man into doing what they want – and often times it does not work.

      This I partially agree with and it’s probably a difference in definition of terms. I don’t know what “stand down” means to you but my husband does not stand down to me nor do I stand down to him. We compromise. I give up something to get something. He does the same. I wholeheartedly agree that you can get what you want without raising your voice, rolling your neck or eyes, fighting, demanding, quoting bible scriptures, or fighting. Finesse is not emphasized or taught with either gender.

      I’m sure you won’t respond this this or my other posts but it’s cool. I still enjoy exchanging ideas with people. You never know if you don’t ask.

  2. I got sense!

    @Sargewp
    I’m sorry I had to type something else because it was funny.

    You stated “CHIVALRY IS BASED UPON INEQUALITY! I carry ur bags for you because I acknowledge that you are a woman and physically weaker”. This is true, women are physically weaker than men and yet we get things done. Bags aren’t always carried because they are too heavy. I am recently married and before I got married and before I meet my husband my bags got carried. BY ME! Weaker doesn’t mean I can’t. It means it may take longer, I may have to utilize some tool (dolly, etc) to help me get the job done, but it gets done. I never stood somewhere waiting for a man to carry my bags. What if one never came? Do you think women should wait for men to come carry the bags (literally and metaphorically)? So, I whole heartedly disagree that Chivalry is based on inequality. If that were true women would not do anything physical at all. My husband carries my bags for me because he wants to and I cook his dinner because I want to not because I am a better cook or because he is incapable of cooking and feeding himself. I also think you took equality and inequality to a place that was not mentioned.

    I didn’t even mention equality in my post. I actually stated the opposite. For my husband to be better at some things than I am IS INEQUALITY. I stated I help him where he falls short and he helps me where I fall short. We work together to get the job done. In order to lead you must also serve. As a leader you can’t do it all. So you must have people to help you. You used the president as your leader example but that is constructed to be a such. How many people (cabinets, assistance, etc) does the president have doing the grunt work??? Not to mention not every president is a true leader. Leadership comes in many forms. And this is why I asked about your educational knowledge on the subject was.

    Your posts seem to come from a place of men are leaders and when they are not in that role things fall apart. You also mentioned there being no reward system. I don’t recall there be a reward system for being a woman or doing the right thing as a women. If there is I need my reward, lol.

    • @I got sense

      U still wanna jump up and say black women don’t think like that or that its just a generalization:

      “@ L-CC….when I said we don’t “need” men I was really referring to financial means…which is true. For example, I don’t “need” a man to pay my bills and that’s a fact. I do “want” a man in my life to help me build a family. I don’t “need” to buy a house….but I really “want” to buy one. See…two different things. We sing the same song but in a different tune. Most women desire men in their life but they don’t financially “need” them to survive. This is just a different era. A divorcee or widow may never marry again and they will still be okay. Ofcourse, they probably “want” to marry again but not necessary for them to survive especially when they have close family and friends. I guess people get uptight when you say you don’t “need” a man because of the “black independent strong women” stereotypes put out there by the media.”

      I LIFTED THAT COMMENT FROM THIS VERY PAGE!

      Sigh – ur whole stance on Chivalry is not worth responding to.

      Chivalry and Gallantry is based on the social contract between men and women that transcends all societies.

      Boys dream about being the rescuer not the being rescued and women opposite.

      Imagine prince charming saying – “OHhhhhhhh!!!! Snap a Dragon!!!!” Standing there armor and sword and all – then turns around riding off into the sunset talking about – WELL SHE’S EQUAL TO ME – SHE GOT THIS!

      See ya’ll women don’t like that – ur not even attracted to men who are like that. It’s like the train youtube video that everyone was going crazy over about black men not defending black women – HOW IS IT THAT ONE MINUTE UR A DELICATE WOMAN WHO NEEDS TO BE PROTECTED SOLELY BASED ON UR GENDER AND PHYSIOLOGY but the next minute u are equal to men in every way and capacity.

      It’s not just about Men being chivalrous because they want to – have a woman say to a man – “I CAN GET THE DOOR BY MYSELF ENOUGH TIMES” and chances are he’s going to stop opening doors for any woman.

      Or even worse – he’ll open the door for a non-black woman because SHE APPRECIATES it but not a black woman.

      OMG – FACE PALM

      “In order to lead you must also serve. As a leader you can’t do it all. So you must have people to help you. You used the president as your leader example but that is constructed to be a such. How many people (cabinets, assistance, etc) does the president have doing the grunt work??? Not to mention not every president is a true leader. Leadership comes in many forms.”

      Doesn’t even dignify a response – see this is why debating with women is damn near impossible. I’m sorry for all you women on here who are not this illogical – or DO NOT take everything out of it’s proper context to make ur points.

      FACE PALM!

  3. I got sense!

    @Sargewp
    Again you sound really angry. I just want have a honest open talk about these things but you are pointing fingers and be very rude for no reason. Calm down. I hope you are okay. You say there is no point in talking to women about these things and yet you said twice it wasn’t worth responding to. So it seems that you (not all men) don’t want to have an open honest RESPECTFUL conversation about this topic. I’m happily married so I’m not here trying to get anyone to agree with me or to valid being single or married. You are generalizing. The statement you quoted doesn’t support what you have been saying to me. If it does to you please explain. That is what a conversation is, an exchange of thoughts and ideas.

    Not all little boys want to rescue someone (if there is even anyone to rescue) and not all little girls want to be rescued (if there is even a need to be rescued). You seem to base your argument on societal and traditional standards. If that is true you are essentially trying to live up to Mr. White Man’s standards. We (black americans) didn’t create those standards. Even this ‘little girls want to be rescued, little boys want to rescue’ scenario shows this. I never grew up wanting some guy to rescue me. From what?? Who is harming me that I need to be rescued? I do not know the youtube video you are referring to so I can not comment on that. Again, you have your own ideals about equality, inequality, and gender roles and you have every right to have them. Equality isn’t we are all the same. Equality is not being penalized (in any way) for being different. I am a women. I am different from men. That doesn’t mean better or worse, just difference. Recognize those differences. Accentuate the strengths and find someone who compliments you. That’s all anyone can do. But recognize that those ideals may not be the best. I know I had to change mine, as most people do as they age and mature. It’s a normal part of development and growth. Things I liked with I was 16 I don’t like 10 years later. I truly want to understand what you are saying but your statements are sporadic and not fully explained. Hence the reason I asked additional questions but as you say there is no point in debating with women so I guess you won’t be responding.

    I just want to know how others feel and to get a better understanding of how you got to that point. I haven’t “jumped up” and said anything. The fact that I, and many other black women exist (doing the opposite of so many things you say all women do) proves that you are using generalizations and drawing from (bad) experiences that are not 100% true all the time for everybody. I NEVER said it doesn’t exist I said everyone isn’t like that. That statement is 100000% true and if you truly believed ALL BLACK WOMEN were like that you wouldn’t be on this site or responding to me or anyone else about this topic because it would be a lost cause, no need for any further discussion. But again you are so hung up on what you feel is an absolute truth that you read what you want to see and not what was typed. I’m so grateful my husband doesn’t think like you. He does carry this for me because he wants to and I know this because he will want to carry things that aren’t heavy. Or if I have a lot of grocery bags he will take some of them from me. He doesn’t always open the door and I don’t always cook dinner. I feel like you think men and women’s role are very ridge and strict but really our roles are whatever we say they are. I know men you stay at home and the women work because they are GREAT with kids and their individual situation works. I know women who make more than their husbands and she doesn’t have more influence/power. They make decisions together and a married couple. Your thoughts on gender roles are really interesting and archaic. No one should be leading anyone in a marriage. No one is a dog or a child. Two adults who CHOSE to spend their lives together. That type of relationship is based on mutual respect and trust. I hope you do well sir. I really do. :-)

  4. For years we’ve been going back and forth examining “THE PROBLEMS,” but I would love to see us try to develop and examine some solutions. It’s possible for African Americans to be in a loving, productive relationship, but we either act surprised when we see “Black Love” or just think it’s a myth or something.

    We’re much to eager to place blame than to make progress. I understand you have to examine the past to know why the problem started, but we’re busy dwelling in it instead of making necessary changes for our future!

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