You know it. I know it, but one of the most influential, constantly accessible entities needs to be reminded.
For every example of an authentic, strong, loving Black family portrayed in the media, there are several louder, more consistent images of dysfunction. Turn on any television station, especially cable, and trust me, you’ll witness an abundance of programs that show you just how bad it is to be Black and in love.
Sure there are shows that portray White families in chaos. After all, dysfunction is a part of life. But we have comparatively few images still, so the abundance of negative imagery of our community creates a sickening cycle. All Black men are not Stevie J. All Black women are not desperate to the point where they will tolerate disrespect, lying, cheating and the fathering of several secret kids outside of their union.
And it is most offensive because it just isn’t most Black people’s reality.
It doesn’t matter if they are successful or average, pretty or standard, loyal or basic, the idea that Black women are just sitting around patiently waiting, to “get chose” is disturbingly pervasive in pop culture. We all know this. The problem is that no one seems to spend time speaking up about it. Or better yet, no one seems to be interested in changing the narrative.
We all remember that much-maligned ABC report on why so many successful Black women were single. Not to mention the abundance of movies, self-help books and websites that reinforce the notion that Black women are either desperate for a relationship and/or are the last choice to be anyone’s lifelong partner.
Black men aren’t exempt from unfair scrutiny either. The media often portrays them as hypersexual dogs that lack self-control. They’re reduced to simply being “free-spirited” and thirsty beings, eager to plant their seeds and mark their territory among several vulnerable, desperate, man-sharing women while shirking responsibility.
For the record, I’ve never believed any of this, and there’s proof that these are merely stereotypes and harmful generalizations despite what we’re continuously being shown.
According to a 2013 report released by NPR, The Robert Woods Johnson Foundation and Harvard University, when it comes to dating, Black men are looking for long-term, committed relationships more than Black women. Researchers theorize that financial concerns may be responsible for this trend.
Another study released in September by the Brookings Institution supports this claim, and even factors in the effects of mass incarceration on Black relationships.
“The lack of marriageable men in the Black community is affected by the very high rates of incarceration and early death among Black men compared to white men,” the study states. “Among Black male high school dropouts, 60 percent will be dead or incarcerated before the age of 35.”
What these two studies reveal is the grand impact of societal issues on Black love. Reducing our problems to men simply wanting to be promiscuous and women being weak, vulnerable and undesirable oversimplifies the truth and keeps us divided. We have to stop seeking validation from pop culture.
No one is the enemy when it comes to Black men and women in the context of relationships. I challenge us to stop viewing each other as such simply because you’ve come across a few potential mates that are no good. If we can do that, then maybe, just maybe, we won’t need researchers to tell us what we already know about ourselves.