“With those hooker type wears hon you’re, playin’ yaself
With those skin tight jeans baby you’re, playin’ yaself
Everything all exposed you’re, playin’ yaself
You’re, playin’ yaself, you’re, playin’ yaself”
-Jeru Tha Damaja
Last week’s excellent column appearing on the JudgyBitch website by Oxford mathematician Jonathan David Farley (henceforth referred to as JDF), “A Modest Proposal For Black Men“, was just that, excellent. After decades of a fairly one-sided “conversation” obtaining on relationship issues in the Black community, i.e., being dominated by Black men, the past few years in particular has seen a groundswell of sentiment on the part of Black women, largely aided by the rapid and ever-expanding democratizing nature of the internet, making the case that while it may be true that a goodly portion of Black women have their fair share of foibles, Black men themselves, taken together as a group, leave quite a bit to be desired when it comes to dating and forming relationships and families. It’s been a longtime coming for this grizzled veteran of the Manosphere, that sector of the internet that concerns itself with mens’ issues.
JDF’s presentation cites what are now a matter of documented facts and are pretty much beyond a matter of dispute (except to Black men themselves – which is a huge part of the problem!) and at this point, hardly needs recounting. However, Farely overlooks a very crucial factor in the breakdown of the Black family over the past half a century that has rarely gotten the facetime it has deserved – that of Class.
You see, JDF, being a highly formally educated white collar Black professional, is not at all that different from white folks who are cut from the same cloth. As a lifelong blue-collar tradesman who began her career right out of one of Philadelphia’s worst public schools and has spent a lifetime out on the bricks of the inner city, what I have consistently noticed in both the Black and white “conversations” obtaining on dating and mating in American life, is that it tends to be myopically focused on the at least nominally middle class (and more often than not, the de facto elite upper middle class). This was the point I made in a previous article, “A Blue Collar Brotha Speaks (At Last!)”, where I responded to a piece originally appearing in the Atlantic. When we discuss “relationships” and “dating”, the conceit is that everyone is college educated, works in an office environment and meets each other via “social networking mixers” and rigidly class (read: race) stratified dating apps like Tinder. The only time gals like me get any “airtime” at all, it’s to serve as a kind of cardboard cutout scapegoat for the forelorn educated Sistas, who couldn’t land their Darius and are now nearing perpetual spinster territory, or as arid academic fodder for what ails the working and lower class sections of Black American life. No one cares to actually speak to us, or give us a platform from which to be heard; and the conceit is that Black men there, our putative “assortative mating equals” as it were, are perfectly fine just as they are.
They most assuredly are not.
It is now a well-documented fact that marriage has all but totally collapsed among the working class in American life overall; Charles Murray’s excellent work, “Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010″, which was largely informed by a white working class neighborhood here in Philly known as Fishtown, an area I know very well, bears out this fact. But the Black American working class along these lines, is markedly worse – indeed, the bulk and mass of the oft-quoted “72% of all Black babies born out of wedlock” hails from this and lower sections of Black America, while the majority of the increasingly shrinking minority of Black marriages taking place (currently around 27%, per the US Census) is barely hanging on, with birthrates lower than the aforewomentioned 72%. Other facts that JDF cites in her piece with regard to Black men, are painfully in evidence in abundance in working and lower class Black America: 60% of Baby Mamas have more than one Baby Mommy; half of all Black men have Herpes (to say nothing of other STDs); Black men as a group, have a net worth of $5 USD (which raises interesting questions about all the educated Sistas out there; hmm…); and yes, four out of five Black men are clinically obese. And this is just for starters – trust me, it gets a lot worse. For gals like me – hard, steady workers who keep their noses clean and play by the rules – the men available to us are nothing like the Sistas of yesteryear.
I’ve learned over my years of writing that people seem to resonate more with the personal narrative than the political polemic or academic argument, so please allow me to put it this way:
At the dawn of the 1970s, my mom – who was born in the deep south during the height of Jim Crow and out and out racial discrimination, who had served in the Marine Corps in the Korean War and completed her education there (GED) and on the G.I. Bill (vo-tech school) – met my dad one fine spring day here in Philly while on the way back home to NYC where she worked as a longshoreman after a weekend of hanging out with friends. He was on his way to work as a nurse at one of North Philly’s hospitals, fresh out of high school himself. In what would today be called “street harassment”, my mom bust a u-turn on Broad St., pulled over, got out and approached my dad, got the digits, came back to take his out later that week; a month later, they were married and three decades later had raised five children into productive adults. Their union finally ended with her death barely a week after my 30th birthday.
My dad was regarded by one and all as bright, earnest, fun-loving, bubbly and very attractive – a “thick” “redbone” with a mane of red hair to match, I was told by those who knew him in high school that he would have to beat off the suitors with the proverbial stick. My mom was 35 when she wed him; he was 19. Despite living in the shadow of Jim Crow and very real lingering racial discrimination in the world of the union trades, my mom was able to find herself a fertile, young, pretty husband with which to build a life and family with; something worth fighting for. As dinged as the American Promise was for her generation, it was still good enough to deliver the goods when and where it mattered.
Now, fast forward to today, read, the dawn of the 21st century – the ostensibly enlightened, “post-racial” era. What are the chances that her daughter could replicate her example and success? We know that blue collar wages have not only remained stagnant since then, they have gone backward – and the exact same thing has happened to the available mating pool of Black men for gals like me. Today, what is available are Baby Mamas, men who have serious mental health problems (25% of all American men currently on prescribed mental health drugs), divorcees who got burned bad by Ms. Big, morbidly obese, tatted out like lifers in the joint, have really bad attitude problems, have a high chance of being infected with STDs…the list is seemingly endless. We can quibble over the “causes” of the situation – the Great Society, Roe v. Wade, the Pill, the Sexual Revolution, White (and Black!) Flight, deindustrialization, globalization, downsizing, Second (and Third) Wave Masculism(TM), the Crack Wars – but the bottomline is this:
It’s people like my parents – a blue collar tradesman-turned independent contractor and a career nurse – who are the bedrock foundation of the Black community. They are the people little girls like me saw everyday. They are the ones who make a community, a community – consisting of families, and not the free-fire, all-against-all war zones like “Chiraq” and “Little Mogadishu” that so many Black cities have become. Black women like my mom will be the ones leading periodical cleanups in the neighborhood; Black women like my mom will be the ones providing a consistent, day in, day out, example of what a productive citizen looks like; Black women like my mom will be the ones to keep girls from growing up into outlaws who terrorize their own people. In my time of participating in my community’s town watch after singlehandedly dispatching a quartet of knuckleheads who attacked me and my (then) gentleman on Valentine’s Day evening a few years back, I noticed that it wasn’t the Jonathan David Farelys out there with me on patrol, confronting the knuckleheads on the corner. They often live quite a comfortable distance away from such areas and in any event, have more “important” things to do. What has existed only a few decades ago during my parents’ lifetime, is now all but gone – and what is on “offer” in terms of potential mates for Black women like yours truly in the hood, is hardly an inducement to fight for the “community”.
Indeed, it’s a powerful incentive to flee.
That well-heeled Brothas like JDF have now taken to the internet to give voice to these concerns, only goes to show how this tangle of pathology has metastasized to the Talented Tenth classes – evidenced by Black men’s intense interest in and steady diet of “Scandal”, “Real Housewives of Atlanta” and the like.
But for yours truly, it’s an old story at this point.
And one that no one seems to care much about.
As Shahrazad Ali has pointed out a generation ago, the Black woman has always been held up for public examination and scrutiny; President Barack Obama herself has been quite keen to upbraid Black women enmasse for their real and perceived shortcomings. However, as Ali also has observed, Black men as a group, have been very much a protected class. If there is to be any hope or chance of righting the sinking ship that is Black America, serious attention needs to be given to the areas of Class and of Black men themselves.
Don’t forget to checkout Obsidian Radio – my daily podcast on YouTube! Here’s one of my latest: “What The Brothas Want”