Ladies, if you don't have a man, you already know it's all your fault. And if you are an African-American woman, Steve Harvey, Nightline and and host of others want you to know that goes double for you.
On Friday night, Nightline sponsored a panel called, "Why Can't A Successful Black Woman Find A Man?" moderated by Steve Harvey (comic and author of the totally-not-stereotypical book Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man) and Nightline's Vicki Mabrey. It featured Sherri Shepherd and VH1's Jacque Reid against actor/author Hill Harper and Jimi Izrael, who wrote the execrable The Denzel Principle: Why Black Women Can't Find Good Black Men. The discussion was touched off by a December Nightline segment in which people sounded off on the idea that African-American women are just too picky (paging Lori Gottlieb!) when it comes to requirements like their potential spouses ought to match their education and professional achievements — you know, that equality thing that is often shown to be the basis of many successful long-term relationships. The segment also included this paragraph:
What "Nightline" looked at were the large numbers of professional black women who have groomed themselves for success with B.A.s, M.D.s and J.D.s. Seventy percent of them are still without the more elusive title: M-R-S.
So, you see where this is all heading.
When Abiola Abrams tweeted about the panel on Friday, I was forced to agree with her assessment:
Who wants to VOMIT with me? "Why Can't a Successful Black Woman Find a Man?" Coming again on #Nightline
I obviously have strong feelings about the idea that women should settle: yes, if you subject every guy to a 100-point questionnaire to determine his worthiness for a second date; no, if it means compromising principles and emotional needs in order to have a warm body on the other side of the bed.
I fail to see what is so terrible about being an unmarried African-American woman that compels comedians, actors, twice-divorced male authors and white-male-dominated news organizations to devote so much time and effort to rectifying the "problem" of African-American women's singlehood. Then again, I'm not an African-American woman. So I asked a few, who were (suffice it to say) as unimpressed as I was.
First up, there's Latoya Peterson, fellow Jezebel contributor and the editor of Racialicious.
I'm getting really sick of the MSM playing the "what's wrong with black women today" game. I mean seriously - why are these mofos so concerned with who the fuck I'm dating, when and why? Do me a favor and get concerned with employment discrimination, infant mortality rates, the wealth gap or refunding TRIO programs. We hear about these larger, systemic issues once, ever - but they replay the poor, pitiful black women stories once a month.
When Lori Gottlieb comes talking out her neck, no one thinks she's representing all of white womanhood. And yet, media folks think they can just pull people (and people with books to sell, no less) to rep for all black women, everywhere (including those of us who are queer, in relationships, dating intra/interracially, and everything else). I mean, shit, can we at least get a vote on who gets to represent the black community on panels on dating? Especially airing on Nightline? Because for real, I vote Steve Harvey, Sherri Shepard, and Jimi Izrael off the island. (Hill Harper is also on notice, but Jacque Reed is also on the program, so if she goes as hard as she did on dates during Let's Talk About Pep, she will easily handle that.)
Fuck this noise.
Can we put Michelle Obama on this program? I want Michelle to just say it outright: "I didn't lower my standards and got a President. Now, what is this mess you're talking?"
I prefer to keep my personal biz private, but after I got asked on a live radio show how it feels to be a single black woman in America (the host had no idea I'm in year four of a long-term, marriage-bound relationship with
a unicornblack man) I am really about to get a fucking tee-shirt made: Acting Like My Damn Self, Already Got a Man.
Single, as Latoya notes, doesn't always mean "without a partner," and for many woman in good relationships, they often got into them by being themselves and finding someone compatible.
I also asked Twanna Hines, the proprietess of the site Funky Brown Chick, who writes about sex, dating and relationships. She went straight to the point, which is that this meme feeds straight into the insecurities society keeps reinforcing for African-American women.
The targeted message is both clear and false: no one wants black women. These stories mention beauty, educational success and other positive attributes in passing. The articles' emphasis is that we're single, and that's presented as a tragic fact. There's nothing inherently wrong with flying solo. I'd rather be on my own than dating the wrong guy. The real story is that conventional marriage as an institution is dying. More American women (and men) enter marriage at later ages and divorce at higher rates. Black women are simply part of a growing national trend, spending a larger percentage of our lives single.
On that, Twanna and I agree pretty strongly: more women are choosing to be single rather than accept a crap relationship with a guy that isn't right, just for the sake of having a relationship. How terrible!
The sexism and racism that has emerged from this ongoing conversation is highly disturbing. To speak to the former, why are the marriage statistics of Black women being discussed, but not the numbers of Black men who are unwed? Why are we now being told to look to men with highly questionable credentials as "reationship gurus"? Why are men, Black, White or otherwise, supposed to be the go-to source for women seeking relationships?
The tragic-single-Black woman meme drives home the notion of inherent Black deficiency: that something is somehow lacking or wrong with Black women (and men, for that matter). The mainstream media coverage of the Black marriage issue is troubling. Again, Black people are being discussed like some exotic zoo animals to be studied, lamented and even pitied by regular Americans (aka White folks). Nightline didn't take this on as if it was an American problem that needed to be addressed, but rather, yet another opportunity to put Black life under a microscope in a way
As a single, college-educated Black woman with Huxtable dreams of adorable children, a brownstone and a Black man by my side, these stories have created a lot of unnecessary fretting for me. I feel that I am being told over and over again "great is not good enough". That I can do everything I am "supposed" to do, when it comes to landing a great life partner, and still come up short. I knew this before the recent explosion of "single Black tragic woman stories. I know plenty of women who've never been married (some by choice, others far from it). But these constant reminders designed to bring me to a place of obsession and worry that I refuse to let myself visit.
I didn't watch the Nightline special. I thought the list of panelists was laughable and the idea that these folks would have the opportunity to speak on something so close to home for me before a mixed race national audience just makes me sick. I couldn't bring myself to do it. Where is the story about how centuries of external and internalized oppression have made dating and marriage increasingly difficult tasks for Black people? Where is the mainstream media's take on how the prison industrial complex has deliberately kept thousands of Black men incarcerated and unable to become husbands or fathers? What about the bias Black boys face from teachers of all races that attacks their ability to function in a classroom in the same way as their female or White male counterparts?
For example on my fame-whoring gig on the Drew Barrymore-produced "reality" series VH1's Tough Love my list was: Single black female seeking a man that I am attracted to, who is kind, smart, gainfully employed, spiritual, funny, community-minded and available. For that my character was dubbed Miss Picky. Really? Are there people out there seeking someone unkind, not smart, unemployed, and unavailable? Methinks not.
So if a man is not interested "he's just not that into you" but if you are not interested you're too picky or something is wrong with you. Got it. Here's the thing- all of us - even those in arranged marriages have a concept of what we seek in a partner. We may or may not physically list it out but the list is there. Do what works for you...
The insane thing is that this conversation has taken on a vicious black woman-hating tone— much of it from other people of color including black women and men.This strain of the argument goes, "Black women are all nasty bitches so black men don't want them."
As a certified platinum certificate holder on nasty bitches with best friends of both the Becky and Keshia persuasion I can tell you that nastiness comes in every race, creed and gender.
Another strain of the conversation says that these women are caught up in the fairytale and want some unrealistic version of the prince. And men are exempt from fairytale ideals? Ever seen a barbershop wall? Or whom men cast to play their love interests in movies and music videos? How about whom wealthy men (including athletes and the like) with the largest dating pool choose to pursue? ...
Enough of reinforcing this "no good men" prophesy. My father and brother are amazing black men so clearly this mystical white whale exists. Marriage numbers are down across the board because many women (gasp) don't want to be married. Many people are living paperless with their life partners. They don't register in these stats. As for the swirl, I too also used to feel like I only wanted to marry a black man but I've since grown to realize that I am seeking commonalities and attraction. Duh.
It's an amazing time to be a black woman. You have Tyler Perry and Steve Harvey to give you relationship advice, Chris Rock to offer commentary on your hair, and Bishop TD Jakes to resolve your salvation. And Nightline to make it all make sense for you. Goddess bless America.
And that, ABC, is how (on a dime) you put together a panel of smart, successful, single African-American women to talk about dating-while-black without being sexist, reinforcing racist stereotypes or creating a mock-crisis out of a variety of individual situations — let alone without claiming that the solution to every woman's dating "problems" is to be less picky. A woman isn't picking out wall colors when she choose to link her life to a man's, and we are (and should be) well aware of that. Picky isn't a bad thing when it comes to with whom you plan to spend the next few decades of your life but settling for someone you don't like just to win the race of life is, regardless of the color of your skin.
Women of Color And Wealth: The Scope Of The Problem [Racialicious]
Enemies of the Great: The Denzel Principle [The Beautiful Struggler]
Disappointment Is The Recurrent Black [The Beautiful Struggler]
Single-Minded: On Steve Harvey and Advice That We Don't Need [The Root]
Why Can't Successful Single Black Women Find A Man? Yes. Again. [Abiola Abrams]