For years now America has appeared to be obsessed with the love lives of African American women. In any given month you won’t be hard pressed to find a news article spinning the tale of the single black female who is destined to die an old maid. The reasons for this perpetual loneliness run the gamut from the lack of eligible black men to the notion that black chicks have too much “attitude.”
Right now the hot topic is black women dating outside their race. The Wall Street Journal has broached the issue and in his book Is Marriage for White People? How the African American Marriage Decline Affects Everyone, author Ralph Richard Banks argues that sisters need to stop holding out for the brothers if they want a shot at a healthy and happy marriage.
While I, personally, do think that race should be removed from the equation when looking for Mr. Goodbar, assuming that “white is right” when it comes to relationships is quite problematic.
But when it comes to the tired (and often insulting) lonely black woman meme, what concerns me most has little to do with romantic relationships. I fear this narrative is harming our friendships with other women.
I am a believer in sisterhood. For some reason I’ve never been able to explain, I feel this kinship or, as my pastor calls it, a supernatural love for every woman and girl on this planet. Seriously. And so I find myself overprotective of the idea of sisterhood as if this concept is a person I can reach out and touch.
Therefore when I come across something that I believe threatens sisterhood, I get pissed. All the stories and theories about why so many black women have never been married not only foster ridiculous stereotypes (such as of the angry black woman who’s eager to emasculate her man) but also have the potential to divide women of all colors. Let me explain.
This spring Uptown Magazine caused quite a stir with Andrea Michelle’s article Love: Why White Women Are Winning. The article was not a roast of black women as I expected from the title, but it did suggest black women were too focused on education and careers and didn’t start husband hunting soon enough (unlike their white counterparts) and it set white women’s relationship behavior as the standard, thus suggesting that we’re, of course, doing it all wrong.
But one of the things that bothered me most about the article was the word choice, as the language set up an “us against them” paradigm. To say white women are winning and African American women are losing implies we’re in competition and white women become the enemy. And unfortunately, some women are buying into this.
Shortly after this story went live, a friend of mine posted a link and short summary of it on her Facebook page. Soon her wall was full of comments from women complaining about “white women stealing all our men.” One woman was outraged that a Caucasian woman at a party she’d recently attended dared to flirt with a black man at the soiree when there were plenty of available white men present.
Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t dare assume that these women speak for the majority of black women but the influence of the sad and lonely sister story on at least a small group of women is obvious. How long will it take for this attitude of white woman as enemy to morph into all women are the enemy? Or is it beginning to do so already?
Think about how this topic seems to open the flood gates of criticism of black women from other black women. LaShaun Williams, in her response to the Uptown magazine piece, tells black women that we need to learn when to “shut up,” that we should be more submissive, and we need and learn to give our men center stage. (Side eye.)
Furthermore implying that marriage is or should be every woman’s goal creates a further divide and by suggesting that the women who have jumped the broom are somehow better than those who have not.
Be honest, have you, when griping about a single woman with whom you’re having a conflict, ever quipped “That’s why she can’t find a man,” as if relationship status determines character?
I’ve been a happily married woman for several years now and I know marriage takes work. People with successful marriages should be applauded, but we should not be viewed as some sort of elite class nor do we have the right to disparage women who are single.
For the sake of sisterhood let’s celebrate and support one another instead of condemning one another or seeing other women as competition. Then, we’ll all be winning.