A Complex Past and Present
My charge was to respond to the Editor’s Note written by Frank Matthews. The first thing that came into my mind was “Where do I begin?”
It seems to me the relationships between Black women and Black men have always been a bit more complex than the average female-male relationships of other ethnic groups. Considering our history, this is somewhat understandable.
It also has been my observation that Black women are fiercely loyal to Black men — sometimes to their own detriment. For example, many Black women are baffled and hurt, when they see Black men in interracial relationships. They often take it as a personal affront. I don’t think being loyal and supportive of Black men is a “choice” Black women decided to make eons ago, but it’s a feeling that in most cases comes natural. After all, our fathers, brothers and sons are Black, why wouldn’t we want Black men to succeed and be happy?
While unconditional love and support is admirable, Black women still need to hold all Black men — our husbands, sons, colleagues, etc. — accountable. Lowering our expectations of Black men does them and the Black community at large a disservice.
While speaking at the Arkansas Black Student Association conference at Arkansas State University earlier this month, the students participated in a “Battle of the Sexes.” This session, complete with a talk-show format and a host, gave the college students an opportunity to present “real-life” scenarios, primarily having to do with female-male relationships. The gender gap was evident in the room — the Black male college students took up one small side of the auditorium and the women took over the remaining space. While I must say all of the college students — both male and female — were quite respectful of each other’s views — many of the male students’ responses to the women’s questions disturbed me. They often admitted that their sometimes less-than-exemplary behavior was the result of “being able to get away with it,” and added that they know women will “take us back” regardless of their behavior. Many of the young women agreed that this was often the case.
The young men’s comments could be attributed to their youth and or being male, and have nothing to do with their ethnicity. But what is disturbing is the young age at which men and women begin to exhibit behavior that inevitably leads to disrespectful and consequently unsuccessful relationships with each other.
By and large, Black women have shown great tolerance in their dealings with Black men. Putting up with “it” from men is I think Black women’s subconscious way of apologizing to Black men for the hardships they have endured and continue to experience. We realize that although we’re of the same ethnicity, there are things Black men will experience that we won’t. There are assumptions people make about Black men, which are often negative, that are not made about Black women.
So in response to Frank’s call for an apology and a renewed commitment from Black men, I think it’s safe to say, “We accept your apology.” Nevertheless, Black men should be reminded that, “Actions speak louder than words.”
This is a special edition of Black Issues in which we highlight the contributions of African American women in higher education. Finding the right approach and angle for this edition was not easy as it’s impossible to profile all Black women in higher education in just one edition. Yet, I’m always excited when we highlight the contributions of women, for obvious reasons of course, but seeing women achieve despite the many obstacles we must often overcome, both professional and personal, is always impressive and most of all, inspiring.
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