Last night on ABC’s Nightline Steve Harvey and Vicky Mabrey moderated the panel, “Why Can’t A Successful Black Woman Find A Man?” The panel featured Sherri Shepard, Jacque Reid, Hill Harper and Jimi Izrael. This show was riddled with problems from the jump.
Let me begin by saying I’m single, happy and successful. I never wanted to be married in my 20’s and in my early 30’s I was ballin hard and loved the type of relationship I was in at the time. It was non-committal yet extremely fulfilling– physically, socially and emotionally. It’s only been the last couple of years that I’ve felt like I’m ready to be in a committed relationship that leads to marriage. And even though the incarceration of Black men is a very real issue, I gotta admit, finding a man was/is never a problem for me. I have dated some very wonderful, intelligent and very attractive Black men who loved being with a happy, ambitious and smart Black woman. But this bit of info isn’t newsworthy or provocative enough for media outlets like NBC who aired Where They Stand back in 2007, CNN who ran a similar piece on African-American women last year on their special Blacks In America, and The Economist who ran a story two weeks ago on sex and the single Black woman.
And now ABC seems to have taken particular interest in the love lives of African-American women. Their Nightline “faceoff” was pretty much the same story with the same assumptions and the same non-contextualized misperceptions: All Black men are either in jail, married to white women or gay; Black men are slouches, but they have potential; and Black women want too much.
Now I’m not saying there aren’t any unhappily single Black women out there desperately seeking Mr. Right because I know these women exist. I’m saying stop trying to sell me and the rest of America that all or even most Black women are up at night in a lonely cold sweat wondering why a brother hasn’t put a ring on it? This reasoning assumes that Black women like me have somehow failed and are more problematic and challenging than, let’s say, White or Latina women. This reasoning presumes that there are no happily married Black women and men. This reasoning implicitly states, and hold on to your seats for this one, that Black female achievement is a hindrance to Black love, a challenge to Black men (who according to Steve Harvey “may be embarrassed by their lack of achievement”), an impedance to the Black family structure and therefore the ruin of the Black Community.
This rhetoric, although every bit propaganda, however, is also good business. ABC is already reporting crazy high ratings and a part two. Steve Harvey’s book, Act Like A Lady Think Like A Man, thanks in part to Oprah’s plug, is a NY Times bestseller, Tyler Perry has made millions portraying this same theme in his movies and Essence magazine is still making ad dollars as a result of publishing confusing articles on the state of Black love (they actually put Reggie Bush on their most recent annual Black Love issue and had their readers in a revenue generating tizzy because Bush was dating Kim Kardashian, a white woman, at the time.)
All I can ask is that we stop drinking the Kool-Aid. These types of “reportage” causes paranoia, messes with our self-worth and esteem and are dehumanizing to both Black women and men. I can see if we were talking about obesity, AIDS, or illiteracy. Now these are problems in our society, but Sherri Shepard being single is not. Shid yo, Carrie Bradshaw and Sex & The City was all about celebrating the wonders, adventures and joys of being female and single and we along with everyone else love her and their lives. It’s only when Carrie is a Black woman that the party is over and the state of emergency begins. Get a grip ladies (and gentlemen)! There are plenty of amazing single Black women (Oprah, Tyra, Alicia Keys, Tracey Reese, & Jill Scott) as well as married Black women (Michelle Obama, Jada Pinkett Smith, Beyonce & Mara Brock Akil) worthy of lauding. Bottom line our stories like our love is complicated, nuanced and deep and can’t be covered in 47 minutes of cornrow jokes, pompus pandering to bet on potential and recaps of how Sherri missed her chance to scoop Hill. Uggh! The best part of the whole affair was of course Twitter and the resulting hashtag #NextOnNightline, which was a twitty way of illustrating Nightline’s misrepresentative panel (ie. #NextOnNightline has Wendy Williams: Less Is More or #NextOnNightline Tyler Perry offers master class in screenwriting.)