Welcome to relationship week here at soulbrother v.2. This week I am conducting an experiment of sorts. I am going to devote the entire week to discussing a single subject—the relationship between black men and women. Let me preface the week by stating that I am not a counselor of any kind. And I will be writing from my experience which may or may not coincide with your experience; however, I am counting on you to fill in those blank spaces that may irrupt when my experience and knowledge break down and fail to adequately address the subject at hand.
I just got on Twitter last month. And you meet a lot of interesting people through Twitter. Von is one of those persons. Von blogs over at Black Conscious Thought.
She checked out my blog, and tweeted her approval, and then we entered into a conversation centered around issues pertinent to the African American community. We were not that far into the conversation when she asked me what I thought to be a very strange question:
“Do you think we really hate each other?”
Confused, I quickly tweeted back, “Who?”.
“Black men and black women. Do you think we hate each other?,” was the answer. “Sometimes it seems we hate each other.”
I must admit that I hadn’t given it any thought before Von posed that question, and I’m not sure what answer I gave her. But now having had time to sit and ponder the question for a bit, I can give a more well thought out answer.
And that answer is no, I don’t think we hate each other. In fact, I think black love is alive and well. Perhaps, the issues affecting black love seem more dire, more real because of our proximity to them, but no more dire or real than in the larger populous.
However, there are still a number of issues we must deal with. There are still some obstacles to us being where we desire to be, namely we often find ourselves at different places at different times, and we are often not honest about what we are really looking for, but perhaps the biggest impediment is that we look outward as opposed to inward in defining how we conduct our lives and affair.
Let’s begin with this personal story. Recently when out and about, I ran into a lady I dated perhaps twenty years ago. I was genuinely surprised and glad to see her. But when I called to her, she just gave me this blank look and then turned her head. Thinking that perhaps she did not recognize me, I went over to greet her.
What I got from her was an angry, spiteful grimace. I went in for the obligatory hug, but she gave me the stiff arm. Of course, I was a puzzled as to why she was acting this way, but soon through clenched teeth, she gave me an answer.
“You hurt me!”
But that was twenty years ago! What happened to time heals all wounds? Perhaps I should give you the back story.
We met after we both had just gotten out of unhappy, tumultuous marriages. During our initial meeting, she told me she was concerned only with raising her two sons. She only wanted companionship, someone to kick it with and have a few laughs every now and then. We both seemed to be on the same sheet of music, so we entered into an agreement of sorts.
But about a week into this thing, she had cleared drawer space and one side of the closet for me and presented me with a key to her apartment. Perhaps, I should have recognized the signs and walked away at this time, but I chose not to.
As time went on, it became clearer and clearer that she was looking for a bit more than mere companionship; she was looking for another husband. So, I decided to just step away from the situation before either of us became overinvested in something that was not to be. And she pitched a fit—an absolute fit.
But I don’t blame her. I should have decided to leave even earlier. It was unfair to her that I stayed as long as I did knowing that my idea of where the relationship was going did not coincide with hers.
And she was a very nice person, a very desirable mate. Had we met at a different time in our lives, who knows the possibilities? And if she had been a bit more honest as to what she was looking for, perhaps if she even knew what she was looking for, it would have saved a lot of hard feelings in the end.
But keep in mind, she has been walking around harboring these ill feelings for twenty years or so. How has this affected her views of the opposite sex and how she has dealt with the opposite sex? Remember the ripples caused when you throw a rock or some other object into the water. How have these ripples caused by her hurt and anger affected others who have in turn affected others?
Now, let’s take a look at African American men and women in relation to the larger society and culture. How much do you think the images posited by the various media affect the ways in which we deal with one another and live our lives?
In dealing with relationships with the opposite sex, my greatest teachers have always been my parents, my grandparents, and my in-laws. From them I learned that every day cannot be a good day; the secret is to control that which is within your control so that the good days outnumber the bad. From them I learned of the joy in struggle, and what two people can achieve even when the odds are arrayed against them just by being of one accord. But perhaps most importantly I learned that when in a relationship, each party must unselfishly give of him- or herself if they desire the relationship to move forward.
But how many people don’t have these role models to draw from? More and more people are taking their cues and lessons as to how to conduct themselves from the various forms of media. And often the information gained from these various media are false, based on the cultural imaginings of writers who are themselves often the product of dysfunction.
But for those who have no better frame of reference, these false images become real. For those who have no greater frame of reference, the images become scripts to be lived out in their own lives. And the result is a replication of the very dysfunction we witness on television, in the movies, on the radio each day. The result is that we are convinced that somehow we should hate each other, that somehow love is a game, a competition between the two sexes to see who can get the upper hand, and we act accordingly.
But this is what it all boils down to: Love is the root politic. One cannot truly love another until they love themselves first. And love of self allows one to pursue those ends which will nurture that love, which will celebrate that love, which allow that love to flow freely between oneself and another.
What do you think? Do you think black men and black women somehow hate one another? What can be done to make our relationships stronger?
Also, later today Charles J. will join us with a guest post, and join us tomorrow when the question will be, can men and women truly be platonic friends?