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Don’t get me wrong- Jill Scott is my girl, but the minute I saw the link to the story, I thought to myself, “This is about to be some ish.”

Jill’s comments in Essence Magazine last week were fuel on the fire, sparking the latest blow up in the black women and love debate. While the interracial dating topic is not a new one, the media forecast was just right for a high profile uproar. Not only is she the May cover girl for Essence (again), showing off her acting chops on Law and Orders: SVU and starting the first leg of her tour with Maxwell, Jill was getting ready to walk the red carpet for “Why Did I Get Married Too?”, the sequel to Tyler Perry’s 2007 box office smash. Jill normally keeps a low profile, and with people watching Erykah go streaking in Dallas, I just was hoping, that maybe, just maybe this story wouldn’t get a whole lot of attention.

I love hearing black women speak their truths, it’s one of the reasons why I love Jill’s music. But lately all the talk about black women and their damnation to inevitable, eternal singledom has been kind of exhausting. It feels like just when you’re getting over Steve Harvey’s intervention, Reggie on the cover of Essence sparks Reggie-gate. Talking about being black and hopelessly single has become the new filler story. And I know it’s a problem, that it’s a real concern but sometimes I just want to be single without it being a part of a larger national crisis. If everyone would just ease up, I would be able to go one whole month without (a) gnawing off my nails thinking about how I’m missing out on the festivities of another Black Marriage Day, (b) wondering if Lauryn Hill’s comeback album will beat my march down the aisle or (c) having an anxiety attack as the latest study scares me into thinking all my future prospects for a husband are going to end up in Rikers Island making beats with Lil’ Wayne.

Some days, I just want to keep my sanity, so after hearing about it initially, I hoped this whole thing would go away. Needless to say, you’re reading this because a week later- it hasn’t.

For the past week, Jill has been everywhere: on tips of bloggers tongues, in comments on Essence.com, she was even on CNN responding to live tweets and convincing all of middle America that she loved love. Folks have gone in on calling her a bitter black woman, a passive aggressive racist to just straight up a racist. Thankfully, Jill is a sharp woman and defended her words gracefully.

Jill didn’t just put the comment about “the wince” out there and then leave it alone. Jill spoke on where the wince comes from, why as a black woman, she feels that way, why other black women often feel that way and most importantly made it clear to people that she was not saying that the wince came from a place of hate. In fact, after her explanation of the relationship between black men and women through slavery, through emancipation and then through the Civil Rights Era, Jill writes that:

“These harsh truths lead to what we really feel when we see a seemingly together brother with a Caucasian woman and their children. That feeling is betrayed. While we exert efforts to raise our sons and daughters to appreciate themselves and respect others, most of us end up doing this important work alone, with no fathers or like representatives, limited financial support (often court-enforced) and, on top of everything else, an empty bed. It’s frustrating and it hurts!”

Now, I don’t share Jill’s feeling of betrayal. I have seen interracial relationships in my family that have love more real than the ground we walk on. So whether I see a happy interracial couple or a happy pair of Barack-Michelle clones, I smile. I smile because if they could find a love that fits like that I know I can too. But while I don’t share her feeling of betrayal, I understand where that comes from. It is not a logical feeling and after listening to her interview on CNN, I don’t think Jill was trying to defend her feelings as such. Initial reactions often aren’t logical or well thought out, but they are always real.

Not every black woman may agree with Jill or agree with me, but you have definitely heard this conversation before. Maybe it was in the house with your aunts or doing manis with your girls, but you and I both know that what Jill said is nothing that black women everywhere haven’t discussed behind closed doors. And in some ways, I’m glad Jill made her statement and then stood behind it. Why should something that’s hard to talk about be denied?

However, re-reading Jill’s piece, something struck a nerve inside of me. It was the example she chose. The man whose marriage made her wince, was not the average guy working a nine to five. He was a professional athlete, well off and good looking. But isn’t that always the type that we use for the ‘he-found-himself-a-Becky spiel.’ Looking through Jill’s words again, I wonder if Jill, if any black woman would have felt the same way if the black man in question had been just a blue collar brother instead of a fine ball player?

Reading through Jill’s thoughts on how black women have “been there” for black men, I have to say that while I understand we went through many struggles together, black women need to stop using the rhetoric that “all black men belong to us” to justify hating on someone else’s bliss. I don’t know about you, but ladies I will say that as long as I am single, I don’t belong to any black man but my father. We have no right claiming ownership on black men and we have to reevaluate the hypocrisy with which we call them “ours.”

Somehow, the black men we want to claim as “ours” aren’t the ones that are still caught in the struggle. We are quick to point out when an affluent black man chooses a white woman as a partner but spend time hemming and hawing about what we’d do when we realized our man makes less than us. I say us because I know I’m included. If I was to tell you I had never thought about the income gap between me and the black man I was sitting across on a third date, I’d be lying. Somewhere in the back of my head I can hear Kanye West saying, “Now, I ain’t saying she a golddigger, but she ain’t messing with no broke, broke…”

Thinking about a man’s financial status is not wrong in and of itself. All women do it. As we get older and think about our careers more seriously, we will do the same to the men we date. But many of us suffer from what I call the “commodity syndrome.” We are quick to go calling a black man “ours” only after he’s done all the things that make him our perfect candidate. For many women a college degree and/or right income are the biggest factors that allow us to give him the ticks on our checklist. But what about those men who aren’t that? The ones who don’t have the degree you have but treat their momma right? The ones who will probably never make the six figures Sheree Whitfield wanted from her divorce, but makes dinner for you when you get home? Are we so busy tagging the most eligible bachelors list as “ours” that we don’t want other brothers to share in the title?

Now, I realize that not every working class man is a gem. Despite my examples, there are broke guys who won’t make you a meal let alone make an effort to be on time. But there are also a few who get ignored as we are with our girls dancing to Keri and Keyshia singing “Get Your Money Up.”

Jill’s feelings weren’t bad but her example is too often the man we are all looking for. Black women have a challenge in dating because for many of us, there aren’t men who match our academic and professional profiles. And ladies, do know I sympathize and am going through it with you. But instead of looking for our mirror image we need to start realizing that while income and title can be items on our wish list, they are not the things that keep strong relationships together.

So don’t go throwing your lists out the window. Just look them over one more time. Remembering your heartaches and lessons learned from your past, I’m sure you will start making some changes. My list freshman year of college was longer than the one with recommended items for my dorm room. Now, what remains are the values I want the man in my life to have. The spirit and the priorities we need to share. As I have grown out of my list making phase, came back from heartbreak and embraced living as the woman I want to be, my profile of the perfect man has been stripped down, revised and edited. I still have my parameters, because it wouldn’t be fair for my children to have a father who is a 40- year-old aspiring rapper. But salary is nowhere as high as trust, commitment and respect. I’m more concerned with character than cheddar because a man who can prove to me his worth and fully respect my own is the man I’ll be calling “mine.”

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  • anon

    I hate woman that say, “black men have it easier cause they can get any woman of any race and its much harder for black women to get men of other races.”So what are saying black men should only date black women cause black women can only get black men? Do you know how selfish and degrading that sounds? I mean thats bullshit if a black man can get a woman of any race so can a black woman so please stop complaining besides theres alot of worse things in life then marrying someone of a different race. And dont give me that bullshit that the media worships the white woman. Black men go through the same shit in the media everywhere you look its always something about Zac Efron or Brad Pitt or Rob Patterson or George Clooney and everytime there is a list of top 20 most beautiful women in the world who is always top 3? Beyonce thats right a black women so please dont give me that media BS cause black men have it just as hard its just we arent as open about it. And i’m not trying to attack any black women i love black women i’m just saying it goes both ways.

  • Kalima

    I disagree with the author on two points that she makes. She states that black women are only concerned with successful and wealthy black men when it comes to interracial dating, because of the example that Jill used. But what Jill used was an example, something that we all can see clearly. If I said that the majority of the black men in Northern Virginia are in interracial relationships, you could believe it or not but if you have never been to Northern Virginia you would not know what I am talking about, so to get my point across, I will use the example of an athlete or actor because anyone can see that and believe it. That is why it is called an example. But the reality for most black women are the successful black men that they see in their everday life, and when I say successful I mean the postal worker, the car mechanic, the federal worker, those men who are hard working and just trying to make a living. That is what most of us black women mean by successful men, not the actor, or athlete, we are not concerned with them because those are people we will probably never come in contact with.

    Also the author made a point about the only black men that we claim as “ours” are successful black men. That is also far from the case. The majority are those black men that aren’t worth two cents, that is usually our plight. The 26 year old who is still living in his mother’s house, that she is still taking care of, or the 45 year old black man still living in his parent’s basement, has never moved out and doesn’t plan on it. Or the black man that we usually end up moving in with us and caring for just to say that we have a man. These are the black men that we have always claimed as ours for so long.

    I just think that is unfortunate, I as a black woman am only attracted to black men, and I’m sure that many other black women feel that way. It has nothing to do with money, or success, it’s just what I am attracted to. So am I now forced to try to like something different, that is sad.

  • Ms. Renee

    I’m 40 single and would love to have a man. I lived in NYC for a while and would see interracial couples all over the place and occasionally, yes ‘wince’ somewhere in the back of my mind. But in the main it doesn’t bother me. A white woman is something I could never be and wouldn’t want to being as I’m 40 and look as if I’m in my late 20’s. Membership has it’s privileges you know. Think of it like this people when you see good looking obviously gay men you just chalk it up to being a damned shame and move on right? Yeah well this should be the same way. & too As Leslie pointed out it’s not just the ‘paid’ brothers we should be giving the time of day because frankly there aren’t many ‘paid’ brothers out there, we kind of do it to ourselves don’t we. Anyhoo that’s my two cent’s worth.

  • Kevin

    The commenters who have argued in favor of black folk being romantically separatist with the claim that all other groups do the same are, well, wrong.

    For starters, look at the stats for Asian-Americans, Latino-Americans, Native Americans, and Jewish Americans… ALL have far higher percentages of marriages and relationships with people outside of their own group than black people do.

    And here’s a shocker for (some of) you… Asian-American MEN are more likely to be with white women than African-American men are. (Despite the assumption many make that Asian guys are shunned by all non-Asian women.)

    I won’t bother to back this up here with the data… if you don’t believe me you can google it (or not google it and choose not to believe me, whatever).

  • Doodie

    Jill Scott is obviously mixed with lighter and darker tones. Why does she draw this silly white/black line? Looks like the one drop rule is still strong in some communities.