As a young Black woman in America, I notice a lot of things that hurts me to my core. It actually makes me sit and think about the relationship between the Black woman and the Black man. In a prominent time where our race needs to join together in union and stand hand in hand, only three questions comes to mind: where is the love that the Black man has for the Black woman? Do you love us the that way we love you? How can we protect you if you don’t appreciate us? I’m sure there are many Black men who will argue, “We do love Black women, but we don’t…” Stop. Stop right there. The love that a Black man should have for the women of his race and the race that bred his mother, sisters, and aunts should be unconditional. There isn’t any if’s and or but’s about it. In the midst of the controversy that Kyrie Irving’s alleged “white girls only” boat party generated and Kodak Black’s leaked lyrics – “Where them yellow bones? / I don’t want no Black b*tch / I’m already Black / Don’t need no Black b*tch.” – have brought, how on Earth are Black woman supposed to feel loved?

We are heavily rejected by our men in favor for women of other races who have purchased the features that we naturally posses. We’ve been mocked by society for ages about our big lips, small waists, big hips and butts but in actuality it is not those traits that are condemned, instead it is those traits on black women that is despised. That could be rooted in self hate and a pursuit for white validity, but that is an entirely different article so I will not digress. Not only does white society praise non-black women for the attributes black women have brought to the forefront, but Black men have done so as well. I am speaking from the standpoint of a Black woman who has gone through this. To black men I ask, are we loved by you, or are we forced to face the ultimate rejection in a time where we love you the most? Black women, we aren’t angry, bitter or pissed off. We are hurt at the apparent repudiation we’ve received from you, the Black man. After I listened to Kodak’s lyrics that are filled with disrespect towards black woman of darker pigment, I felt disgusted. Analyzing his lyrics made me realize a couple deeper issues. One being, how colorism still grapples the African diaspora negatively. Two, darker skinned women are not appreciated or desired by many black men. Thirdly, the Black man is comfortable disrespecting Black women openly. In the above video Kodak is surrounded by a group of assumed entourage who are bopping their heads to his lyrics. I ask myself, do they know he’s talking about their women? Do they agree with him? Wow how many men feel this way? I have to come to the conclusion that they do know, but they do not care. There’s a phrase that says, “If you don’t speak up, you’re apart of the problem.” For a Black man to allow another Black man– a dark skinned man at that– to speak so harshly about Black women says something about their mindset as well. There is a stigma that women of dark complexion face and it not only hurts, but it is also a slap in the face for a young Black man to disrespect us. It continues the irrational logic that lighter skin is seen as ideal and beautiful, while women who inherit more melanin are seen as ugly. Furthermore, it is also drives the notion of colorism that divides our community.

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I’ve been the dark skin girl who got rejected because of my skin tone. I’ve been the girl who has been told, “You’re really pretty, for a dark skinned girl.” What seems as a compliment is actually a hurtful thing to say. It’s basically saying: most dark skinned girls are ugly, but you are a girl that is an exception. It’s things of this nature that lowers the self esteem of young Black women and causes her to lighten her skin with bleaching chemicals, or develop hatred for others with her complexion. I’ve asked many young men in my age group (18-21) about if they had a preference in “light skin” or “dark skin.” Though the dinstiction made by colorism is problematic within itself, many easily say that they prefer, “Redbones, Yellowbones, or Latina women.” Then there comes the mixture of young men who say, “It doesn’t matter. I like both.” Oh, word? was my initial reaction to this statement. I conducted a study and showed four side by side pictures of: Bria Myles and Rosa Acosta; Bernice Burgos and Dollicia Bryan; Briana Bette and Suelyn Mederios; and lastly, Justine Skye and Rihanna. Out of 6 males that I did the study with, only one pointed to a darker skinned women when asked: “Who is more attractive?” Now grant it, this was a very small sample size but I was shocked at the responses– because five out of the six young men have very dark skin and don’t find a sista’ with more melanin attractive. As surprised as I was, I had to think about how men and women are encouraged to view beauty. In present 2016, many young men have grown up in an era where colorism runs rampant, and their favorite rappers, entertainers or basketball players promote it. As a result black women are forced to decide what side of the fence they will reside on. Either we will assimilate and chase European standards and blinded black men standards of what beauty is by choosing to bleach our skin, suppress our natural hair with harmful “relaxers” and spend house note money on a bundle of hair or Brazilian wigs or we will choose to be defiant and embrace our natural beauty. The ladder seems to be the road less traveled.

A lot of young men follow the wave that is presented to them. If they see enough music videos where the “baddest b******” are light skin or of some other ethnic background, they eventually turn their nose down on the Black women who look like them. It also seems as in some twisted way, more “exotic” looking women are a way to express that one has “made it,” or that one is “winning.” The non-black trophy wife or female companion signals high social status, wealth and validity in their eyes. He doesn’t need to associate himself with the average ‘around the way girl’ anymore. He can get the beautiful Brazilian woman and “ice her out,” or he can only ‘dignify’ himself to date lighter skinned women. Many darker skinned male entertainers have seemed to follow this, and it’s these same rappers who have began the trend of leaving darker skin women out of their videos, or on their arms as romantic interests. I know many people would argue: “Why would you want to be in a music video and demean yourself? Why would you want to date a rapper? He’ll just cheat on you with groupies!” Ah. That’s clever. The same people who raise these questions make valid points. However, they are also missing the bigger picture at hand. It’s not about the fact that women of darker complexion missing the chance to shake their a** on a rapper in a video. We’re not pissed about being out the loop of dating rappers. We’re pissed, hurt, and saddened that our dark complexion does not fit the standards of beauty in our own community!

It is one thing to say, “I usually date lighter women.” Everyone has a preference and that is a perfectly okay thing. However, it is a totally different thing to have the mentality of, “she’s too dark and ugly for me. I don’t like dark women at all. If she’s not light, I don’t want her at all.” This is the thing that divides the Black community in half and blurs what is “beautiful” in our eyes. It also illustrates  how certain Black women are not loved by our own men and points to a leading cause of black women not feeling comfortable in their own skin. Kodak Black is a black man of darker complexion and he acknowledges his dark skin in the record but not before saying that he does not want a black woman because he is  “already black.” This is disturbing for many reasons but unfortunately it is not something that I have not heard from others. This mindset illustrates the resistence that some black men have with dating women who have the same darker complexion as he does. If that is not self hate, I do not know what is. Colorism is prevalent in the black community and its been that way since before our time. The problem is embedded in slave culture as blacks were delegated to the field or house depending greatly on their complexion. Failing or passing the paper bag test was the way access or denial of access was determined. Complexion largely determined one’s quality of life. This european rhetoric still negatively impacts the way we view one other, especially our men. Our beauty standards are all out of whack, mostly because we didn’t choose them. We have been led to believe that white equals right and no one should desire black because black is bad.

I am not just advocating for darker women because I realize that this flawed mentality is harmful to all Black women and greatly impacts the way we treat each other, the way we feel about ourselves and what mentality we pass to our children. The way society is set up, the beautiful Instagram models who fit the mold are being praised and heavily loved by Black men. Dark skin women fit this mold, very rarely if any. Instead our men embrace mulatto skin,  latino skin, foreign backgrounds featuring cornrows, box braids, plump lips, big hips, butts, and interest in black culture. If this is one’s preference do you but why put down darker women just to express your interest? What part of the game is that? Sadly many sheep, I mean men adopt these these ideals because they want to fit in, not because of their own genuine interest in it. How mature and grown like right? I have heard guys my age tell me that they would not feel confident introducing a dark skin woman as his girlfriend because his boys would clown him or not give him props. “WOW,” was my response.

Cultural appropriation is alive and well and non-black women are encouraged to do it by black men because they are welcomed with open arms. I am not here to beg black men to date within their race but I do find confusion as to how the traits we are criticized for, non-black women are praised for. Black women are lit so it makes perfect sense that other’s would like to imitate our lit-ness. But we, Black women, (well some) are upset and annoyed at the inconsistency. When we do the things that non-black women attempt to duplicate off us, it is viewed as tacky, unattractive, ghetto, just to name a few derogatory terms. When white women or women of another ethnicity do it, it is seen as chic, trendy, cool, fashion forward, etc. For years cornrows was seen as a “ghetto” hairstyle and something that wasn’t appropriate for Black women to wear. However, it signifies the love and style we have for our deep rooted culture. We were shunned from work places and even some establishments because of said hairstyle. Now, it’s seen as a go to look thanks to media outlets praising Kylie Jenner and Kim Kardashian for embracing the style. There was a point in time where our lips were seen as ugly, and we were mocked for it. The stereotypical, Jim Crow age drawings of Black people with humongous lips, dark skin and big eyes were seen as comical and a huge stereotype when thinking of Black people. How many non-Blacks have made fun of Jay-Z for his big lips? Serena Williams for her large hips and derriere? Erykah Badu for her representation of Black soul? Gabby Douglas for her natural hair? Because it is a part of OUR culture, when seen on us it will always be seen as tacky and ghetto. Embracement of self not only makes white people and other races uncomfortable, but seemingly it seems to make black people greatly uncomfortable and fearful. This is a problem that is on us to solve. Perhaps it is much too big of a responsbility for our men. Black women have worn cornrows, box braids, Adidas track suits and bumped trap music for years. Our lips, thighs, and backsides have been naturally plump for centuries; it should not be seen as new wave when a White woman does it. I have experienced awkward and weird stares from Caucasian women because of my box braids, curvy body and rap music blaring from my headphones while on the subway. For our community to be shunned by society for things that is sacred in our culture, it’s confusing and hurtful for other races who copy us, to be praised.

 

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In the movie, Malibu’s Most Wanted, Taye Diggs’ character looks at Jamie Kennedy’s character and speaks, “And your perpetrating a** is taking the only thing I have left: my culture!” It’s crazy how movies – even a comedy – can go hand in hand with reality. In America, it seems as if the only thing we really have is our culture. That, and our people. After the poll that I conducted (mentioned earlier) I wonder, do black men care about Black women at all? Are we still attractive to black men and do they still love us? Sadly everything around me shows that black men have no problem sexually desiring some black women but they massively have extreme difficulty actually valuing them. In contrast, Black women through hell and hot water have been the support and back bone for black men only to be let down and disrespected in return. We have rallied, protected and organized for black men in a time where our men were murdered without mercy, locked up in disproportional amounts and emasculated in the media. 

The lack of love for Black women have gone on for far too long. In fact the blatant disregard for our minds, bodies and overall humanity is greatly promoted by our own men. If we wake up, I am hopeful that we all have the mental capacities and sensibilites to realize how awful and sad we all look. Black women are currently the most educated group in the country and we have done so much for our sons, fathers, husbands and brothers only to be disrespected and turned away by our own men in return. Many people can look at me and say, “Well it’s only a few people that feel this way.” To that I say that those, few people who feel this way then pass down their dislike and misunderstanding of Black women to the next generation and before you know it, there is an entire group of Black men who hate Black women. That is called a “cycle.” Many Black men who exclude Black women out of their dating preferences cite our attitudes, loud personalities, and sassiness as turn offs. How is that when Black women express these traits, it’s annoying or classless? The same Black men who say this are the ones who go crazy for Caucasian women on Instagram who have taken the traits of Black women. They are the ones who dislike Black women for attitudes, but make a complete fetish of Latina’s anger. They say it’s sexy when they are angry, are loud and have witty remarks. An exotic accent makes up for an incompetent rationalization of what’s wrong with Black women, but okay for other races? Seeing Kylie Jenner in an Adidas track suit with big lips, tan skin, and blasting trap music is dope, but if a Black woman does it that makes her basic? It’s things of this nature that makes Black women “b****” at Black men for appreciation and love, but how do we find this when it seems they’ve turned their backs on us? The things that once made us unique are now only unique and celebrated on non-black women. For every Black man that chooses another race of women before his own, who praises non-Black women for qualities Black women started and who says we complain when all we are in search for is love, please consider what you are doing. This is one of the most influential generations so far; our workings and teachings will pass down to our children and so forth. Black women have suffered from lack of love in the country for years; we don’t need it from our own race.

~Jahnai Barnes

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2 thoughts on “Dear Black Men, Can We Talk?”
  1. I can add that there was a time in the 90’a that black women demonized black men on a much higher level. Every talk show had a black woman that claimed black men were the worste and there were no good black men. Most bm got over it and part of getting over it included our option opening up with other race women and we figured maybe these other women will appreciate the good guys. Once it was figured that bm could just move on a lot of guy did just that. Seemingly to women that were nicer or what we felt was some appreciation for us. Guy that didn’t get over it are those that are writing the harsh and uncalled for comments. But no doubt there feeling are hurt. Its sort of tit for tat. But who knew other race women would be into black men enough to alarm bw on this level. I encorage you to take a look back and you will see bm went through the same bashing the show just switch.

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