Do you like Black men?
That’s not a trick question, and there’s no right answer. Just whatever comes to mind.
I realize the fallacy in that question. It’s not like I’m asking about chocolate chip ice cream, which no matter the brand has a pretty uniform taste. Black men are as varied as, forgive the analogy but it’s apt, snowflakes in that no two are entirely the same. But in general, when you think of Black men, what do you think of? And is that something you like?
I expect the knee-jerk response from most Black women will likely be, “yes,” if only because it’s the answer you’re “supposed” to give and to say “no” opens the door for accusations of self-hate and possibly to hear, “Well, well, we’re not too fond of you either, you know?”
But I ask, even if I’m expecting a chorus of “yeses,” because it doesn’t seem as so many Black women do. I’ve noticed — perhaps you have too — that conversations about Black men, or even boys, often devolve quickly into a theme of “why don’t they have any act right?” as if every Black man has gone to hell in the proverbial hand basket. When I hear many women speak of their proclivity for interracial dating, I often — but not always — hear the reason is because Black men can’t do right or get it together, to put it nicely. Even from the Black women who swear up and down that they’re not into interracial dating and only want a Black man, I still often hear a litany of angry complaints that generalize them all as liars and philanderers, who can’t be trusted to commit to education, much less one woman or stick around to be a daddy to the kids they fathered.
If you’re a woman who thinks that way — and I don’t expect that anyone will admit it — I don’t blame you. That’s not to say I think Black men are generally bad, just that I understand it’s partly a result of the undercurrent of the popular American story that goes Black women are lascivious, angry, and big. And Black men? Well, to sum it up, they ain’t $@!#. We’re practically bombarded with these messages so it can be a hard narrative to escape internalizing for even the educated and deemed sensible, and especially so, if your personal story includes a father who didn’t stick around, a series of men who did you dirty, or you grew up in place where you looked around and didn’t readily see any man hardworking or upstanding enough to disprove the stereotypes. I get it.
I also get why women who think this way, wouldn’t be inclined to do much to change it. Part of it is a defense mechanism to avoid being hurt, likely again. Or maybe they’ve been privy to overhearing or reading male conversations that either deem Black women the lowest of the low or even at best, don’t take our needs, wants, or desires into consideration, as some Clutchettes in the comment section to yesterday’s story on young Black men and education. There, an attitude of “why should I do what you don’t?” emerged and I get that too.
But I’ll suggest to you, if this is your outlook, that it’s doing you more harm than good. Complaining about what’s wrong with Black men and what they don’t do doesn’t change whatever you may perceive to be wrong with Black men. “Ain’t ish” and “about they ish” men exist in all colors, even Black. And if all the Black men you encounter ain’t ish, I’ll skip my go-to Katt Williams quote about assessing yourself and just ask you to look elsewhere until you find some who are.
If you’ve observed also that Black guys don’t care so much about what happens to you or women who look like you, I’ll even still suggest that you still take an interest in what happens to them, anyway, even if you don’t go so far as to advocate in the streets or city hall for their interests. That’s for no other reason than because if you’re hetero and dating Black, at some point you will encounter a man worth caring about, and too, a community doesn’t thrive ever when half of its members don’t care about the other.
That might mean you act as the bigger/better person and go with Ghandi’s adage and being the change you want to see in the world. Maybe your first step can build a bridge to reciprocity. Or maybe it can just keep you, if it applies, from becoming (more) bitter since you’ll be a catalyst to change instead of a complainer about all that hasn’t yet.
Demetria L. Lucas the author of A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life. ABIB is available to download and now in paperback. Follow her on Twitter at @abelleinbk