All the Single Ladies (and Men) Deserve a Break
Why the conversation about love between black women and men needs a new focus.
Love may be colorblind, but when did we start hating each other so much? Better yet, tell me when did we start hating ourselves so much?
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.
"I haven't heard a word about Slim Thug in four to five years, until he was interviewed for Vibe's blog," says Damon Young. "If no one paid attention, it might have been read by five or six thousand people, but we tweet it and [post] it on Facebook, and now this little nugget of information has been turned into a big deal."
If anything can be taken away from this conversation, it's that we play into all this and subsequently lash out, not because we are inherently bad or villainous, but because this is what we have been taught to do. Not to mention, a lot of us are also hurting.
Now is the time for the conversation to shift, before we do any further damage.
Time for a Baggage Check
Don't get me wrong; folks have some legitimate reasons to be upset, and we do need to continue to call each other out -- in a more civil and dignified manner. But at some point, we also have to be willing to recognize when our complaints are based on sexist ridiculousness, reactionary bitterness and unrealistic expectations.
What's missing is a conversation about how jumpin' the broom might not make you complete if you were not complete to begin with. And how you shouldn't feel like a complete failure if you haven't or never will wed.
What's also missing is a constructive conversation about self-analysis and healing. Hey, life is hard, and we need to address the role that our own baggage -- past experiences, upbringing and trauma -- plays in how we view ourselves and relate to one another. And most important (channeling my inner bell hooks here), we need to be open to understanding how oppression -- whether racism, sexism, patriarchy, homophobia or classism -- plays out in our everyday lives and affects our romantic relationships. More important, we need to understand how our internalization of all of those prejudices truly messes us up.
And while there are no easy solutions, the key to having more productive conversations about love has to start with our doing some serious introspection, checking our ignorance at the door and learning to love one another a hell of a lot more.
May those negotiations begin.
Kellee Terrell is a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based freelance writer who writes about race, gender, health and pop culture. Terrell is also the news editor for TheBody.com, a website about HIV/AIDS.