Not too long ago, I came across a “Dear Abby” type of video in which a black woman asked for advice about whether she should “hold out for her ideal black man.” The woman is approaching her 40s, beautiful, educated and wants to marry and have a child someday soon. She has only dated black men who have left her for white women and she has been advised to date outside of her race, although that is not her desire. The subject matter got me thinking: How far should black women go for black love?
Should we give up on the concept of the “ideal black man”?
Let us first define what the “ideal black man” is. Some common descriptions I’ve read include:
Though the complete definition is obviously shaped by a woman’s individual preferences, those traits are a fair summation of what some desire. An ideal black man is a good black man, to put it simply for this discussion. (NOTE: While some concepts of the “ideal black man” lean towards unrealistic, superficial and/or materialistic realms, that will have to be a topic for another day.) Now the notion that “good black men are hard to find” is a harsh reality for some women, but does that mean Mr. Right and Black will not arrive? No, not necessarily, but if he doesn’t, then what?
Should we settle on any black man for the sake of black love?
What happens if a man is substituted for the “ideal” merely because he is black? What happens when the dreams of a “beautiful black family” and “black love” are so strong that they overshadow serious flaws in the man? He hits me, but he is my black man. He cheats on me, but he is my black man. We as black women, many of us who have endured so much and remain resilient, deserve men who will treat us with care and respect. If the man is black, that should not give him a pass to treat us otherwise. It is better to be alone. However, should we deny ourselves marriage and building a family if we don’t meet the “ideal black man”?
Should we turn down an “ideal man” of another race?
If some black men are marrying outside of their race, then why don’t we, right? While this logic appears to smash the stance of undying loyalty to “black love,” the answer is not quite that simple for some. The complexity comes with questions like:
Will a man of another race understand me?
Can we have conversations about race as I would with a black husband?
Can I be comfortable having biracial children?
Working through these questions (and others) requires honesty then introspection followed by meaningful dialogue. However, these steps cannot begin without first being open to love and marriage outside of our race.
Let us conclude with this insight from author Sophia A. Nelson’s interview with Karen Folan, who is a black woman in a happy interracial marriage:
“Race is not the key factor in what will make a successful marriage. The character traits and values of the person you love are what make it work,” says Folan. “People always assume that there will be a lot of drama in an interracial marriage. They are wrong. More of the drama comes from other people outside of the marriage – family, friends, people in social settings. Black women need to gain cultural fluency, because the twenty-first century is going to be the century of multiculturalism. … Black women have to be willing to have a back-and-forth exhange with men outside of the race.”
… She [Folan] added, “My husband and I model cross-cultural understanding.” According to Folan, the only time they’ve had a conflict over race was when Harvard professor Skip Gates accused a white policeman of harassment when he questioned why Gates broke into a home in Cambridge. (Professor Gates had forgotten his keys, and the home he broke into was his own.) Folan says she saw it from Gates’s point of view. Her husband sided with the policeman. “We got past it quickly,” she explained with a laugh. – Sophia A. Nelson, “Black Woman Redefined: Dispelling Myths and Discovering Fulfillment in the Age of Michelle Obama”
How far should black women go for black love?