It was good for my soul to re-read this Racialicious post by Taja Lindley from December:
The question that keeps getting raised is: “Why can’t a Black woman understand, find and keep a man?”
Fundamentally I don’t have a problem with conversations about love and relationships. I have them all the time. What’s unfair about this question, and the conversation that follows, is what’s at stake because when single white women search for love, they get an HBO series (Sex and the City). But when unmarried Black women are approaching, at, or over the age of 30: it’s a crisis, it’s a catastrophe with severe consequences for the ENTIRE Black community, warranting late night specials on major television networks and talk shows dedicating entire segments to finding us a man.
The conversation always becomes “what’s wrong with Black women? “ and we get demonized as: unlovable, broken, undesirable, domineering, angry, aggressive, incompatible, uncompromising, too compromising, (in the words of Tyrese) too independent, possessing unrealistic expectations…and the list goes on.
Then here come Black-male-entertainers-turned-experts on their horses with shining armor to save the Black woman from herself! To save her from her own pathological destruction so she can do a better job of successfully creating and preserving the Black family. (Damn, that must be a lot of responsibility.)
It just feels good to know there are other people out there who see through the nonsense. Racialicious is a great place for that online, by the way. I probably spend too much time thinking about this, but Lindley gets to the heart of the matter really well:
Newsflash to all of the so-called experts: just because you have a platform through the entertainment industry doesn’t mean you’re an expert; it means you have an audience. And just because you have an audience doesn’t mean that everything that comes out of your mouth is right. And just because you have a dick doesn’t make you an expert on manhood. And even if you were an expert on manhood, it doesn’t make you an expert in relationships because not every woman is having (or interested in) a relationship with a man.
That’s right. I said it! And quite frankly, I’m one of them.
These conversations are frustratingly heteronormative. When you ask why Black women aren’t marrying men, it might be because I don’t want to. So let me queer this conversation right quick because this is the elephant in the room…
Women are having sex, and relationships, with other women, and as a queer woman of color, I know. So when I hear statistics of unmarried Black women I have to ask: Are these Black women even marrying age? Are they in relationships already? Did they just get their heart broken? Are they single by choice? And are they even heterosexual?!
Several years ago, when the editor of an anthology about black relationships and I had lunch, I mentioned to her that I liked her book, but I thought that maybe it was leaving out some folks. This was around 2004. It was a well-done book with a beautiful cover, a couple of friends and writers I admired had been included. But there were a number of essays about the tensions and frustrations of black people in relationships with one another, and they were all largely heterosexual with the exception of maybe one queer man.
I believe she chuckled and changed the subject. This happens all the time in the black community, so it makes sense that it happens in the world at large — the dismissal of queer lives and relationships because they fall outside of socially acceptable paradigms.
But black people having non-heteronormative relationships is not likely to go away anytime soon. The question is whether our culture will learn to open up the “dialogue” to incorporate the many different narratives and relationship scenarios available to women, especially black women. I’ve been thinking about this a lot because Viola Davis is soon to play Barbara Jordan in a biopic. I do wonder how the movie will treat the late, admired senator’s longtime relationship with Nancy Earl? Jordan is like at least half a dozen women of color in public life who kept her sexuality out of the public eye — probably for good reason. But I wonder what the long term cost will be for not including LGBT people in this discussion of relationships, the single life and dating. My guess is that it’s not good for anybody.