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I have refrained from commenting on the Black Marriage Negotiation Videos for multiple reasons: I found them to be somewhat funny, I've been busy, and I'm tired of the single black man/single black woman finger pointing game that most of us are pros at by now. As I watched the videos though, I was unconvinced that I was seeing a "balanced" portrait. While the videos presented both sides of the issue, and while the one in which the sister was the problem rung true at several levels, the one with the brother was not as sharp, witty, or true. It struck me as coming from a brother who lacked a serious capacity for self-reflection and critique, however intelligent, well-read, or witty he may be.
Turns out I was right.
Yesterday, several Facebook friends posted the Root.com's interview with the creator of the videos, Darroll Lawson, an allegedly happily married father of three. According to the interview, Lawson created the videos to "drive traffic to his website," which is apparently about "empowering men to empower families." Lovely. Apparently the only way to empower Black men is to pick on Black women. What an original idea.
When asked if he was working on a video focused on men, Lawson replied, "The thing is, we've heard the narrative on that. There's no ammunition there. They're about to come out with a movie called For Colored Girls, and there's only one black male who's positively portrayed, and even then he's positively portrayed because he's in a position of submission to women's emotional changes."
Ammunition? I guess Black women are targets at the firing range.
And of course. Shange's For Colored Girls was a male-bashing movie. He goes on to say, "we have heard for ages how trifling men are. Zora Neale Hurston, Alice Walker, Pearl Cleage, Waiting to Exhale — all these things position men poorly."
Gotta love Black male narcissism. These movies and books were about Black women, and their experiences. What is so hard to understand about that?
Lawson goes on to say,
"There was a dearth of any kind of criticism leveled against black women, and as soon as you do it, there's this public outcry like, "How dare you?" It almost becomes a form of censorship, and men are feeling it. In part — I don't know how large — it is affecting families and affecting men leaving their families because they don't have an outlet. They just run because they can't deal with it."
No outlets? Anything by Spike Lee, John Singleton, and Rick Famuyiwa for that matter are outlets for brothers to express their angst and general disdain for Black women. Sometimes sisters come out okay (in Rick's case) but beyond that, we look pretty terrible in all these portraits. And let's be clear that however much both Black men and Black women critique Tyler Perry, his movies are all about redeeming the embattled Black male image and proving to Black women that if we stopped being so emotionally effed up we could get a man. For those who disagree, 2 points: a.) find me one movie where the educated sister, the one who has a degree, is not a total bitch. b.) yes, while there are negative brothers in every movie, in every single one there is a contrasting good black man character to balance it out. Not so for the sisters.
I could go on and on but I have other things that I really should be doing, so let me share my thoughts with y'all in short form.
a.) the only folks with the power of censorship is the state. Black women have never had the power to do to Black men what Lawson accuses us of. On the other hand, Black men have always had the power to determine the level of public exposure and access of Black women's careers. Think W.E.B. Du Bois, Richard Wright, MLK , Malcolm X, Stokely Carmichael, Eldridge Cleaver, Dr. Dre, Diddy, Junior Mafia, and Jermaine Dupri.
b.)For Colored Girls was written in the 70s, the Color Purple movie came out in '85 and Waiting to Exhale the movie, in '95. I challenge anyone reading this thread to show me a movie or a book from the years 2000-2010, the entirety of the 21st century, that has engaged in the supposed male bashing done by these texts or films.
c.) Traditional brothers claim that sisters are the ones who nag. But the videos, Hip Hop and otherwise, the Steve Harvey-esque self-help books, Tyler Perry and T.D. Jakes movies, the blogs, and all of Lyfe Jennings' songs, are a never-ending sermon about how Black women need to get right. If Black women ever preached that much, brothers would run away screaming. Check yourselves.
d.) Lawson claims ultimately that feminism is the problem:
"I was really trying to interweave this notion of feminist theology. It's interesting that a lot of the steep decline [in black marriage] really occurred after the [initiation of the feminist movement]."
Of course, feminism is to blame for Black folks not getting married, because clearly Black women just don't know their place anymore. We want to be too independent, to have full lives, where we work, think for ourselves, make contributions not only to our families, but also to the larger society. Shame on us. So for this shoddy reasoning, I have three responses 1.) rather than continuing to blame Black women for the decline of the family, another one of Lawson's really original ideas <side eye>, why don't we finally have an actual conversation about all the economic and social obstacles that impede traditional Black families. If the dude is expected to be the breadwinner, and black men are systematically underemployed, undereducated, and overincarcerated, there's gonna be a problem. Black folks have been saying that since at least the 1940s; the only difference is that we recognized that we weren't the ones causing the problem. Structural racism was and is. 2.) Outdated conceptions of black masculinity have done as much if not more to impede Black family structures. It is brothers who leave because they are unwilling to become creative about other notions of productivity and support in the face of the structural challenges mentioned above. Sisters are left to fend for themselves and then defend themselves when we create independent lives. 3.) Both Black men and Black women need to rethink these limiting notions of partnership, in the first place. The ones we are working with are too tight, and I know my breathing feels real constricted right about now.
e.) Whatever truths might be present in the first video, I refuse to have a discussion about sisters being the problem. To quote Lawson,
The thing is, we've heard the narrative on that. There's no ammunition there. Well that's good, cuz it's about time that sisters stop being on the receiving end of the bullets. Now NEGOTIATE that!
Whew! Thanks for listening. Love to hear y'alls thoughts.