In Hill Harper’s new book “The Conversation” he takes a stab at the dating/marriage crisis in the black community. And why not? Everyone else is doing it from Steve Harvey to your grandmother. The Root gave the book a tepid review, arguing that while Harper tries to address both men and women in the book, it’s still largely geared towards black women and doesn’t offer much new.
But what more can be said about the black marriage crisis that hasn’t been said 50 times over and hasn’t been written about exhaustively in Essence Magazine? You have to applaud Harper for giving it the old college try because goodness knows, we need all the help.
Harper presupposes that black men and women need to talk. Great. I’m all for talking. I talk for a living. But as The Root’s Felicia Pride writes in her review there isn’t much talking going on in the great dating debate, just mostly “finger-pointing and avoiding responsibility.” As I wrote in an earlier piece, it’s easy to say “all black men are dogs” or “all black women are angry” and absolve yourself of any guilt in the reasons why you are single. These statements kill conversations, not start them.
Then there’s the whole separate debate of whether or not books like Harper’s, which focus solely on black male/female pairings, reinforce the belief that black women’s only options in dating are black men.
What I would personally like is an honest conversation between black men and women about what they actually want from one another. I feel like all too often we get stuck on fighting old battles and old hurts and don’t deal with the realities of our dreams and desires and how sometimes those are the culprits causing our unhappiness with one another.
I had a lengthy conversation with a male friend going through a custody battle who was frustrated with the perceived disrespect he’d received from his ex-wife and other women he’d dated. I mostly listened as he went into depths trying to figure out where things went so terribly wrong between black men and black women. Much of the critique of black women was well-worn and rote. The complaints about our perceived bossiness or how we are emasculating. He agreed that I weren’t these things, causing him to rethink some of his statements. And he understood that all black women weren’t this way, but I didn’t understand why when one black woman or one black man fails us, so many of us are quick to label all black men and women that way?
One of the first men I ever loved truly was horrible to me. He was also black. But my relationship with him did not change my perception of black men at all. After all, my father is a black man. My uncles are black men. My grandfathers were black men. And I love them all. It seemed immature and silly to base my view of black men solely on that bad relationship or any other bad dates that followed. I didn’t understand why black women couldn’t be extended that same courtesy. Instead we’re often all labeled as harpies.
Some women are emasculating. Some men are cruel. Some women are manipulative. And some men are unfaithful. Where does this mentality come from where we must taint the whole for the infractions of the some? That’s the conversation I’d like to have. When will we stop disrespecting each other out of bitterness?
If I were to ever write a dating book to black women I would tell them what I’ve said before on this blog, don’t panic. Freaking out over scary statistics like 70 percent of professional black women never being married will not get you a man. Being your best self, getting out there and meeting people, loving yourself and not clinging on to the past or bad pathologies, will help you find your happy place with or without a man.
As for black men, I obviously can’t speak for them, so I ask my male readers, what would you like to talk about in regards to the marriage crisis? What kind of conversation would you like to have and what advice would you give if you could write a book?
Harper had his shot. What’s yours?