I typically shy away from the topic of Black dating, Black love, and Black family workings. It is for the obvious reason that I am biracial and the product of an interracial relationship. I never want to negate the love between my parents by introducing politics into a very non-political matter…of the heart. People love who they love and I’m here for all of it. At the same time, I am a black woman, descended from many strong black women, who gave birth to a black woman.
I was listening to a “Dear Culture” Podcast on Black love and acceptance. I then began to research statistics of Black marriage and relationships and correlations to social issues. For instance, prior to the 1960s black married couples were hand and fist over other races. Then progressively throughout the 1980s those numbers diminished to modern day counts of (2016 U.S. Census) of only 29% of Black men and women are married and a whopping 50% have never been married at all. Why is that?
Marriage, as a whole, took a downturn in the modern age. And the age range of the census is 15 years of age and older to be fair. I am strongly against marrying fresh into adulthood of course and don’t believe marriage the ultimate expression of love. What has turned us off of black love, relationships, and yes, marriage though?
Unlike the numbers and the toxicity depicted in Hollywood, I don’t think black people have fallen out of love with…well love. Quite the opposite in fact. I think we need Black love more than ever as we take on the ever changing world and social climate. What I believe to be our culture’s biggest set back is the elevation of only examples of love as perfection and royalty and the emergence of the single mother figure as the celebratory image of Black femininity.
The podcast spoke on celebrity Black love citing The Obamas and The Kings and how we romanticized that love while ignoring the great challenges faced by these dynamic duos of the past as well as the glaring fact that women’s rights were very limited at the time, even more so in the case of Black women. While in no way am I negating true love in our parents and grandparents times, options were limited and divorce was not feasible. One of my great grandmother’s did find herself a single mother through circumstance and relied heavily on my grandfather (the oldest son) to help with the family. Each child gaining majority was expected to reach back and help with the family in fact. It is a moving story of the late great Willie Bell Gwyn but also a harrowing tale of survival in raising fatherless children as a black woman in the south in the midst of The Great Depression with just as many lows as highs and a very different story of Black love. But I digress.
One modern challenge and more specifically, my generation’s challenge, is the emergence and celebration of the single mother. While I do feel we should wear our role as a badge of honor and while I disagree entirely with the shaming stigma that comes with the role, somewhere, it is looked down upon to be a married wife and mother allowing her husband to lead the family. Rather than “deal” with the challenges that face Black fathers we choose to do it alone with the help of family or community. Does that make us happier or more discontent?
My own love story as example, the modern Black woman. We have more options. I have one child, not the 5+ of those times, a college degree prior to that child, and a decent career established. In short, a man can’t do anything for me I don’t already do for myself. My demeanor can be off putting (my husband has complained) and at times, infuriating to Black men. I’m not afraid to be alone so I am not motivated to change the same behaviors that made me a successful nurse and leader. Even if setting them aside would mean us living happily ever after. In the interest of my daughter, I doubt I would marry again if my husband and I were to divorce also. I fall into the “separated” 4-6% in the charts I cited below. A whole unspoken class that stay married in name only because it makes no real difference in financial status, circumstances, etc. You maintain your independence, maintain separate assets, and live literally or figuratively world’s apart. No matter what you tell me, what two hour visual albulm you present, this is also what I believe goes on in the Carter’s (Beyonce and Jay-Z) home as well.
Having these high expectations of marriage, set by previous generations or modern celebrities married 60 or 70 years, is unhealthy. It’s beautiful to observe but distracting from the more common life relationships that sprout and thrive, complete with financial challenges, role confusion/reversals, and work life balance. We don’t see those parts of these great love stories so we develop a sense of failure when we don’t have what THEY have. We don’t want it if we can’t find that Barry and Michelle or Martin and Corretta type love in our own partner of choice. We’d rather be alone and so we are.
The truth is this: Marriage, particularly the maintaining of that marriage, is one of the most soul bearing and difficult life tasks. Getting to the alter with your soul mate of any color is the beginning of a lifelong journey together, not an end goal to check off our list. The days of life partners are not gone. We just need to adjust our perspectives of those life partners as always being perfect sources of endless strength and love that are hard to find and must be prayed and fought for. The reality is it’s a give and take relationship and a kinship that take life long effort to mould and perfect. Life partners are not sought out and found like four leaf clovers. They are nurtured into life over time, experience and every day love, something Black culture knows how to do best.
Don’t believe the hype. We have an extraordinary capacity to love this world and those around us. The signs are everywhere friends. Stop treating love as if it’s unobtainable and only for the worthy. It’s time we normalized Black love Kings and Queens. It’s possible for all of us.