There is a demographic of powerful, intelligent, highly-educated, financially successful Black women that I, as a 25-year-old Black woman must address. These are the “independent ladies”, who have motivated themselves through years of schooling to acquire fulfilling, careers or somehow managed to defy many odds, jump through hoops and hurdles to start small business. These are the women who should have, by know, realized their own worth; the value of their steadfastness and dedication: How important they are to Black progress. Sadly, far too many of these Black women have not.
As I enter my mid twenties, many of my friends and closest relatives of my peer group (in their mid twenties to early thirties) have begun to “settle down” with partners and many have chosen to begin the tiresome, yet very rewarding journey into motherhood. I have no judgements, with regards to these specific personal choices. I understand the human need to procreate and I especially understand the importance of the “nuclear family”– a dual partnership that provides the emotional, financial and support necessary to raise Black children in a society that threatens their existence at every turn. My qualm is with the thinking that allows women to put up with disrespect from these men.
Allow me to elaborate with a personal anecdotes in order to demonstrate my point and deepest frustrations. I have a close friend who started a very successful business that awards her financial security and freedom. She is the primary breadwinner who provides not only for herself and her two kids, but her man as he “follows his dreams” of becoming a pro fighter. Her husband is an unapologetic, and even predatory, philanderer. He preys on young women by playing into their weaknesses and uses her financial assistance to enable his vice. He purchases gifts for women with her money. He rents hotel rooms and pays for dates and dinners all with her hard-earned cash.
“Why the hell don’t you just leave him?” I once questioned her.
“I don’t like being alone,” she admitted.
In so many ways, her response came as no surprise to me. Just as society tells men their worth is measured by the number of women they can conquer and that notion is internalized, powerfully directing (and even at times controlling) male behavior, women have also received and accepted societal notions to define themselves. Most specifically, and detrimentally, the idea that women need to be dependent on men; a notion that creates the willingness to sacrifice one’s emotional and psychological well-being and autonomy and independence in exchange for “partnership”. In other words, many women fear being the “boss” and especially to demand the respect they rightfully deserve for being such. Despite being leaders, these Black women are refusing to step into the leadership role and the Black community desperately needs them to do so.
As we watch these serious events unfold all across the nation, now more than ever, young Black women must fearlessly step into more leadership roles not just in their own homes but in their communities. And, luckily for today’s young women, there is no shortage of examples to learn from. Baltimore state prosecutor Marilyn J. Mosby leads the quest for “justice” for Freddie Gray, amidst chaos and turmoil. The dedicated young women– Alicia Garza and Patrisse Cullors– who spearheaded the #Blacklivesmatter movement are fine examples. They are standing at the forefront of a movement that is forcing America to address the racial problems that have been suppressed for quite some time now. We know based on the murder and exile of the many leaders during the Civil Rights Movement just how dangerous and precarious that position can be.
So what precisely is the excuse for all Black women not demanding or expecting respect in their personal relationships with men? Sometimes its important to not only point fingers at the individuals who do wrong to us, but look to ourselves and within ourselves to understand why we condone that wrong doing.
Black women must find the strength to demand more from their partners. Just as we must also stand to demand more from this society. We have earned it, most certainly, deserve better. It is time for us all to believe that.
Image Credits: Getty Images