Thursday, July 23, 2009

I recently finished a book by former Washington Post bureau chief for southern Africa, Jon Jeter, “Flat Broke in the Free Market: How Globalization Fleeced Working People.” Well-researched and well-written, the book not only provides a factual analysis of the deindustrialization and privatization processes, but follows Jeter’s travels around the globe as a black American reporting on his own first-hand experiences and eyewitness account of the impact of neoliberal economic policies on the lives of everyday people.


To me, one of Jeter’s most fascinating portraits is his depiction of a young black woman from Chicago named Sonia, who is both struggling to complete her education and advance professionally while simultaneously seeking Mr. Right. I think you will agree, after reviewing excerpts from the book in red, and my responses in black, that Sonia presents too many sisters with a sad cautionary tale:

“. . . I am thirty-three years old and I am ready—no, let me say I want to be married and have children, just like my mama was when she was my age and her mama was when she was my age. Why is that so hard nowadays?”

Why indeed?

Here in the United States, wealth for African Americans is, on average, about $.58 for every $1 in the hands of whites. But . . . a black married couple has about $.88 for every white couple’s $1 . . . All of which is to say this: to truly get ahead, Sonia needs a man.

Doesn’t sound like Sonia is the one who needs convincing. Then again, does Sonia need just any man?

Childless and a year into a Ph.D program in education at DePaul University here in Chicago, Sonia would seem to have a lot going for her. She lives in the largest black community in the country. She owns her own home, a car, and even a small apartment building . . . she is a catch: petite, personable, and pretty. With blonde highlights in her hair she resembles Mary J. Blige. She makes a mean vegetable lasagna. “A brother could do worse than me,” she says . . .

But does a brother agree?

For blacks in Chicago, marriage is approaching obsolescence. For every one thousand adult blacks living in the city, twelve people were married in 2006 (emphasis added). That’s six marriages, a rate that is comparable in Port-au-Prince, Washington, D.C., or the Gaza Strip.

Well. It appears that a brother does not agree.

For every one hundred black women in Chicago between the ages of twenty-two and thirty-four, there are only sixty-eight black men in circulation [alive, unimprisoned and not in the military] . . . Nationwide, more than half of all women are single; for black women, the ratio is two in three. Forty percent of all black women have never been married . . . Paradoxically, the marriageable pool of women has been enlarged for young, single professional black men (emphasis added), who recognize that their prospects put them at a premium and allow them to cast a wider net when searching for a wife. Eligible black men have seemingly limitless choices, and not just among black women. Black men enter interracial marriages at a higher rate—9.7 percent—than any racial or gender group other than Asian women. That’s twice the rate of black women, who intermarry with other races less than anyone else in the United States.

Gee—faced with this set of facts, what should Sonia do?

So here are your choices if you are a black woman,” Sonia says. “I can share a man because he’s dating another woman and she may be black, or Mexican, or white, or Asian . . . Or I can try to make peace with a blue-collar man who resents my education and always wants to know where I’ve been and who I had lunch with today and who might hit me or even kill me one day if the answer is not what he wants to hear. I can maybe date a white guy, but chances are not good that he will want to marry me. White men might want to fuck us, but they ain’t usually trying to take a sista home to meet Mama, especially not a sista like me who is darker than Halle Berry. Or I just go solo, maybe adopt or have a baby without a husband and raise it by myself.”

There you have it. Lady Sings the Blues: the A capella version. If you date a BM, be prepared for a lifetime of racio-misogynistic DBR drama. If you date a WM, he’ll just screw you, but never marry you, unless you can pass the brown paper bag test—i.e., he’ll treat you just like DBRBM do. Your best choice is simply to adopt, alone. Or do something, alone. Above all, accept being alone.

. . . Sonia is not necessarily opposed to dating a white man. She dated one a few years back, and a few others have approached her on campus. But it’s been her experience . . . that white men fetishize black women and other women of color. “I know that in talking to my girlfriends who have dated white men, and in my own limited experience, white men typically seem to have this image, this fantasy of a hypersexualized, almost animal-like black woman . . . ”

My. That sounds downright scary. What woman wants to be perceived as “animal-like”? I may be sappy, but I just love it when my husband says things like “you’re just so soft and sweet and beautiful.” I assume that’s how every woman wants her man to feel about her. Of course, hubby can say some naughtier things too (smile); but if this has been Sonia's experience, no wonder she’s afraid!

On the other hand, it doesn’t sound like her experience with “brothers” has been too hot either—Jeter recounts a tale of a parolee warehouse worker masquerading online as a telephone repairman—still a catch, the elusive “BMW.” The only reason that one didn’t work out is because that “brotha” lived in a half-way house in Boston and didn’t have money for airfare to fly to Chicago, i.e., HE rejected Sonia. He also describes a man who took her to see Dreamgirls and then back to his clearly-decorated-by-a-woman apartment. In other words, thirty-three years of run-of-the-mill DBRism doesn’t seem to have turned Sonia permanently against BM, nor even to have made her more wary of the cads among them. Why the double-standard?

“I know this is not how every white man is, but from what I can see, white men love them some white women, and that’s why most black women love them some black men. They don’t all love us black, but most brothas don’t really have any alternative . . . ”

So this is the gist of it—in Sonia’s mind, WM just love WW, and most BM have no choice but to settle for BW. So BM it is! So much for “loving her some black men.”

“. . . People don’t want to own up to reality, but when you get right down to it, don’t nobody want black people, and especially black women, for any reason other than to fuck them in some ungodly way.”

This is so heart-breakingly sad, there really are no words. But isn’t this, at root, what many BW believe—that we are the bottom of the barrel? That the only men who want us are men who have no other choices, men who are worthy of nothing better, or those who want to practice perversity in the dark of night? Isn’t that why so many of us accept babymamahood and the mantle of embittered muleship?

So our dear Sonia stays in an on-again/off-again relationship with Anthony—a self-employed ex-con exterminator, who managed to wean himself from drugs after over a decade of addiction, but who can’t cure his bruised ego of the discomfort of dating a better-educated, more conventionally successful woman. After two years, he still won’t marry Sonia because he wants a stay-at wife, but doesn’t have the resources to afford such a luxury.

Jeter titled the chapter of his book devoted to Sonia’s saga “Things Fall Apart” after the Achebe masterpiece. But what has really collapsed are the sad and flimsy internal defenses that the many Sonias out there have constructed around their hearts and souls, the rationalizations with which they’ve convinced themselves that they are bereft, hopeless—that they have no choices. That nobody wants them, that they are essentially “ungodly.” Once you believe this, where is your hope? What are your chances? You've doomed yourself. Wherever she is, I can only thank Sonia for her candor, and hope that other sisters recognize that the only reality that you have to own up to is the one you make.

20 comments:

PioneerValleyWoman said...

Excellent discussion, Aimee! What I find striking is that this story seems to embody the themes of stories published in Essence magazine--isn't it the same basic story on some level--perspectives and strategies, that I can recall reading over the past number of years.

Jazine said...

Frankly, I'm tired of bw like Sonia. I have heard this woeful bw's tale of no one loves me if bm don't want me and can't do right by me. My patience is wearing thin. Again, this conversation is nothing new. We've been hearing this for several years now, and quite frankly, bw like Sonia are toxic to other bw. They suffer from such poor self-esteem, and they hold bw in a poor light. I distance myself from Sonias because they want to bring you down to their level of misery and bitterness.

Until you change your mindset and attitude, you cannot change your life. If you think you're unlovable and no wants you, you will live out a self-fulfilling prophecy. There is no excuse for bw like Sonia who are attractive and successful to live a life of personal misery. They elect to do that. They want to see the world through a distorted lens where their personal happiness is contigent on bm wanting to be with them.

I no longer have patience for this nonsense. There's a whole wide world waiting for bw, they just need the courage to seize it.

Felicia said...

Co-sign everything you just said Jazine.

These Sonia types need to be avoided like the plague.

A "good BM" isn't the answer to they're suffering either.

Because with their high level of low self-esteem, a black/black relationship would also most likely fail.

BW with such negative opinions of themselves - and their sisters - are more likely to attract negative abusive relationships. Whether they're involved with black men or white men.

This "woe is me" schtick is really played out.

Jazine said...

Felicia, what you wrote was spot on!

"BW with such negative opinions of themselves - and their sisters - are more likely to attract negative abusive relationships. Whether they're involved with black men or white men."

BW like Sonia are so pathologically obessed over 'black love' that if they did have it, it wouldn't work because these women have culitvated such a poor self-image of themselves as a HUMAN BEING. A quality man no matter what the race wouldn't be interested for long.

Yep, an abusive relationship is just waiting around the corner with this type of mindset.

Pamela said...

When I have spoken to people a few times and they refuse to listen I leave them alone. You are wasting time with them. Let every one of them that has heard they can do better but refuse to change SUFFER but leave me alone.

I'm really glad that I found out for myself that not all wm only want to sleep with bw. There are those that will pursue and marry us. May more bw take the jump and find a good man that will love and cherish her. Dealing with fools gets you nowhere, especially on the romance front.

daphne said...

I'm glad you highlighted the double-standard in Sonia's comments, Aimee. It really is insanity to believe, "white men only want to sleep with you, not marry you" when, HELLO - black men aren't exactly marrying in record numbers at all. But since black men and women share the same race, then the dysfunction is acceptable. It's very similar to the familial dynamic of "We're biologically related, therefore I can treat you like ish, and it's okay, because family forgives and forgets, since we stick together no matter what, blah, even if my actions totally contradict the stick-togetherness." Um, no - I subscribe to neither socially accepted norm.

All that said, I also recognize that I've not always been a rational thinker, focused on my self-preservation, and living the best possible life. Although I completely disagree with Sonia's worldview, I understand why one would think that way - particularly when the mindset is reinforced constantly in your social circle.

The scales from my eyes began to fall in my early 20s, but the catalyst to true change was when I started reading blogs about 3 years ago (I'm 31, knocking on 32).

It's one thing to read and agree with online posters who share your values - it's entirely another to LIVE those values in a toxic environment. That aspect isn't really discussed much, in my opinion. The part where you might have to stand alone until you can get the heck out of Dodge and rebuild your social network. Who wants to willingly remove themselves from the only "support" system, no matter how dysfunctional or unsupportive, they've ever known? It takes some inner resolve, and a willingness to walk a path no one that you know and/or love may travel with you on (at least, not right away). I've been fortunate enough to remove myself from my toxic environment, but it wasn't an overnight process and I was financially able to do so.

Granted, I took action, so no excuses for inertia. But it is really sad to know mental, emotional, and at times physical freedom, and see others who have the SAME access to that freedom yet believe otherwise. It's like being locked in a invisible prison, and it's clear to everyone outside that you can roam freely, live freely, but to some black women, they're locked within those walls and there is no escape. Magical thinking, for sure.

Anonymous said...

daphne said...

It's one thing to read and agree with online posters who share your values - it's entirely another to LIVE those values in a toxic environment. That aspect isn't really discussed much, in my opinion. The part where you might have to stand alone until you can get the heck out of Dodge and rebuild your social network. Who wants to willingly remove themselves from the only "support" system, no matter how dysfunctional or unsupportive, they've ever known? It takes some inner resolve, and a willingness to walk a path no one that you know and/or love may travel with you on (at least, not right away). I've been fortunate enough to remove myself from my toxic environment, but it wasn't an overnight process and I was financially able to do so.
___________________________________

I'm glad you spoke to this element of Sonia's madness (because it really is nothing less) because it's hard to look at the craziness from the outside in and not just be plain worn out by the sameness that PVW, Jazine, Felicia and Pamela point out--Sonia is not just blind, but wilfully so, and in a manner that we have all seen TOO many times before.

It is almost as if she wants to suffer, in the way that we have witnessed from so many sisters before her, drawing an almost masochistic pleasure from being mules and beasts of burdens with no way out and no role in life except to be scapegoats and whipping boys. I also feel the disgust--in a sense, Sonia is so blessed and so gifted--she just has no RIGHT to throw it all away like this. There are beautiful little black girls depending on her.

And yet, as you point out, it's possible for your entire world to be so sick that it really doesn't occur to you that health is possible. For example, Sonia's comments about white men just wanting sex in the experience of her and her friends really rang so false to me. It's not that I think WM are any different from any other men in their tendency as a group in just wanting to get laid; but the idea that multiple WM would approach a plethora of BW with the explicit viewpoint that BW are "animalistic" strikes me as unlikely, especially considering the rather tense relationship that often exists between BW and WM, as Halima has been discussing recently.

This is one of those memes that is disseminated broadly because it FEELS true (didn't "they" breed us like animals?), and lack of positive intimate contact makes it credible.

That's why I came back to the blogs. I'm not so sure there's any saving the Sonias, because they've lost themselves. But there ARE those beautiful little girls. And they need you daphne, PVW, Jazine, Felicia, Pamela, and all the ladies who know better! They deserve to know that there's more out there, to know they're NOT alone, even in a toxic environment. That they aren't limited to degrading choices like "man-sharing" or babymamahood. The young ones really need to know.

Aimee

CW said...

Welcome back Aimee!

Hope you & yours are doing WELL!

I have to say that ITA with the previous posters remarks...It is time for Black women to take responsibility for their happiness...The circular excuses for "Why I can't..." are dead...One must take a good hard look at what works and what doesn't...

Gloryus said...

I cant stand to be around other BW like Sonia who are so negative that their pessimism begins to affect even you. I stick with my more optimistic clique of BW friends, most of whom are married or dating IR. Funny there are no complaints like Sonia's from my friends.

DB said...

daphne said "It really is insanity to believe, "white men only want to sleep with you, not marry you" when, HELLO - black men aren't exactly marrying in record numbers at all. But since black men and women share the same race, then the dysfunction is acceptable."

AGREE 100%! It's my main argument when a black woman expresses her fears to me--even as she sees me and many of my friends happily married to non-black men. Dating is a minefield--period. But it's much harder when someone goes into it insecure and assuming the worst.

Anonymous said...

I do not think sistas who are suffering the after effects of a lifetime of being told how ugly and undesirable they are by who should have been telling them how beautiful and desirable are plus mainstream/White society to boot deserve to be called names and treated as some kinds of lepers. Can we be honest here please? Have Black males traditionally acted as if they wanted females of other races and now that they can get them leave Black females behind to do so? Has there traditionally been a long line of White and non-Black males beating down the doors of Black females to date them? How much have things on either front REALLY changed in 2009?

Optimism is all well and good, but can we please not act like it's all milk and honey for Black females when it comes to the dating game?

Clarice said...

Anonymous said... I do not think sistas who are suffering the after effects of a lifetime of being told how ugly and undesirable they are by who should have been telling them how beautiful and desirable are plus mainstream/White society to boot deserve to be called names and treated as some kinds of lepers."

Bottom line - it's about choice - these women can choose to continue to suffer or to thrive and then live with that choice. Bloggers like this can only deliver the message - if the person refuses delivery - no harm no foul - roll on.

Welcome back Aimee and many blessing to you.

V/r

Clarice

Anonymous said...

Bottom line - it's about choice - these women can choose to continue to suffer or to thrive and then live with that choice. Bloggers like this can only deliver the message - if the person refuses delivery - no harm no foul - roll on.


Oversimplification and blaming the victim.

Anonymous said...

Oversimplification and blaming the victim


I agree.

Anonymous said...

I don't believe it, not for one minute. "don’t nobody want black people"? She sure sounds basic for a PhD student. Somebody needs to verify this guys sources, he's sounding like Jayson Blair. Sounds like someone (ignorant) trying to write what they think a black woman would say. You guys didn't pick up on this?!

Anonymous said...

I just don't get it--the most interracial marriages with white men and black women, the women are DARK CHOCOLATE types! black women should NEVER EVER let colorist issues bother you with white men--also the kids may or will end up with lighter skin or straighter hair usually (though not always)--white guys sees blacks as one group when they marry black

ak said...

Anonymous:

I do not think sistas who are suffering the after effects of a lifetime of being told how ugly and undesirable they are by who should have been telling them how beautiful and desirable are plus mainstream/White society to boot deserve to be called names and treated as some kinds of lepers. Can we be honest here please? Have Black males traditionally acted as if they wanted females of other races and now that they can get them leave Black females behind to do so? Has there traditionally been a long line of White and non-Black males beating down the doors of Black females to date them? How much have things on either front REALLY changed in 2009?

Optimism is all well and good, but can we please not act like it's all milk and honey for Black females when it comes to the dating game?


Yeah but if I'm standing in a snake pit being bitten, feeling all the pain and the venom coursing through my veins then still it's up to me to get out of that pit, no one else is gonna do it for me. And even if I'm lucky to get some help, they're gonna help me from a distance so that they don't get attacked and bitten themselves. Black women like Sonia really need to sit down and analyze the situation and really ask themselves if they're life-long so-called black 'comfort zones' are really that 'comfortable' for them especially if they go to work with other races of non-black women looking as if life is so much easier and breezier for them. If 'Sonia' believed in God, just as a for instance, does she really think that uncomfortable misery is what God intended for her? Come on. Why misery for Sonia and not the non-black women who she's met and dealt with??

And I am not trying to hate on other BW here or anywhere but some BW need introspection so that we can realise that we have to change some of our own ways and 'improve our brand', our signature. We can't expect most real men to be attracted to and want to approach loud, scowling, and permanently sullen looking women who act like the real 'ball breakers'.

I myself want to go to a finishing school course next year for a week hopefully in London which is where I live for now. I believe that I need to become more ladylike, properly poised, and dainty IMMEDIATELY! LOL

ak said...

Anonymous:

I do not think sistas who are suffering the after effects of a lifetime of being told how ugly and undesirable they are by who should have been telling them how beautiful and desirable are plus mainstream/White society to boot deserve to be called names and treated as some kinds of lepers. Can we be honest here please? Have Black males traditionally acted as if they wanted females of other races and now that they can get them leave Black females behind to do so? Has there traditionally been a long line of White and non-Black males beating down the doors of Black females to date them? How much have things on either front REALLY changed in 2009?

Optimism is all well and good, but can we please not act like it's all milk and honey for Black females when it comes to the dating game?


Yeah but if I'm standing in a snake pit being bitten, feeling all the pain and the venom coursing through my veins then still it's up to me to get out of that pit, no one else is gonna do it for me. And even if I'm lucky to get some help, they're gonna help me from a distance so that they don't get attacked and bitten themselves. Black women like Sonia really need to sit down and analyze the situation and really ask themselves if they're life-long so-called black 'comfort zones' are really that 'comfortable' for them especially if they go to work with other races of non-black women looking as if life is so much easier and breezier for them. If 'Sonia' believed in God, just as a for instance, does she really think that uncomfortable misery is what God intended for her? Come on. Why misery for Sonia and not the non-black women who she's met and dealt with??

And I am not trying to hate on other BW here or anywhere but some BW need introspection so that we can realise that we have to change some of our own ways and 'improve our brand', our signature. We can't expect most real men to be attracted to and want to approach loud, scowling, and permanently sullen looking women who act like the real 'ball breakers'.

I myself want to go to a finishing school course next year for a week hopefully in London which is where I live for now. I believe that I need to become more ladylike, properly poised, and dainty IMMEDIATELY! LOL

ak said...

Anonymous:

I do not think sistas who are suffering the after effects of a lifetime of being told how ugly and undesirable they are by who should have been telling them how beautiful and desirable are plus mainstream/White society to boot deserve to be called names and treated as some kinds of lepers. Can we be honest here please? Have Black males traditionally acted as if they wanted females of other races and now that they can get them leave Black females behind to do so? Has there traditionally been a long line of White and non-Black males beating down the doors of Black females to date them? How much have things on either front REALLY changed in 2009?

Optimism is all well and good, but can we please not act like it's all milk and honey for Black females when it comes to the dating game?


Yeah but if I'm standing in a snake pit being bitten, feeling all the pain and the venom coursing through my veins then still it's up to me to get out of that pit, no one else is gonna do it for me. And even if I'm lucky to get some help, they're gonna help me from a distance so that they don't get attacked and bitten themselves. Black women like Sonia really need to sit down and analyze the situation and really ask themselves if they're life-long so-called black 'comfort zones' are really that 'comfortable' for them especially if they go to work with other races of non-black women looking as if life is so much easier and breezier for them. If 'Sonia' believed in God, just as a for instance, does she really think that uncomfortable misery is what God intended for her? Come on. Why misery for Sonia and not the non-black women who she's met and dealt with??

And I am not trying to hate on other BW here or anywhere but some BW need introspection so that we can realise that we have to change some of our own ways and 'improve our brand', our signature. We can't expect most real men to be attracted to and want to approach loud, scowling, and permanently sullen looking women who act like the real 'ball breakers'.

I myself want to go to a finishing school course next year for a week hopefully in London which is where I live for now. I believe that I need to become more ladylike, properly poised, and dainty IMMEDIATELY! LOL

keisha said...

Just a quick comment. Chris Rock's wife is not light skin. She is not a Jasmine Guy or a Mariah Carey type of woman. Furthermore Chris has asked questions about his 'Good Hair' film and has not attacked women. Sorry I just didnt see it

Kay