MY STORY: In Response To The Jill Scott Article In Essence (April 0’10)
***EDITOR’S NOTE: I recently read a few articles in both Ebony and Essence magazines that were on newsstands for the April subscribers and both contained topics in the vein of “Is A Good Black Woman Hard To Find” and “What Black Women REALLY Think About Black Men And Interracial Dating” and I have felt the need to finally respond.
I always have to preface my writing, because it seems like some disgruntled reader will pick ONE thing out that I say, misconstrue it, twist it like a Washington lobbyist and make it seem like something — ANYTHING — other than what I have actually said. And since I don’t mince words, speak in morse code nor imply something that isn’t already implicitly stated, I chuckle whenever this occurs (it happens without fail whenever I touch on hot button topics such as these). But I never single out a group, nor do I belittle (people who are TRULY supremely confident spend their time trying to understand and UPLIFT, not tear down others) anyone. It is never my intent to marginalize anyone, nor propagate stereotypes and oppress those who are continually oppressed. If you still feel that way after reading my column, then God bless you. No angry ranting here, just truth spoken — both from my first-hand experience and from the recollection of other Black men (as well as some Black women who aren’t afraid to tell it like it is and not get offended by every slight word that makes their soul twitch).
I grabbed the Ebony issue off my aunt’s coffee table upon arriving back from the weekend in Jersey and was eager to see what Sade had been up to the past 10 years. She is one of my favorite artists of all time, grew up on her sultry, soothing tunes in the 80s and 90s and the article on her, and the subsequent interview were both good reads. I love Sade ha.
But after that, there was an article shortly following it that mentioned something to the effect that eligible Black women and eligible Black men are unable to somehow find one another. I do agree with this. Both argue that there isn’t exactly a plethora of the other to go around — especially Black women — and I do agree with them. I know how dudes can be. I mince no words calling them out any less than I do with anyone else. The statistics are overblown, however. There are a ton of unreformed ex-felons (notice how I worded this, because not everyone is a recalcitrant thug and bound for recidivist status), uneducated, GAY/JOSE REYES TYPES (that is, switch-hitters — bisexual — not calling CHEO a bisexual, so please, Mets fans don’t write me, nor tell him I called him a fag ha — but for those who don’t have sports-on-the-brain as I do, and use sports analogies for EVERYTHING in life), unmotivated, unemployed and don’t want to be employed men out there. And then there are the married men who are unavailable obviously, as well as the married men who mess around behind their wives’ backs. Black women see ALL this and it is very easy to say “hell, what’s the use? I don’t have much to choose from” and then develop the idea that there are no “good men” left out here.
First of all, let’s dissect some verbiage here. As a sociologist, value terms such as “good” have assessed value — that is, they only have the value that we ascribe to them. I never make values judgments such as this, so just like beauty, the measure of someone’s “goodness” is in the eyes of the beholder. But universally speaking, the idea of a “good man” or “good woman” is for the most part understood.
I hate how Ebony and Essence rarely go in-depth on these VERY DEEP SEEDED issues that are plaguing the Black community to death. And being not of that Tribal/Us-Against-The-World/I Owe Everything To Black People mindset, you have to forgive me if I refuse to look at everything as Black vs. White and Us vs. “Them”. That’s not how I was raised, and it’s not my reality. And I’ve split my life between North Carolina and New York and had the experience of two VERY disparate mindsets and realities, so I believe I am more than adequately qualified to speak upon this with confidence.
The one concept that I do agree with in the article was that a constant barrage of bad experiences can plague someone for years — if not for life, if they’re not careful. I refuse to be a Negative Nate and allow my past experiences carry over and give the next woman the brunt because of what someone did to me previously. This is not a luxury that has been afforded to me in the past, however. And I don’t care how many women want to suddenly come out of the woodwork and dispute this, and claim “Well, that’s not how I am, Mike”, because 13 years (not even getting into high school, which, for those who knew me then — was everything SHORT of hell itself) don’t lie.
Even once I graduated high school and was out in Brooklyn back in the 90s, things were remarkably different. I had Erythrodermic Psoriasis throughout high school; from the second month of 9th grade, throughout 12th grade and clear until April of 2000 when it miraculously cleared up as quickly as it had come upon me. This was attributable to years of prayer, fasting, laying on of hands by everyone from pastors, elders, deacons down to laypeople and my minister buddies and mother (ordained) and father who prayed day and night the entire time. The doctors never clearly diagnosed it, and I nearly died of sepsis — after spending well over $25,000 in doctor and hospital visits to only end up diagnosing MYSELF. Those who knew me then — just look up pictures of the affliction on google and remember what I looked like from 1993-2000. Classic case of the disease.
Anyway, digression complete, I make that point because it goes a LONG way into my current belief and why I have such apathy and lack of sympathy for those crying foul in 2010.
I got picked upon not only because of my skin condition, but because I was considered “nerdy”, “geeky”, “dorky”, not “cool enough”, not “thug enough”, all of these things.
The funny part is, while I am highly intelligent (my parents sang and read to me while I was still in my mother’s womb, and those who knew me from toddler status know I have ALWAYS had a book or newspaper in hand — even dating back to the point where I began reading at age 3. I have pictures to prove it. I have always been one to learn with alacrity. I began walking at just short of 7 months, I began reading and speaking in complete sentences before most children do and I wrote extensively when most kids cared little about it. It is a passion of mine, which, as you can clearly see, I carry to this day. I have a immerse love for all things sports, playing them, watching them, reading everything I can about them, knowing my history that pre-dates some of the actual sports leagues as we know them, facts, figures, people of importance, you name it. The people who went to middle school with me (Antonio Townsend being my partner in crime in doing this) remember I used to keep binders — several of them — FULL of sports statistics, information and bettor’s guides. I was 11, 12 years old. This was pre-internet, so there was tons of research involved, naturally.
I studied the dictionary (so when I dispense my girthy vocabulary, people laugh and are amused — even use the words now, but back then, I was shunned — ESPECIALLY by Black girls — for being “too smart”).
As Vado, Clips and Cam would say — HUHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH?!?!?!
I studied my Rand McNally Road Atlases. If you’ve traveled with me, you KNOW you are NEVER lost. Ask my parents. Ask my sister. Ask my lady friend. Ask my best friends. They ask me to this day how to get from A to B — even if I am not with them, because I took such an interest in geography and travel.
I watched the Weather Channel religiously in its infancy in the mid 1980s. My aunts Anita and Georgia were flummoxed as to why a 7 year old kid cared so much about meteorology, but who can now read weather maps and more accurately predict the weather than my man Chris on local news here in New York ha? It has all come in handy.
My lady friend is amazed that these were put-offs throughout my teen years and throughout most of my 20s. But they were. Don’t ask me why. I’m still trying to figure it out myself. But that’s all the more reason why I refuse to hear the BS now from women in their late 20s and 30s complaining about there not being any educated, family-oriented, “good men” available. I’ve been here for 31 years. And I’ve always be highly visible. And I’m not the only one. I know DOZENS myself personally. It’s all a cop-out. People in general want to mitigate the risk of being hurt by all means necessary. Men are scared of rejection more than ever. Women, while equally fearing rejection, fear being left wide open to being blind-sided by some svengali or some clown who reminds them of the 10 other guys who have messed over her mind, body and spirit in the past. Unchecked, this just snowballs into some nightmare in Yellowstone National after some banshee lets out a primal scream in mid-December. That’s exactly how it feels to be that guy who meets a 27 year old woman with a long strand of broken relationships in her trail — and have her levy ALL of those bad experiences upon you — you, who should be getting the clean slate, that is.
I can be honest and say I have always given every woman I have met a clean slate. I do not (not even subconsciously, because I CONSCIOUSLY make an effort not to, if you follow the Laurel & Hardy monologue) compare one to the other, unless prompted by new acquaintance. Each of my experiences has been different. I’ve dated over a dozen Black women, from every background — dirt poor, ghetto, hoodrat, middle class as I have mostly always been, up to those who came from milquetoast/suburban backgrounds. They all got treated the same. I’ve dated Latinas from every ethnic group and heritage in the Caribbean and some from parts of Central and South America. My longest relationship has been 7 months — and that was with someone who, while remaining unnamed — walked around proclaiming loudly to the world that they were one way, and were TRULY the opposite behind closed doors.
Even with that experience in my past, I never made the next woman pay for it. I picked myself up, dusted myself off. Learned from it, and now am a wholly complete and grown man able to treat a woman with total respect, transparency, and honoring her virtue.
That doesn’t mean there wasn’t any pain along the way.
Along with the aforementioned “nerdiness” and quirky traits, thirst for knowledge, etc., I had become somewhat of a loner. When you are ostracized by your peers (including some who were purportedly “friends” before your ordeal), you willfully or unwillfully, depending on who you are — retreat into your own “world” of sorts. I did that for the first part of my 20s once my skin cleared up. I had just moved from New York and begrudgingly gone back to Greensboro, for what was supposed to only be a few months.
I began working at Aetna immediately (you know, back when you could get a job on the spot ha). I made several friends almost instantly. A few of them I still talk to today (Nakia Johnson, Mischa Miles, etc. were some of the first people I met there after leaving New York). Given that I was no longer close with hardly anyone from my high school graduating class, and most of my new friends were back in New York — I was not in college and now working in an office with people who were in their 20s, 30s and 40s, married with families and I’m in Greensboro where I could count on one hand how many people I knew outside of my immediate family. Being underage also precluded me from socializing much. I was isolated to only getting to know young women my age at the office or at “that church” I went to at the time.
Let’s just say that despite it all, I didn’t waver in the foundation that my parents set for me and I somehow didn’t off myself nor anyone else, nor began Black woman-bashing (although my critics claim I do, I don’t see how it is anything more than telling the truth and further exposing the fact that women in general hate to be criticized and are quick to become defensive at any perceived or real slight aimed in their direction). I accept this and do not become bothered much by it. But let’s not dispute empirical evidence and first-hand experiences by many guys who say a lot of the same things verbatim — and it’s not out of this supposed “self-hate” or any of these other wacky theories that are sprouting up and shot from the hip nowadays. While it may be true for some ignoramus men out there, it doesn’t apply to me. I’ve never been one to want to be anything other than what I am. I love my hue, I love my background. I love the fact that I have the best of both worlds — having split my life between the 212/718 and 336/252. Gives me perspective and makes me well-rounded. And because I am culturally diverse as well, I can relate to anyone whether they are Black or Puerto Rican especially, whether they are from 140th & Lenox of 116th & 3rd, or from Henderson or Tarboro, Greensboro, Durham, Manassas or Union City. I’ve lived in the hood, the ghetto, the suburbs and the country. So I say all that to say this — I’M PROUD OF WHO GOD MADE ME AND ALWAYS HAVE BEEN. If you want to disagree, that’s fine. I won’t waste time arguing with you ha.
I had a stalker recently try to shout me down. I didn’t know this broad, but she was spewing this same garbage. Do you really think a guy wants to hear someone so bitter, so contentious and insecure — if he’s going to enter into a relationship or *GULP* spend his life with you? I didn’t know the broad and only “knew” her mutual friend through Facebook. She saw I had a new interest who happens — HAPPENS — to not be Black and all of a sudden I get two-two page long rants about everything and nothing relevant or accurate. This is sadly the picture that a lot of men, not just Black men, have when it comes to Black women. Why this is so — please educate me, my Black female sisters. I’m tired of trying. Especially when I’m not one who adds the coals to the fire. I can’t name one person who, if they TRULY spent time around me — didn’t come away EDIFIED, not TORN DOWN as a result. If you feel this is not so, then please break it down to me. Edifying is one of my spiritual gifts and I do not abuse it nor exploit it for the converse.
You know, I hear the “well, your mother is Black” stuff. And? Or “you should get with a woman who looks like your mother”. My mother is nowhere near the same complexion as I am. Happens that if you really wanted to go there, half the time the women I’ve gone after (including the current) are her complexion. But for the sake of arguing, I’ve truly dated women of every shade, contrary to popular belief. And I haven’t mistreated any of them, nor put the next guy at risk for feeling her wrath because of what I had done. Timing is everything and none of those past situations worked out. I didn’t leave any of them on bad terms. Just the aforementioned one that left a sour taste in my mouth for a minute, but that’s it.
My other point was the fact that going down south put me at a disadvantage: I wasn’t around women my age. I spent my early 20s dealing with “cougars”. And that’s fine if you’re sexin’ ’em (I was on my celibate grind, trying to please God in every facet back then), but what young dude in his right mind is going around cuffin’ women 8, 10, 15 (yes, a few of them were in their mid-late 30s when I was 21, 22) older than they — and they want to have children on top of that?
Speaking of which — I have to put this out there, because I know this one chick will claim I scorned her ha. But get this, she was divorced, had been trying to get at me years previously, but I have never been that guy who messed with married or involved women, so I deflected her then-advances. But now she’s divorced, has THREE children AND her tubes tied. She finally gets what she wants and starts talking some wifey nonsense. ARE YOU DEAD ASS? Are you REALLY that thirsty? As they say in those old Hollywood movies, “you know what this is, nothing more, nothing less!” Move on. Here I am, still in my prime, wanting a REAL marriage and my OWN children, and you’re running around here, tubes tied, talking about you love me and want to marry me. SERIOUSLY? This is not uncommon in general, but it has been crazy broads like that (she’s Black) that I’ve had to deal with.
I’ve gone the intellectual route. Iron sharpens iron, right? Or so my Bible tells me. I want an equal, not a subordinate, not these “Ms. Independent” types who like to condescend at every turn. But when you leave slags, skags, hoodrats and jumpoffs alone, and try to finally find someone on your level, they think more highly of themselves than they ought (most of these “Independent” types — I’m talking about YOU) and that is a put off. So for the ones who did that in their 20s and that biological clock is like an Al-Qaeda WMD and you’re 34 — TOO BAD. I have no pity for you. I’ve been given the Heisman by too many of you to ever share empathy nor express sympathy. Lesson to you — never think more highly of yourself than you ought. THE END.
And even dealing with the ones who were even-keeled, they tried to make me into something I’m not. I ran the streets in Harlem. I ran them in Brooklyn for a time. I am 31 years old. That’s tired to me now. I don’t do the club, I don’t touch the drugs anymore. I’m ready to be a family man. Been ready for the past 3-4 years. Appreciate that fact. Why would you want a guy who spends 3-4 nights a week closing the club and/or the bar? Or you don’t even know if he’s coming home at all that night? And you have to chase him down just to get him to spend time with you? I had these academic type broads put me down because I wasn’t “thug” enough. WHAT??? Where is all that “good man” bullshit you were screaming before?
I’m moving on.
So to tally everything up:
1. The hoodrats recognize your G, but think you’re too nerdy.
2. The crazy ones won’t let you breathe and are trying to trap you.
3. The hoes and slags want to run game on you and act holy on Sunday (yeah, I went there, and if the right person responds to this when I post on Facebook, I’m going to REALLY go in on church women).
4. The so-called smart ones, mere equals, think they’re too good for you, smarter than you and think you’re somehow incapable of handling yourself in the streets because you’re not smacking them around and calling them out of their name 24/7.
5. Then you have the ones who seem to always get overlooked. Just as I did throughout my 20s.
I will admit, there are a lot of good women out there. A LOT OF GOOD BLACK WOMEN. I know tons of them personally. Many are married. Many are not. So I was never really one to claim they didn’t exist. But I had so many of them tell me to MY FACE that there are no good men left — and including me when saying that. What am I supposed to do with that? Especially when I go someplace else, and have my attributes appreciated, not having someone trying to change me into something that I am not and all this other superficial BS that seems to constantly plague any attempts at a healthy relationship? I have expressed since I was 26 years old that I am done with the so-called Bachelor Life. I want marriage, I make it known clearly, and while that is the case, I am also wise enough not to rush into anything and have learned a lot after sitting under wise counsel from several pastors and serving over a ministry myself for three-plus years (Singles). You learn a thing or two about effective relationships. And when you encounter the right person to exhibit those things, they begin to show themselves. God help me that I finally have the chance to do so and have it appreciated.
But for the life of me I can’t understand why good men and good women in GENERAL, regardless of “race” (a division that I have long tired of and wish that people would refuse using in order to delineate and divide — at least in my presence) cannot find each other. I am a very transient guy. I go everywhere. You can see me in Starbuck’s, Barnes & Noble, Whole Foods, MoMa, Radio City, the Barrio, Hamilton Place, 155th & 8th, 119th & Lenox, the Harbor, all over Jersey, the country, the ghetto, you name it. I can do all these environments and be myself in each of them. Yet somehow I don’t count as a good man, and never get noticed ha?
Same for the women. You’d think college would be a great place, but everyone’s like the BxM3 express bus speeding down 5th Avenue with no traffic — how can you catch a speeding bus when it never slows down and doesn’t stop to accept new passengers? This is the way I feel many people live their lives and MOST of the time, the perfect person for them is in their general vicinity — and often times on a regular basis, but they’re too busy to stop and smell the proverbial roses, per sé. Just my .02¢.
With regards to Jill Scott’s letter/article in Essence, it’s a little different. I’m still trying to understand the flip side of it. My friend Lynette points out a salient fact — it’s different for a Black man, with the luxury of being able to date pretty much any ethnicity of woman out there, than it is for Black women, who are still viewed as somewhat taboo by non-Blacks (with respect to their family’s perception of her). I never spent THAT much time thinking about this, because I have never been that type of person to care 1) who someone dates and/or 2) why they date them, motives pure or impure — just doesn’t matter to me. I got bigger things to be concerned about than to bitch and moan about a bruva (“brother” or Black dude for those who don’t get my spelling) dating a White chick, or even if he’s a dumbass for his reason for doing so. Who cares at the end of the day? Most of the time, he gets played if he is in it for the wrong reasons. If he genuinely loves her and not spiting his nose to spare his face, and the same is true for her, who are you to care that they’re together? And let’s not talk about slavery and all those war stories about “sticking together”. PLEASE. Enough already. If you are younger than 40, it is NOT your reality, so save it. You didn’t go through Civil Rights, and you weren’t even old enough to grasp what the Panthers did and what they were all about, because J. Edgar and his boys with the Cointelpro made sure that got stamped out in a HURRY. And you weren’t around when Attucks and the boys did their thing in Boston nor were you whipped and caned in the fields in Red Mud, Mississippi, so knock it off arrite? While I can somewhat agree that the ratio of Black men dating “Other” women is largely disparate to that of Black women dating “Other” men, I 1) don’t care who anyone dates, so I couldn’t care less about those statistics, but 2) more relevant than my personal feelings — Black women more often than not put themSELVES in this box where they THINK no one finds them desirable. Then they begin self-deprecating, complaining and becoming more and more cynical, and men see this — and are put off by it. In other words, your aura and personality can sometimes precede you and whereas you can have a lot to offer to a man and bring so much to the table, he’ll never get to know that part of you because 1) you haven’t let go of your baggage from past hurts, 2) you have this defensive, hurt-him-before-he-hurts-me-and-if-he-sticks-around-after-all-that-then-he’s-a-keeper mentality, and 3) you have walls that will make the people of Jericho or the Women of Brewster Place blush.
There are men of ALL shades who love and adore Black women. But they never get their fair shot. You have those women who only want to marry a Black man, and that’s fine. They have that right and I’m certainly not bothered by that in the least. But know the statistics and demographics before willfully putting yourself in that box.
There are Black women who would be open to dating non-Black men, but don’t know where to start.
There are Black women who date other men and find that at the end of the day, MEN ARE MEN. It is not that “the MAN” is out to get us, but rather simply sometimes having a PEER of your age group of ANY ethnicity who can share similarities with you where they matter most — that make for effective relationships. If it happens to be someone of a different nationality, ethnic background or culture than you, then go for it.
But for those who like to sit around, making themselves and other miserable, complaining as if they don’t have options available to them that ARE present (and they are either completely oblivious to them or willfully blind) I have very little sympathy. I know too many guys from too many ethnic backgrounds whose stories and testaments don’t line up with what Jill Scott claim — nor the 500+ people who agreed with her on that Essence article.
At any rate, that’s just MY story and I’m sticking to it.
But as always —