One does not have to look far to find some article or statement being made about the state of Black relationships. While many of these statements that regard Black love, marriage and committed relationships as being on the decline may be accurate, the truth runs much deeper. Our concepts of love and relationships is in a state of confusion in general in America. Part of that reason is because we have a flawed and antiquated view about love. We continue to base our approach and treatment of love on the limited selfish notions of the past because we somehow believe that we once had the answer and have now lost it. But I submit to you that maybe we never had the right answer. Maybe we just had the right people with the right approach.
I saw an episode from the second season of Being Mary Jane starring the gorgeous Gabrielle Union that really got me to thinking. One of the topics that repeats itself through a number of the different characters story arcs is about relationships. This, of course, is a very relevant and poignant discussion within the Black community and seeing brown faces address these concerns is empowering and enlightening.
Mary Jane’s father makes a couple of tough yet truthful assertions in his spiel: finding the right partner is difficult but not unattainable and a person has to believe that to find them; traditional relationship models may not be relevant to contemporary society; and don’t go after your partner, go after your happiness.
Individuals who want to believe that there is no fulfillment in love, that true love does not exist, cling to these assumptions because this despair is actually easier to face than the reality that love is a real fact of life but is absent from their lives.
– Bell Hooks, All About Love: New Visions
Food for Thought
Marriage, commitment, monogamy, and happily ever after endings have become the stuff of cynicism in America. Now more than ever there is a view of these ideals as not just traditional but delusional. We have lost faith in our ability to find love and a loving partner. It’s almost ludicrous when thought about in comparison with all of the things that are now possible for us: going to other planets, cellular communication, text messaging, cars that drive themselves and tons of other things that a few decades could only be seen in the plot of a sci-fi movie. But we think love and partnership are impossible!
While we have evolved and there are so many kinds of relationship models to choose from, it seems that we feel more restricted than ever in our options. We place ourselves at odds with traditional models of relationships because we see other people finding happiness in their personal philosophies. Having more options should be a liberating and wonderful thing. And it will be when we realize that no one model is perfect for everyone nor is on model perfect for every relationship.
We, especially in the Black community, often have a way of glamorizing and glorifying the relationships of our elders. We look back at our parents and grandparents who spent 3,4 and 5 decades together and covet that. What we forget is the values and the models that were available to them were different. Who’s to say they would have had the same relationship in today’s society. Maybe such models are irrelevant for the world today. Maybe those models are something that we should respect and admire but not aspire to. That’s not to say that we can’t spend decades with the partner of our choice but just that it may not look like what it looked like for grandma ‘n’em.
We fear that evaluating our needs and then carefully choosing partners will reveal that there is no one for us to love. Most of us prefer to have a partner who is lacking than no partner at all. What becomes apparent is that we may be more interested in finding a partner than in knowing love.
– Bell Hooks, All About Love: New Visions
When 2 people endeavor to spend a lifetime together in a bond, how it happens should be dictated by the desires of those 2 individuals. Perhaps with one partner their can only be co-habitation and with another marriage is a possibility. Neither is right and neither is wrong. It simply depends on whether or not both people can be fulfilled by the model that is available to them. Like the point Mary Jane’s father makes in the clip about whether or not she should ‘go after David.’ He says:
No, you’re supposed to go out there and get your happiness and if it’s David don’t let misunderstandings and misinterpretations get in your way.
– Being Mary Jane
The dialogue that takes place between Mary Jane and her father is gripping because it dares to make some assertions that almost directly go against popular thoughts about relationships, dating, and love. What I love most about his rant is that he doesn’t have the answer and doesn’t pretend. What he does have is a belief that she can be happy and that she can figure out how to do so.
Ultimately what every person should be looking for is what makes us happy. If having someone to love is part of that…great! But at no time should the model of that happiness be restricted by popular opinion, the rules of a relationship model, or by the difficulty it takes to attain it. If a person is going to find happiness with someone they are going to have to be willing to see that look like something they may never have seen before, believe in it and put in the effort to make it work. This isn’t the answer for finding love, it’s the support for my belief in the fact the we all can do so – even Black people.
I’m not sayin; I’m just sayin,
An Angry Black Man