A few days ago, I found myself chatting with a few co-workers about the Chris Brown / Rihanna conflict. After a bit of a pause, one woman remarked:
“I just don’t get this whole angry Black man complex. They need to get it together.”
The strange thing about it was, everyone participating in the conversation nodded in affirmation, thus bolstering her “point”. I, on the other hand, guffawed, shook my head, and retorted, “Huh? This has nothing to do with the ‘angry Black man’ – whatever that means. It’s an abusive relationship… race has nothing to do with it.”
Surprised? I’m sure a few of you are, seeing as how I get comments like this frequently:
Ok. We need to talk about this.
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how I come across on this blog to Black men. Because I care. A lot. I think about how I felt 4 years ago, when I came across the Facebook group Black Men and White Women Come Together (now defunct), or how I’d feel if I read a blog authored by a Black man who finds himself dating primarily (hi, not exclusively) White women. Did this/would this hurt my feelings? Highlight my insecurities? Anger me?
But then I think about what’s real – at least, to me.
I know that I identify more with my race than I do with my sex. That might sound weird, but it’s true. I identify more with Black men than I do with White women. I think of myself as “bi-racial” before “female”. Because of this, I’ve always felt deeply connected with other bi-racial and African-American folks – men included. (!)
I know that I’m someone who calls out the elephant in the room (I get this from my mom). In my opinion, doing so progresses the conversation past formality, to a place actually worth exploring. Because really, what’s the point of skirting around the issues? It’s boring and pointless.
I also know that discussing a topic like gender relations through a racial lens isn’t easy. It’s visceral and messy. I get that. But I’m not someone who gives free passes. So I knew I’d offend a few when I called out Black men for cat calling. But I also knew that I could have gone deeper… because there is much more to say about the public objectification of Black females (the booty-shaking b*tches, the nappy headed hos, the “come here girl” comments and over-exaggerated head turns… I mean really, let’s get real). I make no claim that this objectification began in the Black community – just think about the Saartjie Baartman, or “Venus Hottentot” story – but somehow the Black community has managed to perpetuate it. Obviously, not all Black men do this, and obviously some White men and Latino men and whoever-else-men cat call and all the rest – but I’m talking about Black women and Black men here. And it’s an important issue for us to discuss, together.
So yes, I have quite a few concerns with gender relations within the African-American community. But that doesn’t mean I won’t defend Black men wholeheartedly when someone looking in from the outside makes an ignorant blanket statement like the one my co-worker made. A statement based on nothing but TMZ and the 7 o’clock news.
But within the community, we need real talk to move forward. Understand that I want nothing more than to uplift the race, but to do so I think it’s imperative that we address the good, the bad and the ugly. You be real with me, and I promise I’ll be real with you.