This is probably going to be a really long piece for a lot of reasons. I want to talk about love, about relationships, about being black in relationships (aka Black Love)… and further, after having done a recording wherein I barely touched on everything I want to say tells me that this needs to be a 2, maybe even 3 part discussion. I have a feeling that some of my readers/listeners are going to feel alienated because much of this is going to be Black People specific, but remember, its Black history month, I’m Black, and as far as I’m concerned, some conversations are just to important to be PC about. Which reminds me…
About this Black history month thing: It shouldn’t be thing… more specifically, it shouldn’t have to be a thing. Black history, as we in the US commemorate it, is American history. It should be a part of the history curriculum. It should be included in English, Literature, and Reading lessons because we have there are Black American writers. Slavery and racism should as be openly and HONESTLY discussed as the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln. Little Black girls ad boys shouldn’t be relegated to only learning about people who look like them during the shortest month of the year. It shouldn’t be that Blackness is only open for discussion in 30 second video clips before commercials. February shouldn’t be the only month people are encouraged to cram all of their/our appreciation of Blackness into. Just like people should be aware of breast cancer and heart disease all year, so should Black people, and our experience.
Similarly, Valentine’s Day shouldn’t have to be a thing. We shouldn’t need a specific day to remember to show appreciation to our significant others. Further, the media should be ashamed of themselves for suggesting that men need to spend exorbitant amounts of money and women simply need to supply the sex to show appreciation for our significant others. Unfortunately, if it wasn’t for Valentine’s day, many wouldn’t get to know they were appreciated until something bad happened in the relationship…. because who really remembers Anniversaries anyway? Many married men would have to wait for God knows how long for their wives to remember that lingerie can be more enticing than comfy pajamas, or that men deserve to feel special too.
Now let’s combine this and get to what I really want to talk about: Relationships. Now, if you’ve been reading me since the beginning, you’ll know that I don’t like giving romantic relationship advice… I will, but I don’t generally like to. This time I’m going this because there are people on my feed and in my family who have thoughts ad questions, that I think deserve a attention. First, history and upbringing… as they relate to Black Americans. Up front, I think it bears mentioning that a lot of what I am making Black people specific, is actually universal, thus, if you’re not Black, and reading this, you might still be able to relate.
All the messages we receive put us at odd with one another. As men and women, regardless of sexual orientation, romantic relationships are painted in hard and violent colors. There’s a battle for dominance; a question about who wears the pants in the relationship, that just makes things difficult.
Time to dig deep…
Back in the day, marriage was a form of ownership. Women, having no rights of their own, or value other than their ability to bear children and tend to the house were basically sold into servitude by their fathers to their husbands, or their husband’s family (depending on the age). Is it really any wonder that since the day women started working outside the home (because parenting and housekeeping is work) that a functional dynamic of relationships has been difficult to maintain? I’ll go deeper. Black women in America have always worked outside the home. Whether it was raising the master’s children, picking the cotton, cooking, cleaning… slaving in general was work. And then they had to go to wherever the slaves slept, and work more for their own families. Although white women were undervalued in their homes, they could at least count on the protection of the men in their lives. Black women could not; Black women had to bear the brunt of all of the abuse, the rape, the indignity, knowing that no one would be coming to save her… not her father, brothers, or even her husband. Her mother or sister might be able to offer herself up to the master to offer a reprieve, but it wouldn’t be man, at least not if he valued his life… not if he didn’t want to risk being sold to another plantation. Throughout history, women have had to do the parenting thing alone. Men were off hunting, fighting wars, and forging frontiers. Even when they were around, they were mainly there for sex and food. They gave women more work to do. I’m not trying to diminish the value of having a man in the home, I’m simply saying that not having a man at the home isn’t a new thing either. The value of male-female companionship didn’t actually come into play until much later.
Now, I can already hear some of you saying “That was then, this is now Reign… time to move on Reign.” But see, if you look at where we are in relationships now, where we have to be specific about “Black Love”–as if love isn’t complicated enough–especially with the women’s movement having given rise to messages that tell men that we, women, don’t need them, I want you to really understand where that comes from. So where am I going with this? Simple: women don’t need men… LOL… Okay, no, that isn’t where I was going, but had to say it. Because we don’t need men the way we needed them back then. Like all women, we need companionship. We need partnership. We need bed warmers. We need someone to be special to. Yes, we need you. The feminist movement, while I still consider myself a proud feminist, got that message wrong, or at least incomplete. More specifically, as a Black woman, I have to speak directly to the need for Black men. The complaint about Black women being too hard, too independent, too masculine… if you look at the history, you’d understand that we didn’t have a choice, and that being penalized for it is an injustice that is still prevalent in Black relationships today. Not just as companions–straying from the romantic element of relationships for this–but as partners in the struggle. When we are agonizing about #BlackLivesMatter, the people who understand through experience are Black men. The man you are least likely to have to explain why and how racism is still a problem for you personally, even if you never stepped foot in the hood, is a Black man. When being a “strong black woman” was in style and it got mixed in with the feminist movement, the message got twisted, everything fell apart, and the idea of Black love became a novelty. It became more about devaluing men and their role in our lives, and less about empowering women. Suddenly, “taking care of home” was a weak woman’s job; a white woman’s job. The rhetoric about men being unnecessary, more specifically how Black men “ain’t shit” became more important than strong families. I’ll ask this: What’s the point of being a strong Black woman if all you let yourself see are weak men?
At the same time, men were hearing all those messages too; and the message was loud and clear. So why are we surprised when they fell back on their role as men? Why shouldn’t they have switched to only focusing on what they need us for? If we don’t need them to do the right thing, why should they? What’s their incentive? They’re told they aren’t necessary, but they’re still expected to pay for the dates, pay the bills, be physically present in their children’s lives–technically a new requirement–and sometimes the lives of children that aren’t theirs, be emotionally and financially stable, be able to fix stuff around the house, be educated, committed, and faithful… and in return, they might be able to look forward to sex. Where’s the equality in that? Where is the love in that? Since we’re out working, they can’t expect a cooked meal when they get home. They can’t expect well raised, respectful children who understand the value in patience and perseverance over the acquisition of things and instant gratification. They can’t expect anything because like the song says, “we run this.“
I’m the kind of feminist who actually believes in equality, only with a realistic twist… because we aren’t equal; not in all things. There are some things that should be exclusive to men, just like there are some things that are exclusive to women. Allowing this dynamic to break down; allowing the incomplete messages to corrupt the fundamentals is one major component to why relationships, specifically relationships between Black people, has become so difficult. Unlike most other racial groups, there’s a lot more to Black love than just love… and I have a lot more to say about it…
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I know that was long (especially on top of all this)… and I have even more to say about it. So come back next week for Black Love, Part 2.
In the mean time, Do More, Require Better.