We all want to find the one. Okay, when you're young you want to find the two or the three depending on your personal appetites, but in the end you want to the find the one. And it will be great, everything will fall into place, your needs will be satisfied, and you can rest easy knowing they are there. So, you're looking for the one. But when you get down to it...what does that really mean?
(someplace warm, I mean. Tropical shirts and all that)
Lately I've been trying to figure out what is it women mean when they use the term "good black men". Do they mean money? Actions? Ideas? A combination? And it's different for every woman. It confounds me, primarily because despite my concerted effort to be something else, in essence I've always been the guy who ascribed to the imagined ideal of what a guy should be [ at least by standards set by the influential media of the late eighties - early nineties of my formative youth]. As a old high school friend put it even then, my problem is that "I actually gave a damn."
This comes up because of two videos I recently saw on Youtube, Black Marriage Negotiations and it's companion piece Black Dating in a Hip Hop Society. Both of which depict an "extreme" and at times hilarious perspective on our modern day relationships, and the influences it looks like we draw from to reach those conclusions. A number of people I know found it funny, a bunch of other folks I know are upset because the way they feel it degrades the black woman. It has been remarked that if the video upsets you, then it must hit a little too close to home. [ Note: I didn't say that, it was some chick on Youtube here.]
I know a lot of black women. A lot of independent black women. A lot of single independent black women.
I realized watching those oddly compelling videos is that a lot of younger women have no idea at all what a good black man looks like, or acts like, or does. And if you don't know what you're looking for, how can you expect to find it?
A confluence of events make this possible, some of which are the ascendancy of the single mother household, the rise of the "gangster mythology" in black media and the natural rebellion and the desire for excitement. I don't have the time (law school studies) or the energy for a complete analysis right now, and I don't want to lay all the blame on the women, men ARE responsible for their share of this mess. But I'm going to focus on the women's issues for the moment, these three in particular.
The ascendancy of the single mother household : Believe it or not, those of us with two parent households learned a lot simply by breathing. My parents worked hard to make sure we had what we needed, but the real key was the incidental life lessons we learned as their relationship made it though year after year. Children in this situation see a relationship - and the interdependence necessary to make it work. Somethings you can't tell a person, they have to witness. But young girls raised by single mothers see only independence. Which is great, until you realize you can't be independent in a couple..
With no constant father in their life, a lot of young women [and men] grow up not knowing how a real relationship works. The details and nuances that only come from seeing it happen, this informal life lesson, is lost to them.
The rise of the "gangster mythology" in black media: Snoop dog has been a gangsta for twenty years. Jay Z is in his forties talking about dealing that happened over a decade ago. Weezy can barely speak and resembles by his own admission, a goblin, commands media attention from jail. When I was young, we didn't idolize the criminals, not even in the black community. Now, because the music that permeates our neighborhoods and the accompanying videos dancing across our TVs glorify an unsupportable lifestyle of loose money, expensive cars and jewelry, this life of excess is now how we grade success, it's become what we aspire to, what we expect... not the houses our parents and grandparents struggled to get.
With our values skewed, the idea that we won't "settle" becomes a mockery. Determination to achieve excellence is laudable, even admirable, unless your excellence is an almost cartoon fantasy of an existence. And that's about where we are.
Natural rebellion and the desire for excitement: Everybody wants to hang out with the fun people. People who study long hours, follow instruction and obey authority are boring. And between fifteen to twenty one or so, the idea of future is a fantasy, not the constantly arriving destination it becomes with maturity. So young girls chose the exciting guys, the cute guys, the guys who superficially satisfy the fifteen year old mind. And I can't blame them one bit. This one I got no answer for. Nerds ain't sexy. Girls just don't dream of marrying an accountant or a claims adjuster. Even without the fantasy enhanced by the media, it just isn't going to happen. But...
We need to instill in our daughters the idea of marrying a doctor or lawyer, and raising a family. Going back to the rise of the single mother, too many daughters see independence as their key, but yearn for the opposite of family. Those girls need to be told: it's okay not to be independent.
[Full disclosure] Would I recognize a good black woman? In all probability, no. Not unless she looked like Melyssa Ford or some other model type. At least not in the instant tense. Attractiveness is what it is, you have to want to start the conversation, geez. I'm far, far, far from perfect, but since most of my relationships are built on trying to enhance relationships with women I already know and care about, a lot of this only mildly applies to me.
So I ask again. What is a good black man? I wrote a piece called "Who are the Serious Men" a little while ago [ I just realized I didn't post it here - so later, I promise], and I hope they qualify as good guys. But I said before and I'll say it again, if you're not sure what you're looking for, how do you know when you've found it?
Barkeep, I would like a Manhattan. I have no idea why.