The game has changed. It used to be that when grandma called you into the kitchen to talk about women’s things, it was to make sure you knew how to cook the family’s best “way-to-a-man’s-heart” recipes. Now when grandma calls, it’s to say this:
“Get a good education, get out of this town, get a good job, and once you get yourself settled you can buy or borrow any man you want.”
What happened between conversations A and B that changed the Black feminine narrative so significantly? Was it, as people regularly conjecture in Black “love, sex and relationships” blogs, the result of a social movement to empower women as a whole? Was it the revolutionary way that depictions of Black women have changed in the entertainment industry? Was it the total deterioration of the myth of the Black Superman in the modern world?
It was none of those things. In truth, the Black woman evolved — she became something different — when the Black fairy tale ended.
A Perceived Lack of Interest
Damon Young, Very Smart Brothas Editor-in-Chief, explains that the brothas have ceased trying to begin relationships with women before they “have their sh*t together,” and we can respect that. We, your sistas, know the narrative about the slack Black man, and we know you want to prove that you are not that guy. At the same time, this means that you are not speaking love to us at all. You are doing excellently, building your dream life, padding your bank account and working overtime to prepare yourself to be the perfect man for the perfect woman, but you have forgotten what the elders taught us. It takes a lifetime to build a dream.
By the time you finish padding that nest, you’ll be forty… fifty… maybe sixty, and this is not a Snow White situation. We could not lay around waiting while you became a magnate, so we learned how to make moves of our own to create our own stories: stories of personal power, of wealth, of self-sufficiency. How could we not have done that? It appeared to us (as it does now) that you would never come, and when you did get ready to saddle up that horse and ride off looking for your princess, we would be forty… fifty… sixty… and you would expect us to be, look and behave like we’re in our twenties.
Because you, seemingly, weren’t interested, we just decided to be more interested in ourselves and introduce you to “the perfected her” as we saw fit, on our terms. Turns out, you don’t like her so well.
A Change in the Black Female’s Status… in Your Eyes
For centuries it was “us” against “them,” whoever they were. There was some social travesty that thrust us together in warfare against outsiders: enslavement, racism, wage-ism, you name it. When we fought together, against “them,” it was a ride-or-die situation. We had to be “we” to survive.
The game has changed. While there are still faint heart beats of these social wars raging in our current world, most of the battles have been fought and won. The remaining struggles are turning in our favor. There are now no “theys” to contend with. There is just “us.” But… there is no “us.”
The Black woman, to Black men, is now the butt of a deep, secret joke among the brothas. Where being strong, forward, loud, impressive and (dare I say) thick were assets in the fight against injustice, they are now mocked as uncultured, wild, embarrassing and inconvenient. The argument can be made that among other cultures, the black woman has always been deemed exotic using these same negative adjectives, but it’s not “them” anymore.
It appears that you, our own brotha, can only see us as the Hottentot Venus, an object of sexuality and fertility to be ogled and jeered at, but not kept, cherished or loved for any period of time. The entire music of a generation — the current generation — is being built upon this premise, that the Black woman is only good for you if she strips, if she’s into three-ways, if she’s a trap queen, if she’s willing to hide your secrets and use her energies to… well… be uncultured, wild, embarrassing and inconvenient.
A Realignment of the Race
I’m not talking about skin color or ethnicity either. Remember grandma? You should probably know that she is also saying this:
“The Black woman is last. It’s the white man, then the white woman, then the black man, then you. If you want to be somebody, you can’t just work hard. You got to work the hardest. You can’t just run this race. You got to be the fastest to be first.”
She’s not saying, “Be fast enough to run next to your man.” She’s saying, “Be first.” While we recognize that this sometimes puts our men in an awkward position, we have learned to enjoy the splendor of standing on the top block and having the proverbial gold medal placed around our own necks. I recognize that this is a huge turn for our brothas, who may have been taught — again by the elders — that a Black woman is empowered to push you until you achieve that coveted win. We are! We are! Yet, you must remember what happened when suddenly (for reasons we understand) you weren’t there.
Now, when you encounter the woman who is equipped to thrust you into your shining moment, she is as bright as the sun herself. She works full time. She goes to school at night. She manages community events. She has her own properties and investments. She has a full calendar. Her phone rings non-stop. She is a boss in her own right. She is ahead. In some cases, she is way, way ahead, and she is busy trying to keep up her own pace.
The dilemma is, despite these changes in how we handle our dreams, your interests and your perceptions of us, we still want you to want us. For sure, when you encounter your sista now you are looking at something bordering on alien. There is this blend of gender roles that might be overwhelming — hurricane-style overwhelming — and we cannot help that this is the end result of having to do things differently for a long time. Yet, we want you to walk up and introduce yourself. We want you to ask for our numbers. We want you to ask us out for coffee. We want you to send us flowers. We still want your love.
We can still cook grandma’s “keep-your-man” dinner, but we might not be able to do that every night. We can still disappear behind the scenes sometimes to develop and support your vision in private, but we also have to live very public, very professional lives. We can still raise your children, but we cannot change all the diapers, do all the play dates, handle all the doctors’ visits. We probably cannot do stay-at-home. We are runners now, and we want you to be proud of that.
If we are better runners than you, we want you to see that as an asset since we are still willing… after all these years… to unveil to you the secrets of how we got there. We can still hide behind you, by choice, when appropriate, and we still desperately need your embrace, your words of strength and your approval.
Here is our olive branch to you. If the sistas offended you by becoming what we felt we had to in order to enjoy life, I can assure you that was not our intention. You should know that we thought you weren’t interested any way. We need to change the conversation regarding how we see each other in the modern age. We need to rewrite the Black fairy tale in such a way that you are a winner again, a winner with a co-winner. We need to make falling in love with each other okay again.