While in the theater watching Denzel Washington’s powerful adaptation of the brilliant August Wilson’s 1983 play “Fences,” I couldn’t help but consider Black love. In the heavily Oscar-nominated and SAG award-winning film, the protagonist, Troy, is eaten alive by—and equally enraged by—what racism and White misanthropy has cost him. His hollowness and anger affect every aspect of his life, including his very troubled relationships with his wife Rose and his sons Lyons and Troy.
What the Black community fails to discuss when we speak about the effects of slavery, of Jim Crow, of Reaganomics, of the War on Drugs, and now of Trump’s America is how much our ability to love one another wholly and healthily has been affected and further how we cannot begin to build better and stronger families and communities if we cannot repair the way we love.
It is the Black community’s need to address how we love, or maybe even the dysfunction of how we love, that motivated Torri Stuckey—a community activist and former pro athlete—to write his guide to Black women on love and marriage entitled, His Dough Her Cookie: The Black Woman’s Guide to Love and Marriage in the Age of Independence. Stuckey admits that he is no relationship expert. His inspiration to write His Dough Her Cookie comes from his overall concern for the Black community. He mentions that he is well aware of the myriad challenges that Black people face including drug abuse, disenfranchisement and a cycle of poverty that we cannot seem to escape. But also that no challenge is more paramount than fatherless homes and the Black women’s struggle to raise happy and healthy children as single mothers.
The single mother struggle is personal for Stuckey, as he mentions regularly how growing up without support from his father has affected his own life. Sadly, like the infamous Moyinhan Report of ‘65, the author seems committed to focusing on Black women as the cause for the demise of the Black family and the Black community—as if most Black women are actively choosing to struggle as single mothers without the support of the men who impregnate them, and as if structural and systematic racism doesn’t make every aspect of Black life—including rearing children—,onerous and damn near impossible.
“The success of the Black community is binary,” Torri Stuckey writes. “Black men are equally important,” but “are not equally as present.” It would seem that instead of writing a book to Black women, the author write one to and connect with Black men concerning their absence from Black homes and the Black community as a whole.
We are aware that 1 in 3 Black men will go to jail at some point in their lives and that unemployment rates for Blacks is double that of Whites. We should want to know more about how deeply statistics such as these affect the ways that Black men are able to show up as loving fathers and partners. Nope. Stuckey follows the path established by other Black male “relationship experts”—think Steve Harvey, Rev Run and Tyrese Gibson—seemingly intent on telling Black women we aren’t lovable as we are, and shaming us for not sacrificing our lives hoping to be chosen by men who don’t seem genuinely interested in choosing us at all.
According to Stuckey, since it is Black women who are overwhelmingly tasked with parenting Black children and upholding the Black community, the work to be done to strengthen Black homes and the community overall must rest on our shoulders, whether we want that responsibility or not. Black women must submit to tradition and to Black men and stop attempting to pretend that we don’t need them. We must stop putting our careers and lavish lifestyles above establishing strong families that follow what has been outlined in the Bible and in the traditional relationships that we know—even if many of the relationships modeled for us were abusive and/or archaic. Stuckey even goes as far as to categorize the different types of Black women that are undesirable candidates for marriage: “Ms. First & Fifteenth,” “Ms. Promiscuous,” and “Ms. Independent Feminist” (The author considers himself a feminist, too. Imagine that).
Torri Stuckey does offer Black women some decent dating advice though: that we should keep our options open while searching for mates, be willing to date outside of our regular “circle” and be unique and authentic when seeking partnership, for instance. His conversations on Black women’s need to submit—and from the way Stuckey describes the Black men available in the Black woman’s dating pool—leaves much to be desired. The author is correct in his assessment of our need to address Black love as we address the ills of the Black community, but his conversation toward Black women on the subject seems unhelpful at least and insulting at most.
“His Dough Her Cookie: A Black Woman’s Guide to Love and Marriage in the Age of Independence” will be available Feb. 1.