Dear Black Man: A Letter from a Loved One
Dear Black Man,
I would like to know how to love you? I would like to know how I can love you the way you desire and still be treated the way that I desire?
I only ask because there is a Breakfast Club interview where self-proclaimed black feminists Amber Phillips and Jamilah Lemieux were of course speaking on race, gender and how they intersect for black women and Ms. Phillips struck more than a few nerves during the interview.
Her comments reignited a common debate in the black community: who struggles the most?
Many black feminists insist that the work the black woman puts into her community is unmatched because her struggles are unmatched, outside and within the black community.
Ms. Phillips alludes to the fact that the number 2 killer of African American women is black men. This sent black men into an uproar.
Black men have been vehemently defending themselves against these comments, claiming slander. Further, any conversation where both parties can understand and be understood is cut off due to hurt feelings.
So, in an effort to understand and be understood, I am writing this open letter to black men to explain, to ask questions and hopefully, get answers.
It seems black women toggle back and forth when regarding the value of black men, one day they are our strength and our backbone. The next day, they are a part of a vicious system that contributes to women being second class citizens.
Black men believe it is one or the other but for most black women, it is both. Black men are the light of our life because we share a common experience and when they are aware, they can understand certain struggles we face daily. But black men also participate in the subjugation of black women because there are allowances made for the men that do not apply to women.
How, is the question of course? Black men claim, and some of their words are true, that they defend and uplift black women as much as black women uplift them.
Well, let us see. When black men talk about the injustice they suffer at the hands of white supremacy, ignorant white people say things like, “not all white people” or “that is not true” or “I did not do that specifically” in an attempt to avoid feeling responsible.
Some white people claim that black people are being divisive by consistently commentating on America’s racial divide. Some white people insist that it is black people’s fault that they live the way they live. They insist that black people are solely responsible for the socio-economic circumstances and that sociology plays no role in that regard.
The black community does not stand for this; as a unit, we band together and read the receipts so the white community can be made aware of how they directly or indirectly participate in racism. And the only way for white people to improve their reputation is if ‘good’ white people check the ‘bad’ white people and the bad behavior stops.
The black woman supports the black man wholly in this endeavor, often times articulating what black men cannot in an effort to aide them in proving their point.
Now. When black women talk about racial issues, black men support them unequivocally, amening to a lot of black women’s points. However, when a black woman brings up the gender binary, it seems as though black men completely abandon her.
Any point that the black woman brings up about the black man is immediately cast as a divisive statement and all of sudden black women do not love black men.
That brings us back to the Breakfast Club interview. It is fair to say that Amber Phillips delivered the truth without the appropriate context but in her defense, when white people insist that black people provide the proof for accusations of racism against white people, black people tell them to open their eyes and look around.
However, I will elaborate on the truth. A lot of black men claimed Ms. Phillips was slandering black men because the number 1 and 2 killer of black women 35 and up are cancer and heart disease, not black men. Ms. Phillips is not 35 and up though. She falls in between the 15-34 range where the number 2 killer of black women indeed is homicide, 16 to 17 percent depending on your age group.
Now, how does Ms. Phillips know black men are killing black woman and it is not other black women committing these violent crimes? Well because sociologically, that does not make sense. Sociology tells us that men of any race commit far more violent crimes than women. Men committing almost 80 percent, while women round out around 20 percent.
So the segue she made from the number 2 killer of black women being homicide, to black men are the number 2 killers of black women is not an extreme leap. Of course though, you need that context.
I do not blame men for not knowing about the actual and sociological statistics. Much like white people who are unaware of racial adversities because those adversities do not directly affect them negatively, black men also live in this bubble. The black woman’s gender problems do not directly affect black men negatively so black men have a hard time understanding why the black woman loves him but despises the privileges he upholds.
I, as a black woman, love and sympathize with black men. I know based on our race that there are certain truths for all of us, whether we know it or not. I know that a white high school graduate can get a job before an African American college graduate. I know that there are “American” names companies prefer. I know that all black people make less than any other demographic except the Hispanics when concerning cents made on the dollar. I know that if a white person makes $25.22 an hour, while a black person makes $18.49 an hour, regardless of age, experience or education.
I, as a black woman, know that black men are incredibly sensitive. I have no statistics for this, only my lived experience. When I was trying to think of one quality that all the black men in my life had in common I found it to be their sensitive nature.
I understand. Black women understand because we live through what you live through to a higher or lesser degree depending on the circumstance. The black woman lives through being cast as the problem in every plot like the black man does. Black women live through making less money because of race like the black man does. Black women live through their sons, fathers and more increasingly lately themselves, being criminalized. Black women live on the front lines for slain black men. Black women understand.
I only ask for understanding in return. Understand that when I tell you, you have privilege, you need to look instead of turning a blind eye. Understand that you have no right to demand your liberties and insist that I quiet down about mine. Understand that when I critique behavior that negatively affects me the goal is the same, whether the behavior is based on gender or race: my goal is safety, equality and equity. I ask you to understand that when I critique you, I am not belittling you. I ask, that you understand that the freedoms you seek from white men, I seek from all men.
Believe me when I tell you, you are understood but now I am asking if you can understand?
Want more from Mojo? Follow her on Instagram, @Mojosway.