If you are one of the legions of people sick to death of all the commentary about the state of black male/female relationships told through the Obama Example feel free to bypass this essay. If you’re among those sick to death of seeing single, professional black women blamed for the sorry state of those relationships then read on.
Let’s start with President Barack Obama, the admirably great husband and dad in chief. If he is going to be the standard around which the debate around black relationship revolves, then here is one pertinent question not being asked enough: Why did Barack choose Michelle, and not, say, a Halle Berry or Beyoncé?
After all, Michelle doesn’t fit that stereotypical ideal. Many black men would find her dual Ivy League degrees threatening. Her self-confidence and assertiveness? Emasculating. The fact that she put Barack through many paces and required him to earn her love and respect? Bossy and demanding. Not so for Barack. Few could argue that he made a smart decision. Yet, we’re supposed to believe that Michelle, the prototypical highly accomplished black woman, has a rare level of wisdom that eludes other black women when it comes to choosing a mate?
Let’s be real. The reason that many black women with backgrounds similar to Michelle Obama’s aren’t married is not because they would not give similarly skinny, big-eared, smart guys a chance: It’s because there aren’t enough of those guys to go around. Smart women are smart enough to snatch them up. That’s why there aren’t millions of Barack Obama clones walking around wondering why no black woman will have them.
There’s also a larger point being ignored. The Obamas live in a rarified world that 99.9 percent of us will never experience, so we need to get over comparing their lives to ours.
Still, tons of black couples who are neither famous nor married to famous people have made similar smart decisions about marriage. So let’s not reduce this issue to some silly five-and-dime psychoanalysis about overeducated professional black women and their overly demanding psyches. The sad reality is that we are living in very difficult times for black coupling. More of our men are in jail than ever before. Huge numbers of them are unemployed or underemployed. More black women than black men have college degrees. More black men than black women are dating outside of their race. It would be nice to pretend these factors don’t matter, but they do.
The sad result is not that black women have become too picky; it’s that many have become too desperate and not discerning enough.
As for the rest of us, it’s just not true that we’re working against our own self-interests in our quest for the perfect mate. Jenée Desmond-Harris’ piece, which appeared recently on The Root, is being cited by black male bloggers and posted on black-oriented social networking sites as some sort of open letter, or cautionary tale, to black women to adjust their attitudes or suffer the consequences of remaining alone and unattached.
While I’m sure the piece represents some personal truths and was not intended to speak for or about all black women, it certainly does not represent my truth or those of many other professional black women who are not holding out for that non-existent “Obamaesque” Prince Charming.
The truth is that many of us would be happy with a good man who simply loves and respects us and who has enough in common with us to sustain a healthy relationship. This is not an unreasonable expectation.
We should also remember that black men have had some role in creating these troubled relationship dynamics. They aren’t just sitting on the sidelines like helpless sheep waiting for black women to find them worthy of attention. To believe that is to ignore that many single black men are holding out for their idealized versions of Princess Charming to step into the role of their picture-perfect wife.
Can we at least acknowledge that the men with the best prospects—and I don’t mean high-powered jobs and fat bank accounts, but those who are employed and able to help sustain a household—are already married? Can we also agree that having realistic expectations and being able to compromise are useful qualities for both black women and men to have?
If black men want black women to give them more love, they should show us more love and less resentment. They should judge us as individuals and not as a group. Let’s start talking to each other instead of about each other.
Marjorie Valbrun is a regular contributor to The Root.