Brothers Who Just Don’t Get It: A Hump Day Rant

3 Nov

I have refrained from commenting on the Black Marriage Negotiation Videos for multiple reasons: I found them to be somewhat funny, I’ve been busy, and I’m tired of the single black man/single black woman finger pointing game that most of us are pros at by now. As I watched the videos though,  I was unconvinced that I was seeing a “balanced” portrait. While the videos presented both sides of the issue, and while the one in which the sister was the problem rung true at several levels, the one with the brother was not as sharp, witty, or true. It struck me as coming from a brother who lacked a serious capacity for self-reflection and critique, however intelligent, well-read, or witty he may be.

Turns out I was right.

Yesterday,  several Facebook friends posted the Root.com’s interview with the creator of the videos, Darroll Lawson, an allegedly happily married father of three. According to the interview, Lawson created the videos to “drive traffic to his website,” which is apparently about “empowering men to empower families.” Lovely. Apparently the only way to empower Black men is to pick on Black women.  What an original idea.

When asked if he was working on a video focused on men, Lawson replied, “The thing is, we’ve heard the narrative on that. There’s no ammunition there. They’re about to come out with a movie called For Colored Girls, and there’s only one black male who’s positively portrayed, and even then he’s positively portrayed because he’s in a position of submission to women’s emotional changes.”

Ammunition? I guess Black women are targets at the firing range.

And of course. Shange’s For Colored Girls was a male-bashing movie. He goes on to say, “we have heard for ages how trifling men are. Zora Neale Hurston, Alice Walker, Pearl Cleage, Waiting to Exhale — all these things position men poorly.”

Gotta love Black male narcissism.  These movies and books were about Black women, and their experiences. What is so hard to understand about that?

Lawson goes on to say,

“There was a dearth of any kind of criticism leveled against black women, and as soon as you do it, there’s this public outcry like, “How dare you?” It almost becomes a form of censorship, and men are feeling it. In part — I don’t know how large — it is affecting families and affecting men leaving their families because they don’t have an outlet. They just run because they can’t deal with it.”

No outlets?  Anything by Spike Lee, John Singleton, and Rick Famuyiwa for that matter are outlets for brothers to express their angst and general disdain for Black women. Sometimes sisters come out okay (in Rick’s case) but beyond that, we look pretty terrible in all these portraits. And let’s be clear that however much both Black men and Black women critique Tyler Perry, his movies are all about redeeming the embattled Black male image and proving to Black women that if we stopped being so emotionally effed up we could get a man.  For those who disagree, 2 points: a.) find me one movie where the educated sister, the one who has a degree, is not a total bitch. b.) yes, while there are negative brothers in every movie, in every single one there is a contrasting good black man character to balance it out. Not so for the sisters.

I could go on and on but I have other things that I really should be doing, so let me share my thoughts with y’all in short form.

a.) the only folks with the power of censorship is the state. Black women have never had the power to do to Black men what Lawson accuses us of. On the other hand, Black men have always had the power to determine the level of public exposure and access of Black women’s careers. Think W.E.B. Du Bois, Richard Wright, MLK , Malcolm X, Stokely Carmichael, Eldridge Cleaver, Dr. Dre, Diddy, Junior Mafia, and Jermaine Dupri.

b.)For Colored Girls was written in the 70s, the Color Purple movie came out in ’85 and Waiting to Exhale the movie, in ’95. I challenge anyone reading this thread to show me a movie or a book from the years 2000-2010, the entirety of the 21st century,  that has engaged in the supposed male bashing done by these texts or films.

c.) Traditional brothers claim that sisters are the ones who nag. But the videos, Hip Hop and otherwise, the Steve Harvey-esque self-help books, Tyler Perry and T.D. Jakes movies,  the blogs, and all of Lyfe Jennings’ songs, are a never-ending sermon about how Black women need to get right. If Black women ever preached that much, brothers would run away screaming. Check yourselves.

d.) Lawson claims ultimately that feminism is the problem:

“I was really trying to interweave this notion of feminist theology. It’s interesting that a lot of the steep decline [in black marriage] really occurred after the [initiation of the feminist movement].”

Of course, feminism is to blame for Black folks not getting married, because clearly Black women just don’t know their place anymore. We want to be too independent, to have full lives, where we work, think for ourselves, make contributions not only to our families, but also to the larger society. Shame on us.  So for this shoddy reasoning, I have three responses 1.) rather than continuing to blame Black women for the decline of the family, another one of Lawson’s really original ideas <side eye>, why don’t we finally have an actual conversation about all the economic and social obstacles that impede traditional Black families. If the dude is expected to be the breadwinner, and black men are systematically underemployed, undereducated, and overincarcerated, there’s gonna be a problem. Black folks have been saying that since at least the 1940s; the only difference is that we recognized that we weren’t the ones causing the problem. Structural racism was and is. 2.) Outdated conceptions of black masculinity have done as much if not more to impede Black family structures. It is brothers who leave because they are unwilling to become creative about other notions of productivity and support in the face of the structural challenges mentioned above. Sisters are left to fend for themselves and then defend themselves when we create independent lives. 3.) Both Black men and Black women need to rethink these limiting notions of partnership, in the first place. The ones we are working with are too tight, and I know my breathing feels real constricted right about now.

e.) Whatever truths might be present in the first video, I refuse to have a discussion about sisters being the problem. To quote Lawson,

The thing is, we’ve heard the narrative on that. There’s no ammunition there. Well that’s good, cuz it’s about time that sisters stop being on the receiving end of the bullets. Now NEGOTIATE that!

Whew! Thanks for listening. Love to hear y’alls thoughts.

 

10 Responses to “Brothers Who Just Don’t Get It: A Hump Day Rant”

  1. akiba November 3, 2010 at 10:10 AM #

    thank you very, very much.

  2. ashoncrawley November 3, 2010 at 10:17 AM #

    a whole lotta people are unhappy. i knew there was a reason why i didn’t read that article on theroot …

    thanks for your commentary.

  3. Elle Sowen November 3, 2010 at 6:14 PM #

    Speak! I don’t think I took one breath while reading this! I didn’t want to miss a thing. Thank you so much for this. Someone needed to do it. And, you did it well!

  4. Rain November 3, 2010 at 6:59 PM #

    I originally began to laugh at the initial video, yet by the second video I began to feel this sensation in my chest. Before I knew it I was browsing the video I Absolutely Love Black Girls and I was left feeling sad/ill for an infinite number of reasons. I will share the primary three.

    a. I too have prescribed to the notion that love is not enough but it absolutely must be the foundation. I found that neither video (Black Marriage Negotiations and I Absolutely Love Black Girls) could truly atest to love. To me love is a verb and translates as a consistent action of support and compassion of wanting for me what I want for myself. This want is not based on the stipulation of financial backing by another. This love should not be confused with butterflies migrating south to arouse the emotional and/or sexual self of a man (black or white). I whole heartedly concur on the necessity of BALANCE. However, I believe that balance is only achieved when each party has lovingly done the work to master self and redefine the value of self beyond the labels we carry to justify our requirements of the opposite sex. Where is the internal dialogue that ignites the courageous?

    b. In the video I Absolutely Love Black Girls, the Black WOMAN so eloquently speaks of choice to dedicate her energy, love and responsibility to her community and black men. It hurts that its not the language of Black men that have the tools to spread a word of affirmation to the masses that he too feels the same about Black women and community. Even with the decision once to be open to dating white men, I utilized the following question as a determinant if a white men had a sincere love for my people and the human race or was in the pursuit of a Black Woman as an opportunity to fulfill an erotic fantasy created in their heads: “What/How do you feel about Black Men?” Needless to say, the choice to pursue Black Women was the ladder. I question how many Black Men dating white women has utilized their love and understanding of a Black woman/community to be the bases of why he should or should not date a white woman.

    c. Even with all I have grown to understand about myself, yin/yang, etc., I still single.

  5. Deborrah Cooper November 4, 2010 at 12:24 AM #

    I am a woman that refuses to step into the path of the bullets shot by clueless men such as Darroll Lawson. I’ve made a series of these videos myself with a heroine by the name of “Sistah Girl” that speaks to men in a no nonsense fashion about their selfishness, sense of entitlement, and dumbness when it comes to treating women with respect.

    I saw the series of videos you speak of and was not the least bit amused. The misogynistic attitudes that too many Black men have towards Black women is appalling, and I refuse to accept it.

    One of the videos I did was entitled “Black Men – How to Love a Black Woman” and it featured a male speaking about the things he did wrong which caused his woman to leave.

    Another focused on the issue of street harassment, and how women are cat called, have things thrown at them, their bodies touched and rude things said to them as a matter of course by men. Instead of providing support, Black men came onto the page in droves and blamed Black women for not being open to their “conversation” as they focused on what they wanted, not on what felt comfortable or safe for women.

    Bottom line, we have a problem in that far too many Black men do not even LIKE Black women. They despise us, hate us, want to do harm to us mentally, emotionally and physically.

    Knowing that, how likely is it for a Black woman to trust a Black man?

  6. Jackie November 4, 2010 at 9:59 AM #

    Love this piece. http://www.blogtalkradio.com/urbanjustice

  7. Jacquetta Szathmari November 4, 2010 at 12:16 PM #

    I love the blame it on feminism part. I have a single mom and a deadbeat dad and in the few conversations he has had with me over the years he has blamed the advent of the strong woman on the decline of the black man. Where is the army of black feminists that stopped him from taking time out his tail-chasing narcissistic “blame it on the man” existence to spend time with his daughter. Please- it’s always someone else’s fault. Numbers-wise we are a small group. Luckily for those who are frustrated with brothers and can’t find what they are looking for we live in a world in which it is possible to date all kinds of men. Whew. Same goes for black men- if you don’t like black women, date women who are not black. That seems a lot easier than the blame game.

  8. southernbella November 5, 2010 at 6:46 AM #

    You know, I have mixed emotions about this. While it’s extreme and makes some sweeping generalizations, I don’t think the male dilemma in the second vignette was off base. I have seen and heard this many times, particularly in New York. Actually, they aren’t generally that open about it. You just see it unfolding. I have also dated that type of man for a number of years. Except it was the opposite in terms of college – so the HBCU comment probably was off base. Haven’t heard many fellas gripe about a Spelman or HU (etc..) sista. But there is an unreasonable expectation among the brothers sometimes. But hear me when I say sometimes. I have also met some really good men, who are very supportive and engaged in the family process, who are leaders but not cave men. So it’s possible….

  9. Kevin November 6, 2010 at 3:49 PM #

    Reading this article and all of its responses, I could type a lot of counterpoints to many statements made. But where would that get us? In a back and forth that won’t cease until we’re ALL happily married to the person whom we adore. And as I read, I see a lot of sweeping indictments as I did in the videos. It hurts, I know. Finger pointing is childish and a cop-out for not looking at your own shortcomings. So instead of focusing on why he/she is bad business for the black family, focus on yourself first. It’s not to say anyone who reads my post sucks at life, it just means you (and I), black man or black woman, can do better at living it. How can you save an entire race when it’s not your job? Work on self first and then watch how easy it is to point out the positives in your brothers and sisters.

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