Bound by 'The Denzel Principle'?

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Jimi Izrael, a longtime contributor to The Root, has never been shy about his expressing controversial opinions on this site and elsewhere about a wide range of topics, including the relationships between black men and women. Presuming that his fans can’t get enough, he has now translated his views on women into book form. The Denzel Principle: Why Black Women Can’t Find Good Black Men was published earlier this month by St. Martin’s Press. In it, Izrael argues, among other things, that black women are setting impossibly high standards in their quest for a mate.


Several women on our staff wanted us to make clear that publishing an excerpt on The Root in no way indicates that we support, agree or even consider rational Jimi’s musings on such an important and sensitive topic. On behalf of the men, I would like to add this plea: “We all can’t be Denzel.”

—Joel Dreyfuss, The Root’s managing editor

For a vigorous debate on these issues involving Jimi Izrael, columnist Helena Andrews and culture editor Teresa Wiltz, listen to The Confab here.


The thing is, some black women say they have trouble finding the right guy, but the truth is some of them manage to find a new one every night, and word gets around. Or they find great guys—legitimately good brothers with jobs, benefits and all their own teeth—and stay happy for about 15 minutes. Then they wear them out emotionally (rarely sexually), get bored, step out of the relationship and throw the proverbial dice in hopes of an upgrade. This becomes routine, and they end up spending their golden years with 50 cats and 150 ceramic collectibles, trying to lure the mailman inside with a plate of food.

Now, men get a lot of the blame for destroying the black family because conventional wisdom suggests that they spend all their time beating up women, shooting dice late into the night, stealing watermelon from Ofay The Farmer and being generally useless and unmarriageable.  And let’s be honest: There are a lot of brothers out there fucking up, but not nearly as many as you think. Normally, those brothers wear their crazy on their sleeves. You can see—and often times smell them—from the curb. Women tend to mask their crazy with lipstick, perfume, Apple Bottom Jeans and such. Men aren’t as smart as women about these kinds of things, and often don’t know what they're getting into.

That said, the thing is, I know brothers aren’t responsible for the high divorce rate because we aren’t that particular. Men are not complicated creatures and don’t ask for much. All we want is a woman to work, cook, clean and maybe give up a lil’ booty on our birthday. Sisters think they aren’t asking for the world by just looking for a man to meet their minimum standards. But their minimum is either the bare minimum or over the top. I know, because I see it all the time: Black women jumping from knucklehead to knucklehead, chump to chump, hoping to get it right next time by consistently choosing from the bottom. They are in the Internet chat rooms, wearing tight dresses to Big Butt Nite at Club 75 and outside penitentiary gates on parole day waiting to pounce on anything with a pulse.


THIS JUST IN: There is a movement building on the Internet just for women who like to date incarcerated and fresh-out-the-joint-type brothers. Women meet these guys, trying to help the penal system rehabilitate them, hoping to rebuild a man from the ground up. Not that convicts aren’t viable mates, but you can’t meet anyone at the coffee house, so you start trolling the prisons for husband material? What the hairy, hot fuck is that about? Oh. Probably just a hairy, hot fuck. Jesus Christ on a Saltine, that’s fucking stupid. But some women are so desperate for a man they can mold and control, it’s come to that. Holy shit.

Black women’s unrealistic standards are probably born of bedtime stories about handsome, rich men on majestic horses delivering damsels in distress. Girlfriends often tell similar apocryphal tales about the friend of a friend who nabbed a rich, hung sugar-daddy who saved them from a life of dishpan hands and lower-middle-class drudgery. Through the influence of popular media and the misguided advice they give each other, sisters combine these images and presumptions to draw a composite of a perfect black man. No way he could exist, but far be it for something like common sense to stop the average woman from looking. Her friends meet men who are so close—so close, girl! With just one fatal flaw, like he snores or doesn’t get DirectTV. But girl, he was so close! So as a tribe, they all just keep looking, telling themselves that accepting anything less than perfection would be “settling” because they’ve been convinced that the perfect man exists. This goes on until this perfect black man becomes like Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster, with cults of nut jobs trading information, hunting tips and fish stories about the one that got away, their lives committed to hunting and capturing a creature who could not possibly exist. But wait—just like Sasquatch and Loch Ness—Mr. Right is on the cover of every magazine, the star of many movies and the next guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show … right?


Of course, he is.

Jimi Izrael is a regular contributor to The Root and author of The Denzel Principle: Why Black Women Can’t Find Good Black Men. Follow him on Twitter.


Single Father, Author, Screenwriter, Award-Winning Journalist, NPR Moderator, Lecturer and College Professor. Habitual Line-Stepper