“Everything want to be loved. Us sing and dance and holler, just trying to be loved.” – Alice Walker, “The Color Purple.”
A few years ago a study was done of black women and found that only 40 percent of black women were interested in getting married compared to 55 percent of white women. Many speculated on what this could mean. Did it mean that black women were simply more focused on education and career, believing self-improvement and self-sufficiency were the keys to happiness? Were black women more likely to reject the historical “bondage” of the patriarchy sometimes found in uneven marriages? Or did it mean that because of the historic high unemployment rate of black men and the more recent high incarceration rate, more black women had a nuanced approach to the idea of marriage.
Why hope for something that may (or may not) happen? Better to work on yourself, the one thing you can control.
And yet, there has been documented story after story after story of black women – often in a panic – over marriage. Personally, I think there are more panicking articles than actual panicking black women, but they do touch on one singular truth – some of us are never going to get married. Some of us really don’t want to be part of that some that won’t. So some of us say some really crazy stuff in this Great Man Panic of the 2000s.
Case in point, a lot of hay was made over a recent post on BallerAlert about how “Billionaire men” say “black women are for grown ups.”
The whole article together hinges on one unsourced quote allegedly made by wealthy businessman Ben Horowitz. Horowitz, who has a black wife, reportedly said, “Billionaires prefer black women, they are loyal and guard your interests. Black wives are for grownups.” Unfortunately, I can’t find an original news source for where this quote came from, which has been floating around the internet for at least nine months.
The article, and the many other articles also based on the quote, is meant to uplift that percentage of black women who feel society’s rejection the hardest by singling out a few wealthy white men and one Middle Eastern man who have married black women. It’s supposed to be a counter-balance to the “everybody panic” stories we often see. (As well as a “response” to certain black men who denigrate and reject us for looking and sounding like the women who birthed them.) But even it, as a counter-balance, has a slight feel of grasping at straws to it. Some of the men on the list aren’t billionaires. Some of the women are not wives (or even dating) the men they are pictured with. It’s an article too vulnerable to being picked apart. The context may be some billionaires marry black women, but the subtext is the vast majority of people, regardless of income or fame, tend to marry within their own ethnic group. Even black men.
But I get the implication of the article – if everyone says we’re unwanted, here’s someone who wants us. Even if you can’t be married to Barack Obama, a black woman named Michelle is. Actor Robert DeNiro is taken, but he’s taken by a black woman. Dwayne Wade may have divorced a black woman, but he left her for another black woman in actress Gabrielle Union. The statistics are a lie! We are loved! Don’t panic!
And yet, some of us do.
If we ask ourselves why some of us still panic it might be rooted in the fact that for every black woman with amazing self-esteem, there is another who has bought the bill of tainted goods society sold her.
“You sho is ugly,” is what Shug Avery in the film adaptation of Alice Walker’s “The Color Purple” says of Celie upon meeting her. Shug was drunk, and in the moment, didn’t look all that great herself, yet those were the words that came out, representing that sometimes, when it comes to black women, we are sometimes our own worst critics. We see ourselves in each other and recoil back in horror.
But this is also a paradox, because statistically black women feel better about their bodies, how they look and their inner selves than any other racial group of women. This, in spite of a whole society bent on telling black women there is something terribly, terribly wrong with them. We’re like a nation of Sweet Brown’s proudly announcing “Ain’t nobody got time for that” when people want to tell us we’re inferior or unloved.
Some of us may not get married, but all of us can be loved. It starts with loving yourself enough not to fall for the hype of panic or the counter-hype of living vicariously through the marriages of other black women. Both those scenarios make us look desperate, and what do we have to be desperate about?
We should love ourselves too much to get caught up in the panic and statistics. We should love ourselves enough to let some things go.