Between Tyler Perry’s Madea movies, Steve Harvey’s Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man book and even the relationship guru-ing of Shanel Cooper-Sykes, there has been no end to the amount of people willing to “fix” the problems that ail Black women when it comes to love.
These different mediums normalized addressing Black women as groups and less as individuals, effectively lending credence to problematic stereotypes. In Think Like A Man for example, Harvey aimed to address every group he could (the ring chaser, the single mother, the “lonely” corporate sister, the “hoe” with a heart of gold, etc.) and provide them with standardized advice aimed at helping them overcome their naturally flawed instincts.
Unfortunately, this has now become the standard for how we talk about Black women and relationships, especially famous women whose love lives are plastered everywhere.
When we hear about a famous Black woman going through a separation, breakup, or divorce, we reflexively aim to scrutinize what could be her transgressions.
Instead of looking at Ciara as a survivor of an unhealthy relationship, she’s framed as a callous gold digger. Instead of looking at Halle Berry as a woman who has unfortunately suffered through inadequate relationships, she’s framed as an intrinsically flawed woman with an inability to appropriately discern potential partners. And now, Janet Jackson, coming off of her recently failed marriage to Wissam Al-Mana, is being excoriated as a greedy, loveless, parasite because things didn’t work out.
Y’all really used the “she’s already rich” logic when it came to Janet Jackson like rich people aren’t the most greedy people in the world.
— Ant (@Trill__Parcells) April 10, 2017
The way we talk about Black women and relationships can be, sometimes, maddeningly frustrating and incredibly sad. Despite the fact that Black girls and women are regularly abused, abandoned and exploited by their lovers at rates that far exceed those of other groups of women, it has become second nature for many of us to attach their relationship woes to some stereotypical fallacy of immorality or some innate, unavoidable, self-destructive behavior.
Instead of framing Black women as regular human beings who fell in love, gave it their all and lost the love they cherished, we tirelessly search for signs of their depravity in hopes of not only blaming her failed relationship on herself, but also to pin her failure on an inherent characteristic that she was “cursed” with from the day she was born a Black girl.
“She pushed him away because she just wants to be too damn independent.”
“She’s too blind to see the potential in a man.”
“She’s a gold digger.”
“She’s a bitch.”
These phrases exist less as a qualitative analysis of an individual woman and more as a pernicious game of “pin the problem on the Black chick.”
It’s easy to look at the timing of her divorce and the particulars of her prenup to believe that she made a power play to get rich. But what’s problematic is the ease with which we offhandedly declare that she never intended to find love in the first place.
Greedy gold diggers don’t hook up with rich men to cultivate a meaningful, potentially long-lasting relationship, They do it to enrich themselves by debasing their affections. That is what too many folks are saying about Janet Jackson and it’s frustrating as hell. Why? Because the rate at which Black women are grudgingly demeaned far outweighs the rate at which they are carefully humanized.
I’m not saying that we must find ourselves obsessed with the idea that Black women have zero faults. I’m not saying that we must acquiesce to the idea that relationship woes are always the man’s fault. But—at some point—we have to scrutinize how we collectively speak about Black women and relationships because right now, we are treating them less like people enduring the occasional hardships of love and more like grifters trying to run game on unsuspecting dudes.
Before we proudly proclaim how much we collectively love Black women, we all must realize that the first step to truly respecting our sisters is first recognizing their humanity.
Lincoln Anthony Blades blogs daily on his site, ThisIsYourConscious.com. He’s author of the book, “You’re Not A Victim, You’re A Volunteer.” He can be reached on Twitter @lincolnablades and on Facebook at Lincoln Anthony Blades.