After watching this brief clip that someone posted on Facebook that shows a recording of an episode where Iyanla Vanzandt has Black men and women openly expressing their hurts, anger, and disappointments, I share in this multi-part reflection and plea that I’ve started below.
I know that it can apply to any ethnicity of people (for internally we all have unique and sometimes even similar struggles), but I can only speak for and directly to the group I share the most commonalities with—Black people—but I encourage all to read this, to get a better understanding of the unique struggles that Black people and specifically African Americans face daily in the US—see the commonalities within your own ethnic group—and consider the ways that even you may have unknowingly perpetuated one or more of the stereotypes that continue to divide one group of people (in this case, African Americans) and reinforce the stigmas that keep nations of people divided:
To Black Women I Say…
Ladies listen to your men. Truly listen. Don’t ignore their complaints. They are crying out and they need us.
Stop allowing the past and what society has forced us to do to survive to be the barrier that prevents us from having a genuine and loving connection with our men.
To Black Men I Say…
Menfolk, you need to come together and give each other the “pass” and approval to be vulnerable, to open up and share your hurt and anger in a way that allows women to fully understand in a healthy way, without us feeling the need to mother you or chastise you as being “weak”. Those are the two extremes that we keep repeating and reinforcing, that further attacks and emasculates you.
To Black Women I Say…
Ladies we can’t say we want a gentleman who possesses qualities of nurturing, tenderness, and compassion—but then call a man a punk when he shows sadness, fear, depression, etc.
He is human just like you.
He has feelings just like you.
He has insecurities just like you.
Just like you, he faces rejection and pressures from the world simply because of the color of his skin.
He wants to be heard and understood, appreciated and celebrated, forgiven and shown compassion—just like you.
You should be more concerned about the man who does not cry than the one who does. The former is boiling and dying from within. The latter is releasing the toxins that could do harm to him, to you, and to others.
I’m guilty of not being empathetic and sympathetic enough to realize that I placed men, especially Black men, on a pedestal of Super Hero status—with expectations that they are to be stronger, braver, and more resilient because they are men—-that they should just “suck it up and get past it” all while forgetting that even super heroes have weaknesses, flaws, areas of vulnerability that leaves them exposed and easy to harm.
I forgot the very important lessons that my Black father taught me about Black men, and how to love, appreciate and support them.
I forgot that just like the burden of being labeled “Wonder Woman” or “Super Woman” is draining on me, the labels placed on men also drain them.
All super heroes need a break— refuge.
Batman went to the bat cave, switched out his gear, took the secret door back to his “normal” life as Bruce Wayne. When Wonder Woman isn’t out there saving the world with her lasso and shields, she’s just a regular person—Diana Prince.
Super heroes can’t always be “on”. They need a break too! And they also need healthy companionship. Look at the super heroes and their love interests. There’s a sense of balance.
As Black people we have shared experiences of slavery (past and present), of injustice, cruelty, and racism. We have shared pain just as we have shared hope.
Just like we need a safe place to rest our head, men do too! They need someone they can let down their guards with and be vulnerable to, and trust that they won’t be attacked when they take off their super hero costume, or simply—just when they turn their backs or close their eyes to rest.
When they turn to us we need to be there for them. Not to mother them—society already says that they are boys and not men. But instead to simply provide refuge from the outside world. A safe place of peace, tucked away from a world of conflict and chaos.
Home is not merely a physical place. It should be what we have in and with each other.
To Black Men I Say…
Men, you need to stop negatively comparing Black women to other women. Stop telling Black women how inferior we are to other women. Stop telling us how ugly we are, inside and out.
Stop reducing us to our bodies as merely sexual props for your pleasure, to be easily discarded—as it reinforces the trauma inflicted on our women when slave masters raped and discarded us.
Please don’t keep opening that wound and torturing us.
It’s one thing to honor and celebrate us, it’s another thing to exploit and pimp us out—to basically say that we’re only as good as our booty is big.
Stop perpetuating the labels and stereotypes of Black women.
These labels and stereotypes are not merely reinforced by the few Black women who proudly or ignorantly display these traits and characteristics.
They are co-signed by your affirmations of their truth.
Others turn to the Black man and ask, “is this true about Black women?” and when you say “yes” it stamps all Black women with a seal.
What you say about Black women is a clear affirmation of what you think and how you see your mother, sisters, aunts, grandmothers, cousins, and yes even your daughters.
Are the words that you use to describe Black women the same that you would want someone else to describe the females of your family?
Is that what you want your daughter to hear and respond to?
Are the ways that you treat Black women the ways that you would want your daughter, mother, sister, and grandmother to be treated?
The negative labels devalue and destroy us.
We are not ALL one way or another. Just like Black men are not.
Ladies and gentlemen, please let this sink in and marinate. We have to engage in dialogue and take ownership for our roles and parts in this disconnect.
I cannot possibly dive as deep as I would like because I’m limited by this medium that I’ve selected. So we will go as deep as possible to allow for discussion that can branch off into your own independent discussions.
The first step towards healing is to admit there is a problem.
Tomorrow we will continue with part two of this discussion. I hope that you will join me and share your thoughts and suggestions.