Black women have been encouraged to “go to school and don’t get pregnant,” with little to no other life skills taught to us. We are advised to dip our toes in larger society for education and career aspirations, but return to “the fold” and maintain our “blackness” and not think too much of ourselves or think we’re better than the rest. You needed to know your place, and believe that, while you’re in the white man’s world, you’ll never, ever be accepted by him, so don’t even try.
That narrative worked for decades. Black women got degrees, amazing careers, and started businesses, attaining wealth and security they needed, because our communities showed us that we couldn’t depend on black men to titans of capitalism like we observed other races of men doing. Traditional gender roles that would allow a certain “softness and gentleness” was seen more as a liability than an asset, when our communities are pocked with fractured families and poor black women struggling to take care of their children without the help of the fathers. We are taught not to expect from men what our community expects from us, and to grade black men on a curve. While mothers of other races groom their girls to be educated AND suitable wives of successful men, our mothers tell us not to expect so much, and our “strength” means that we don’t need such things. This expectations for black men are so low, that the basics in other communities—having an education and job, his own place and car, no kids and no criminal record—mean that you’ve scored a jackpot. Men who fit this basic criteria are deified and a rare commodity in the black community, so much so that these men take full advantage of their position, and use it to exploit the vulnerabilities of black women.
I’ll never forget an article written years ago by a Harvard-trained black female attorney who had achieved the highest aspirations of her career, while being the source pride of both her family and neighborhood. But…her family and community were quick to remind her that, while she was the General Counsel for a major corporation, she was STILL a black woman, and she should never forget where she came from. A part of her felt guilty about her success, as she remained connected with her old life, and still beholden to dating and marrying black men. To assuage that guilt and sense of isolation, she married a man from her neighborhood. She thought she could “upgrade him” by being a source of encouragement and nurturing so that she could help him realize his dreams. But it didn’t work out like she thought. He remained underemployed and resentful of her success. He cheated on her constantly, and the marriage crashed and burned. Had my colleague opened her FULL self to all her options and dating men based not on their “potential” or some misplaced guilt about raising herself out of the ghetto and considered opening up her options and date all men, that tragedy would never have happened. She lost years of her youth, beauty and reproductive years on a “Build-A-Bro Project” that went terribly wrong, and left her a lot worse for wear.
Here’s the truth of it: While black women are being groomed nearly from birth to play the role of what other communities would call, “masculine,” the black community never factored in the possibility that black women would ever consider dating outside of the race in any real, significant way.
What are your thoughts on this?