Article from BlackVoices.com — At a house party one time, I saw a honey-colored, really cute sista. In between swigs of wine, as friendly introductions were being made among party-goers, I attempted to introduce myself to her:

“How you doin’, sweetheart,” I said as I smiled my winning party smile and extended my hand to shake hers in a gentlemanly way

Her response: “How you doin’, what?”

I repeated: “How you doin’ sweetheart?

Her response (this time with her lips parsed and her nose turned up): “How you doin’, what?”

By this point, the soft grasp I had of her hand became a clawing Kimbo Slice-style grip she had conjured to show that she resented the way I made my introduction. After repeating the futile exchange once more just to see if this woman was for real, I dropped it, refusing to apologize for being friendly at a social function.

But I did get her point: Shaking her hand softly and calling her “sweetheart” was apparently an attempt to turn back years of women’s lib, and I needed to be tarred and feathered – sexist pig that I was.

Looking back, I’m sure that if I ran in to her now, “sweetheart” would probably not be on the list of things I’d call her.

Still, as I read through the pages of Cleveland-based journalist and The Root commentator Jimi Izrael‘s new book The Denzel Principle: Why Black Women Can’t Find Good Black Men,” I couldn’t help but think of this and other incidents, where I had to be the bad black guy for being at the wrong place at the right time around the wrong sista.

Full disclosure: Jimi and I have been friends for years, so to avoid conflicts of interests, this won’t be a review of his book, but I will analyze the premise of the book, which is basically as follows:

Black women have such a hard time finding compatible mates in black men because of a pop culture–created, unattainable standard that no man could ever grasp. The man they want is handsome, rich, powerful, gallant, confident, while at the same time docile, compliant, perpetually agreeable, and automotonic.

Izrael spends chapters on his own observations of black women — including his mother, his two failed marriages, Essence magazine, Oprah Winfrey, Iyanla Vanzant, Terri McMillan (you mean it wasn’t freakin’ obvious?) and several female archetypes that a guy might run across in his dating life. But his prose is a bit too general for me and he broadbrushes sistas with one stroke, as if it’s that easy to sum up black women.

Most people reading the book would feel Izrael’s bitterness over how some of his relationships have gone, and he is known for debates in which his notions are challenged as sexist and disrespectful. Honestly I’d love to see him in the hotseat on a cable network with whichever sista he’s pissed off this week. Stuff like this makes great television.

But with that said, you can’t really take the treatise that seriously. It’s basically what guys talk about in barbershops and locker rooms. And yes, it is funny. I found myself laughing out loud a few times on the subway not only about his candor, but that he made me think of more than a few of my own ex-girlfriends.

Now Izrael does get personal in the book and is open about his relationship successes and failures, but he also gets kinda TMI, and there are things I could have lived without knowing. What’s missing is the view from the other side: he puts his ex-wives’ cruelty on front street, but I’m curious to hear their side of the story. Hmm….

He also made some salient points about hyperfeminism, such as the kind I encountered from “sweetheart” above. He’s not the only dude to be sick of being the bad black guy just because someone feels subjugated by their boss or had a rotten experience with an ex-boyfriend. If I’m not the one who cheated on you with your college roommate, then I shouldn’t be the scapegoat.

But for the record, I do disagree with him on feminism as a whole. Izrael argues that feminism is a source of the problems between black men and women. Nonsense. Feminism got women the right to vote, won educational opportunities for girls where there had been none, Title IX for example. It also opened doors in the workplace and ensured that women would have recourse in cases of sexual harassment. Around the world, feminists are fighting against atrocities, such as female genital mutilation and protecting children from forced marriages.

Izrael’s actual point is that somewhere along the line in our community, real and effective feminism somehow got watered down to a victimization chorus that way too many people joined and it ultimately alienated black men. On this, I can see where he’s going.

There is a huge industry of books, DVDs, radio shows and all types of media dedicated to so-called “self-help” and “healing,” but it really does nothing but sell perpetual victimhood. Not that there isn’t some good stuff out there, because there is. But where you’ve got smart people who tell you that you can break free from a bad relationship, or even abuse, come out an empowered survivor and actually help other people, there are twice as many soundbyte pimps who write what they write just to make an “Oprah” appearance and make millions.

That is symptomatic of a society where it is far more valuable to have a problem than to solve one.

Still I disagree with the considerable length of time he takes to blame black women for out-of-wedlock children or the proliferation of ghettos. Conceivably yes, communities filled with fatherless children, who depend on government subsidy and have little to no economy other than a black market and no real leadership can create a ghetto of cyclically perpetual poverty. I get it, I see it all the time.

But ghettos aren’t new. They existed long before the so-called 70 percent out of wedlock black birth rate (which, by the way, is loaded bullsh*t. I debunked that in a post last year.)

When Izrael blames sistas for why the “hood is so bad,” he fails to talk about discrimination, economic divestment, redlining, gerrymandering, police corruption, educational inequality, poor public and social services, inadequate health care, crooked politicians and dirty preachers. I’m willing to bet that’s got something to do with it too, Jimi.

The “Denzel Principle” did make me ask one question, though. At what point did black men and women declare war on each other? Where is it written that we’re supposed to be natural enemies, always in predatory mode? When did the blame game start, and is one group supposed to pay reparation to the other? Who would be the judge in our civil trial?

Listen, the whole “conflict” between black men and women is contrived garbage that doesn’t do anything for us or our children. The fact is, we need each other. Both black men and women are responsible for the progress we’ve made in this country so far. I mean damn…do you really think Barack and Michelle could be where they are without leaning on each other while being responsible with their relationship? Not saying they’re the perfect couple, but there’s something to learn there.

(Continue Reading @ Black Voices…)

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  • Paula

    Hmmmmm I do think feminism has created some problems between men and women. BUT, it (mostly) means women stopped taking bull from men. When I think about the mess my grandmothers and great-grandmothers had to put up with, all because they “were ONLY just women” it is disheartening.

    I think that as we adjust to the new shift in consciousness we will experience some not so great moments. Feminist rhetoric, moreover, black feminist rhetoric is the direct antithesis of the traditional male expectation. The opportunity for growth comes in working together to figure out where black male expectation/rhetoric and black feminist rhetoric intersect. This is where I hope the conversation/exchange begins to mature.

    For those that are tired of the conversation, I agree, but have to remind folks that what is talked about eventually is resolved, cause nothing gets clean if you constantly sweep things under the rug. This is that maturation process I mentioned before. We will have started airing our grievances, now we need to start listening and looking for solutions.

    I will say I won’t be a part of the group that buys the book, for I have found that bitterness and anger never produce good advice.

    As a communication studies student, with plans to teach gendered communication and intra-cultural communication I find these snippets of narrative very interesting.

  • hello people this stuff is real but being perpetuated by the media. I never want to see another story about black women on tv again…wtf????????????? seriously wtf!!! stop this propaganda bulll!