All the Single Ladies (and Men) Deserve a Break

Why the conversation about love between black women and men needs a new focus.

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Even Halle Berry, arguably one of the most beautiful women in the world, couldn't escape the blame game. When her last, four-year relationship -- with her child's father, model Gabriel Aubrey -- ended, folks just couldn't understand why all of her relationships ended so badly and conveniently labeled Berry "crazy." Bitch Is the New Black author Helena Andrews was on point in her essay on The Root, "On Halle and Her Men." She writes, "It's time to rewrite the narrative of Halle Berry's love life. We're asking the wrong question. Maybe we should be asking, 'Why can't a man keep Halle Berry?' "

Blogger Damon Young, aka Champ, who heads the black relationship blog Very Smart Brothas, points out that black men don't walk away completely unscathed, either, when it comes to unfair scrutiny. "The latent message isn't that black women are undatable. It's saying that black men are not worthy of these women, or they are incarcerated and not around, or they are not doing their job to keep a woman," he says.

Fair enough. I can see how the stereotypes that black men are shiftless inherent criminals or triflin' playas who can't commit arise in these conversations and further stigmatize black men. Still, I would argue that the media and our own personal chatter -- overtly and subliminally -- consistently send the message that black women are undatable, unwanted, unattractive and too feminist.

These attacks seem to overshadow the male bashing to which Young refers. Just consider the following: rapper Young Berg's claims that he doesn't want any "dark butts"; Slim Thug's comments that black women need to channel their inner submissive "white girl" in order to please "commodities" like him; and Nelly's video claiming that black women are single because they are constantly looking for perfection. And let's not forget Jimi Izrael's bitter ode to his ex-wife, The Denzel Principle.

"This is not a new conversation, just a modernized version of stereotypes that render black women [as what I call] ‘anti-feminine,' " states Courtney Young (no relation to Damon Young), a feminist journalist and blogger for the Thirty Mile Woman. "Dating back for centuries, there has been an overt undercurrent of black women being [labeled as] undesirable partners, [for either being] too loud, too emasculating, too educated, too successful or too intimidating."

Ironically, this pressure doesn't come only from men. In the October issue of Essence, the supposed black women's bible, the cover's tagline reads, "How to Keep Black Men Happy and Faithful." I wasn't aware that a man's infidelity is directly linked to what I am and what I am not doing. This isn't Essence's first offense. Over the years, the magazine has repeatedly been accused of publishing disempowering, sexist relationship advice that scares women into believing that because there are not enough single and available black men, black women have to be submissive and accommodating in order to lock one down.

Sparring With Self-Loathing

To counter this, some black women have decided to strike back. Last month Madame Noire, sister site of the über-popular black gossip website Bossip, posted the infamous "Eight Reasons to Date a White Man." In this piece, LaShaun Williams encourages black women to date white men because she says they are more likely to not be "on the down low," less likely to want to be taken care of by a woman and won't have children out of wedlock. Claiming that white men don't glamorize ignorance, Williams wrote, "They may listen to rap music, but they are smart enough not to act it out. The 'thug life' is not something to be aspired. White men have a firmer grasp on what really defines manhood.' "

And sadly, this is what has become of black folks trying to engage in the conversation about love: battered and bruised, waiting in our respective corners for media outlets to ring the bell so that we can continue to go at each other, claiming that neither one of us is worth anything and that white people are superior.

While the media -- both black and mainstream -- fuel this fire, it would be too easy to solely blame them or to claim that it is a conspiracy. Yes, they perpetuate and create spaces for this nonsense, but realistically, the rest of us play a role too. We made comedian Steve Harvey's relationship-advice book Act Like A Lady, Think Like a Man a New York Times best-seller, we read online stories like "Eight Reasons" and e-mail them to everyone we know, and we use social media to publicly hash out these debates on a daily basis.