I first became familiar with the ‘black love’ term when the Obamas became the first family of the US. I didn’t fully understand the need to have a specific term to describe a black couple. The Obamas and the Carters have become the gold standard of black relationships in the US. Maybe that’s because of the preoccupation with social media and the need to find role models that we can identify with. This creates a certain amount of pressure to adhere to a society-approved relationship model as well as completely undermining those relationships that exists outside of the spotlight and have managed to thrive.
Lessons Learned about Black Love
1) I’ve heard my friends say that once we reach our 30s, finding a black man who doesn’t have a child is basically unheard of. Does this mean that we will then have to settle because that’s what’s available? If that’s the case, in what other ways do we settle in our relationships? For me, I have found that I dumbed myself down because I found that the previous men I had dated were not always on my level intellectually and/or emotionally. So, I wonder how many other women have done this and how often? TLC sang that they required plenty conversation with their sex, a practice which I subscribe to.
2) Black women seemed to have lowered our standards for our relationships. Why is this necessary? Should we not expect our black men to be better for us because we are worth it? Every day, I see black men walking around with their underpants hanging out of their pants and I can’t understand how as women we have accepted this? I appreciate some swag but is there no limit to what we will accept? And this is just one area where I question our standards. What are our boundaries for our relationships and partners? I’ve learnt that setting boundaries and standards will allow my relationships to flourish. I struggle with effective boundaries as does everyone. But we must be willing to consider the other partner’s personal space, feelings, and needs. This is, of course, not always easy. But to have healthy relationships, we must learn to be mindful of these things.
3) In my own experiences, I’ve had to deal with skin color preferences and power dynamics. I found that oftentimes, I was choosing partners or they were choosing me based on preferences for skin color. I think this is something that is not spoken about enough within the black community. Yet, we have only to turn on the TV to find what is considered the acceptable black skin color and the dark-skinned angry black woman. These presentations only serve to perpetuate stereotypes about black couples.
Many TV shows highlight black relationships as being riddled with cheating, arguments, lack of trust, and angry black women who berate their men at every turn. This is why the Obamas have become such a gold standard for black love. We now have a live visual of the “relationship we all hope for”. The issue with this is that when you put people on pedestals and they fall off, it creates ripples and breaks the fantasies held by so many others. Using others and their relationships to define our relationships is dangerous and causes us to model our lives after people we do not even know. When their relationships fall apart or they fall short, we are left disillusioned and confused. What would happen if we took the time to examine our own values and beliefs and became clear on our boundaries and standards?
The standards that we create in our relationships have a direct impact on our self-esteem and self-worth. The things we choose to accept erodes our boundaries and our confidence in ourselves. We do not recognize that many of our relationships are so dysfunctional because of the traumatic childhoods many of us have lived through. We have not taken the time to work through our emotional and mental traumas and then we experience confusion when we find ourselves in dysfunctional relationships. Generational social issues plague our black communities because we are not consistent with taking steps to break the patterns and stereotypes assigned to our culture.
It took me some time but I began to fully understand the value of black men. We share in the same legacy of being oppressed and made to feel like we are less than. This presents us with common ground on which to establish our relationships. We have experienced generations of pain and struggles that binds us in our relationships and should create understanding that for us to be where we now are, millions have died to move us forward. So, what are we doing to move our generation, our culture, and our people forward? Walter Williams talked about the effects of the decline of black families on our culture. Most of us have grown up in broken homes but are not taking any steps to heal ourselves and build healthy relationships. Why do we allow our culture to stagnate and accept the status quo and allow others to tell our stories?
The black family is dying as we celebrate single parenthood and allow our children to continue to grow up in broken families. Growing up without a father is not something that I aspired to; I’m sure if we were given the choice, most of us, if not all, would have opted to have both parents present. Our relationships can be so powerful if we are willing to step outside of our comfort zones and improve our standards. We get what we expect. If we expect sub-par relationships with our black men, then that’s what we will get. But if we recognize our worth, and set appropriate boundaries, we can assert our independence and expect better from our partners, ourselves, and our relationships.