“Love me where I am, not where you wish for me to be.” –Lincoln Anthony Blades

Love me for where I am. Truer words have never been written. I truly appreciated Lincoln Blades’ Ebony.com article in which he respectfully and poignantly asked Black women to love Black men for where they are. Brother Blades’ words, coupled with the powerful airing last week of Roots Reimagined on the History Channel, inspired me to write a response for many Black women who I am certain will agree.

Dear Black Men:

Please love us for who we are.

Most of us are not superpretty reality TV stars or the perfect-bodied Sports Illustrated swimsuit models that you may want us to be. So please do not ask us to be. Most of us are not shallow women who demand your money, expensive things or worship of our looks. What we want is your heart. We are not the images perpetuated in our TV culture of women who never have your back, or worse, ones who will publicly humiliate you. Please stop asking us to be fake women whose beauty you see only from the outside; our beauty is so much richer on the inside. Most important, please let us be the women who God calls us to be. Allow us to be your helpmate and not just your playmate–though we can be that, too.

Not just your sex mate, though we enjoy being that in an emotionally safe, and committed monogamous relationship. Not just your soul mate, though through great friendship and communication, we will become that.

God created us to be your helpmate, and yes, we are designed to see who you can become. We are designed to push you to purpose. Designed to help you be the man God calls you to be. But you must honor and love us.

Like many Black women, I have a complicated and damaged relationship with my  father. As I am now in my late 40s, I have been reflecting a lot on how the love (or lack of) between our parents shapes our own lives. I watched my  father be unfaithful and hateful to my Black mother until she finally left him. And he ran to a younger White woman he bought a new home for, something my Black mother never got. I watched my brother, raised by a strong Black woman who loved and nurtured him, also marry a White woman.

Brothers, what are you saying to us when you constantly depend upon us, lean on us and take from us while refusing to love, marry and honor us? Brothers, if you want acceptance of who you are, and of where you are, please stop writing books and monologues that tear us down. Stop telling us what is wrong with us. Stop telling us how “broken” we are. You must own some of our pain. If we have pain, it is because Black men have put it there.

Stop chasing after eye candy. Stop running around in our churches, sexually uncovering sisters with your lack of self-control. Stop needing to feel like  “big men” at the expense of your marriages and families. You do not need to “control” us. Women are not made to be controlled, brothers. We are made to walk with you. Help you. And to love you. Stop telling the world why you prefer White women, Hispanic women, any kind of “women” that ain’t us. Because they are “easier,” “nicer” and have “less drama.” Maybe so, brothers. But have you taken a good long look in the mirror? Have you looked at you? Loving you is not any easier. Stop with the recriminations and dare to heal yourselves so that you can cover, lead and heal us.

We desire compassion, touch, kindness and your friendship. You have to stop coming back to us only after you have been stepped on, denied, wounded, disgraced, divorced or left by the wrong type of woman. At that point, you look for the “strong Black women” to heal you, restore you and pour into you. Only so that once you get on your feet again or are safe from drowning, you leave us again.

So many Black women have been permanently damaged by the thoughtless and callous words of Black men who were insecure with themselves but projected it onto us. Black men who called us “masculine” because we had no choice but to go to work, get a home, mow the lawn, pay the bills, take out the trash and provide for our families. How can you talk about us like that? We have been in your corner since the days we were carried here in the hulls of slave ships. We have loved you, protected you, cared for you, endured with you and honored you, all at the expense of ourselves.

As my brother actor Dondre Whitfield says, “When a woman is uncovered by a man, she will feel the need to cover herself.”

Dear Black men: None of us wants to be always strong. Always on. Always doing for everyone but ourselves. Brothers, we need you to love us as we are. Some of us have natural hair. Full figures. Full lips. We are chocolate brown and light honeycomb. We are single moms. We are successful professionals. We are laborers. Some of us do look like pretty dolls. And some of us are aging gracefully.

All of us are worthy of and deserving of love, just as you are! You have to stop assaulting us on college campuses and expecting us to remain silent (e.g., Spelman & Morehouse). You have to stop fighting us because an often cruel, racially hostile world fights you. You have to stop being run off by our success. You cannot keep taking so much from us and not counting the cost.

In the end, my beautiful Black men, we as a people have endured more than any ever should. But we need each other now more than ever. You are right to want a woman to see you as you are, not just as she hopes you will be. Likewise, please stop buying into Eurocentric notions of femininity and demanding that we measure up.

Our reality and our history make us different. I pray, brothers, that one day you will see us for the beautiful, vulnerable, hopeful, loyal, kind and loving women we ARE.

Sophia A. Nelson is author of the award-winning 2011 nonfiction book Black Woman Redefined: Dispelling Myths and Discovering Fulfillment in the Age of Michelle Obama.