Welcome back to the story! If you haven't read the first two parts, do that now! If you're all caught up, watch Jill Scott's poem "The Sky Ain't a Ceiling" which will serve as backbone to the following sections! Glad you're here, Reader! Let's keep on.
Part I: Descriptive Empirical
What’s Going On?
“You say life’s been hard on you Well, brotha I’ve got news
It’s hard on me too
We seem to face the same old issues.
Some are just surface
Some deeper in the tissue”
Something is deeply wrong.
Present day African Americans, hereby referred to as AAs, are in an ambiguous state of existence. I know two things to be true: we, broadly, do not trust each other, and, when there is trust, fear paralyzes. Adapting to majority culture, AAs hold no explicit obligation to forward the black movement through the means of monogamous and childrearing relationships. Focusing on heterosexual monogamy with the intent of childrearing, truths about the community are staggering.
“[Around] 1890, 80 percent of black households were comprised of both parents”. Understandably so, as a collectivist society demanded complementation roles to sustain families, farms and businesses. “Over a century down the line, only 40 percent of African-American children [were] in married-couple families... the marriage rates in the African American community have declined while the rates of separation, divorce, out-of-wedlock births, cohabitation, and children residing in female-headed families have increased”. Ironically, the above trends are contrary to the known cultural values. An all too familiar burden amongst AAs is the mental stress of being fatherless.
As of present day, more than 70% of African American children are fatherless. This figure, referring to children that are born to women who are not married, would, however, include unmarried couples in which the father is present. “The rate of African-American children living in single-parent homes is almost as high as the rate for non-marital births”. I ought to note that this essay is to call out the uneasy truths of the situation, not to prove children ought to be brought up by their monogamous parents, as there is immense study to suggest this ideal. My life, and the ones of my siblings, testify to this truth: truth that has only become truth as it has been habituated. But, how does not trusting one another show up in everyday lives? Here’s a story:
I’m a photographer. Documentary photographer, in fact. Whenever able, I like to take my younger siblings along to shoots; this one was over thanksgiving break, and my 11-year old melanin wrapped sister was excited to play my assistant. As we drove to the location, a conversation arose: (Italics, sister)
Who are we going to take pictures of today?
A family; mom, dad, and little girl. They’re actually a black family.
*Abruptly looks at me* Woah! I didn’t know you could do that..
Have a black mom and dad and stuff
Ha I know right.. Do you think you’ll get married?
Who do you think you’ll marry?
Hm.. probably a white guy
Oh yea? Why’s that?
Hm.. Well, he probably won’t beat me, he’ll make lots of money, be loyal and yea. Just treat me good.
He won’t beat me? I had to consider her young frame of reference. Well, according to the
people in her life.. Black men were deemed unhealthy, violent, poor in spirit and disloyal. The only, and obvious, solution was that white men were the way to go. Safe, successful, and loyal. Not only did her answer break my heart, but what’s worse: I had the exact same idea; unknowingly, albeit, but all the same.
Within the short span of my life, I’d come to see black men as unsafe, unsuccessful, and not worthy of trust. Hell, being the kind of person I want to become - world traveler, PhD recipient, author, mother of children born in a monogamy - stats say my only, rational, option will become white men. African Americans don’t trust each other. If we are to move toward any form of healing, this grave truth must be acknowledged.
On the opposite side of the same coin in present day relationship between black woman and man - amongst those resisting out-of-wedlock births and school-to-prison pipelines - lies fear. “One reason for [black] women’s lower marriage rates... is connected to the earnings potential among African American men”. According to Brookings, “the difference in rates of marriage may in part be due to a shortage of marriageable black men, itself a product of high rates of incarceration and early death.”
So, what is being said and why does it matter? Even in places of trust between AAs, a layer of fear remains in our core. Fear of what, you ask? Abandonment. Of being neglected. Fear of being the only one willing to trust other AAs. Fear of not being chosen by black men. It is also worth noting that black women, compared to black men, are less likely to marry someone of a different race. Concluding this section is a story of fear as it relates to holistic wealth and desiring to be with a black man:
For reasons previously discussed, lack of trust and paralyzing fear, I do not have many black friends. Aware of my self-hatred, I’ve been intentional about being in relationship with people like myself. This said, there’s one gal I’m becoming close with. Over coffee we discussed being young black women in Biblical and Theological studies.
I asked if she wanted to continue her education; you know, an MA, MD or PhD, even. She said it’s something to consider, but that she’s also passionate about becoming a wife and mother. I indulged her domestic desires by confessing my own, and our giddiness led to painting our dream guys. Her description reminded me of a younger Idris Elba; you know, tall, dark and handsome; wise, gracious and kind. Mine, I told her, was more of a bubbly, athletic, socially-conscious Albert Enoch. Our laughs quickly became grin as we found our descriptions to be fallacy.
Speaking aloud, she called us out for being unrealistic in desiring educated black men who love the Lord, betters their communities, and be faithful to their wives and children. Hm. That’s kind of a bummer. With a mindset similar to my sister’s, I found myself unfortunately agreeing with this new friend. Not only have I 1) deemed black men unsafe, disloyal and poor stewarts, 2) named white men safety, success and loyalty, but now 3) think it’s unrealistic to desire an educated black man who loves the Lord, betters his community, and desires to be faithful to his wife and children.
What is this? What’re these thoughts? Why do I deeply resonate with what both of these gals are saying, yet at the same time do not desire them to be true? Why do African Americans not trust one another and, more than that, why are we paralyzed by fear?
| Part 5 to Come |