Sistas sure do spend plenty of time putting our men in their places. Checkin’ them. Givin’ them the business. Letting them know when they’re wrong, how wrong they are and how quick they ‘betta’ get done with that wrongness. We have an arsenal of friends, sisters, Sorors and co-workers to dog them out with, ready to co-sign on black men’s trifling, no-good-doin’ ways. And we have a dozen or more media outlets we use to vent about their shortcomings and failings, their problems and issues, their failures and faults. (Essence for one, has a tumultuous love/hate relationship with them, always willing to dedicate a good amount of real estate vocalizing our collective complaints about black men and then giving us 12 instructional pages on how to find one.)
Most of us, it seems, have a gripe or two about brothas. Brothas don’t want to commit. Brothas are habitually absent fathers. Brothas are emotionally unavailable. Brothas don’t respect/desire/appreciate/consider/want us. Brothas lack ambition and even worse, money. Brothas have wandering eyes and roaming penises. Brothas in short, disappoint us. Yet we get ugly when these same dejected and dysfunctional dudes end up on the wrong side of a relationship with Becky or become internally bitter and brim over with negativity after more than their fair share of verbal beat downs from angry sistas. I ain’t talking about Mae Mae and Pookie out on the block up to no good. They need a good telling about themselves if for nothing else but to stop spreading their madness to the young dudes in their circles. I’m talking about everyday men—our boyfriends, our nephews, our classmates—being berated after failing to meet the standards of an outspoken black woman.
With all of their ain’t ‘gots’ and don’t dos aired, investigated, rehashed, analyzed and clucked over in our circle of hens, the same problems keep arising. What we’re doing does not reinforce our men’s good qualities or making them strive to take their place as leaders in our community. We keep on bashing and meanwhile, nothing is changing. No one has anything new, much less anything positive to contribute to the ongoing conversation about black men and their sorry asses. Are we making it worse for them by beating them down? How is this tough love approach working out for us? Are any statistics declining by expecting the worst from our men? Does new figures show complaining about them have miraculously changed the tide in their behavior and attitude? It’s pointless to expect someone who feels like they can’t do right to try to do right.
Partly because we know society at large is going to start kicking them square between their back pockets—hard—almost as soon as they’re able to tell their left from their right. Partly because our community itself has its own set of expectations and standards for manhood. We dig into our boys from an early age. In some households, it’s almost family tradition for the women to ride the males to make respectable and productive men out of them. React like this, behave like that, stand tall and be proud—everybody hates a coonin’ Uncle Tom—but don’t talk back too much because you gotta be careful of the police and your boss and just about every other figure of authority. Know your history but don’t repeat it. Black women learn as well, but because boys are supposed to grow into heads of households and families, special attention is paid that they understand their roles as the footstool of America at large but hopefully, the eventual leaders of our communities.
Pity ain’t the answer. I don’t think I could drum up any even if I wanted to because being a black woman ain’t no walk on the sunny beach either. At the end of the day, too many brothas are afforded too many opportunities to throw them a collective pity party for the hardships they face. Comes with the territory. I’m just saying cut brothas some slack because they are apart of us—they can’t be all whack, broke, gay or blatantly irresponsible. Instead of making the struggle harder for black men, maybe we could do a throwback to the days before integration made our melting pot boil over and stop senselessly dogging out the other half of ourselves.