I was riding in the car with my mother, tucked into the backseat and listening to the radio. I was five or six years old. Somehow, the conversation over the waves made me pause to consider: for whom was life most difficult? Black men or women? I spent the drive from my school to Grandma and Grandpa’s house in a pensive funk. As we rounded the corner onto Allegheny Ave. for ‘Fish Fridays,’ I spoke up suddenly.
‘It’s Black women.’
‘What is baby?’
‘It’s worse to be a Black woman than a Black man, because at the end of the day, no matter how hard it’s been for a Black man, he can still find enough energy to step on the neck of the Black woman.’
All children are sponges. I was a sponge growing in a highly racially-aware and civic minded household. I have no idea which exposure to conversation, news clips, and books had led me to this conviction. Surely it wasn’t the situation at home. My parents demonstrated nothing but an equal partnership couched in a deep mutual respect. If anything, my father praised my mother for intelligence and business prowess that he said outpaced his own (and please believe, he was quite impressed with himself). It was certainly a conviction though, and not just an amorphous opinion. I was very upset; frustrated and near tears at the injustice of it.
‘All we do is support them. We’re marching, working, cooking, raising kids, loving. But they’re so angry and hurt and we’re the only ones they have to take it out on. It’s not like it’s not hard for us. We’re Black too … AND women. It’s not fair!’
My mother is not one to be easily put off her game, but she was a bit startled. I stretched up as tall as my tiny self could to watch her face in the rear view mirror. Perhaps the most troubling part of the moment was that she couldn’t immediately refute what I’d said. My parents weren’t in the habit of lying to me, but watching my mother’s face cloud over in her own forlorn resignation was probably the most honest moment we’d shared to that point.
‘Sometimes… I think you’re right,’ she offered, lifting her shoulders slightly.
Here I am, 20 years later struggling with the same conundrum, only now, I have a history of personal experiences that could color and inform my actions. Specifically, dating has come into the picture. Why date black men? If you’re playing along at home, you’ll recall that all has not been well in the love department for dear old Dara. In fact, I’ve put myself on a bit of a hiatus (if you impose it yourself, it can’t be called a dry spell 😉 ) so as to save myself from the heartbreak that has seemed to inevitably follow any hopeful leap into romance.
At this point, it would be exceedingly easy to adopt the ‘n*ggas ain’t shit’ attitude I see on many Black women.. After all, I’ve encountered enough deceit, disgust, disrespect, mistreatment, and plain *meanness* to want to give up on the desire to share romantic love with a Black man. Honestly, the feeling that you are completely undesirable to a Black man can be a hard one to shake, especially in an environment where it so permeates (hellooooo San Francisco). I’d like my Blackness to be a boon to the person that falls in love with me. Not because I’m exotic, but because at the end of a long day we can share in frustrated, comfortable, helpless, angry and hilarious short hand that needn’t be taught.
So why not give up? At that, why not give up on the support of Black men at all? It’s tiring and can be all-consuming; more-so when it feels thankless. I mean, logic dictates that this dream is so much Fetch: not gonna happen.
‘But they still need it. Even if they don’t know it. I don’t want you being with one who is mean or hurtful to you; that is unacceptable. But you can’t stop supporting and loving them all, because no one else is going to do it.’
And there it is. A mother’s words to her little Black girl. A girl she’d brought into a world that dismissed, diminished, attacked,
ogled and hated her and her brothers from the moment of their birth. A world that did all it could to rob them of their humanity.
Why not give up? Because I’m still needed. And because I want to be demonstrably deserving of the love I desire.
I love you.
Even when you don’t love me back.
Even when you don’t love yourself.
I love you.
When the world calls you a monster.
When they can’t see your soul.
I love you.
I’ll keep loving you. I’ll keep loving you as a human being. I’ll love you into person-hood. It’s my biggest, most radical act– to love myself and you and our sons and daughters. And one day you’re going to be so full of my love, so sated, so bored with it, that you’ll be able to return the same.
I’m not giving up on you. There are enough folks doing that already.