Everything we hear in the media about black women and men loving each other is negative. We hear about infidelity, domestic violence, and disputes over money that plague our relationships. We hear that our divorce rates are so much higher than other groups. We hear about black men preferring women of every race other than their own. We hear that black women are the most unmarried women of all races. We hear that black women are climbing the professional ranks and leaving black men behind. We hear staggering statistics about the number of black men in prison. We hear about angry black women and down-low black men, We hear that black men are dogs and black women are b*%#* and ho’s. To add salt to the wound, the church we sacrifice for mocks our quest for men who will love us as partners, not subordinates.
There’s a conspiracy against healthy black male-female love, or at least it feels that way. Our lack of role models and the silence about what it takes to build healthy black love have cripppled us. It keeps us fixated on all everything that’s not working. It keeps us anxious and clueless about what it takes to make relationships work. We’ve spawned a generation that wonders “why bother?,” a generation content to reduce relationships to two categories: “friend with benefits” and “friend without benefits.”
Let’s admit it: we don’t hear enough about black men and women who love each other. We don’t hear enough about how they managed to find each other and stay together despite the odds stacked against them. We don’t hear the testimony of the black man who wasn’t looking for someone to dominate. Nor the testimony of the woman who admits to having to slay the patriarchal woman within in order to love a new kind of black man. We do not hear the ways they fought society and their own pathologies to establish caring black families and a loving partnership.
We crave role models of lasting love in the black community. Even though we know better we cry when we hear news of another celebrity couple divorcing (Shaq, Jill Scott). We spend hours in beauty and barber shops speculating on what happened and who did what to whom. We devote radio programs to surveying, “Should Juanita Bynum take her husband back?” We look up to Will and Jada, Bill and Camille, Angela and Courtney, Samuel L. and LaTanya, Denzel and Paula (why are all the fantasy couples entertainers?) and snatch up copies of Ebony magazine when they are on the cover, desperate for secrets to their longevity. The church has no models to offer. It’s too busy trying to romanticize a time when “girls were girls, and men were men” (to quote Archie Bunker). Meanwhile, its clergy crumble under the weight of trying to keep up pretenses. Despite all the scandals we’re fed to discourage any lingering hope we may have in black romance, however, something in us won’t give up believing.
We believe in love. We prefer healthy love, though we’ve settled for toxic love (at least, for a while). We cling to the belief that it’s never too late for love. We pray to experience a bit of heaven here on earth by having strong, happy families. It is a testament to our strength as a people that we still believe. Despite the naysayers Even though we know better. Even though we know we should demand better of each other. We still believe. Lord, help our unbelief.
When it’s all said and done, the desire to experience satisfying love, and not just a banshee-screeching orgasm, is, I believe, holy and noble work. Love, good, nourishing love that goes the distance with you, however, doesn’t just walk up to a woman’s door and knock. It can take ages to find. I hope women never give up on finding love. Love comes sometimes when you least expect it. It may not come when you want it. Seizing it when you find it will take some daring, for sure. It takes willing yourself to give it your best shot despite the odds. I’ve seen the saved woman lose at it, and the unsaved woman win at it. And it wasn’t because one was lucky or blessed, and the other wasn’t. Romance is a gamble. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. It helps to believe.
Thank God, we still believe in love, despite all that we know and despite all the mistakes we’ve made. To stop believing in love, it feels, is somehow to stop believing in God. I hope I’m not around when we stop believing in love.