April 22, 2010

Category: Real Talk

Single, Black, Female & Fabulous!


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.)

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7 Responses to “Single, Black, Female & Fabulous!Comment RSS feed

  • Justin
    April 22nd, 2010 8:14 pm

    On point, as usual, Nicole! This is NOT news, but rather just an excuse for more signifying, pandering and selling books/ad space. It’s a shame, but even this level of mediocre programming is lauded as a success in our community because 15 or 20 years ago an all Black panel on a major network talking about anything would have been unheard of. I just wish our “progress” in the media could be used for something a little more substantive.

    It’s so frustrating that every image, every story, every subtext and every news piece about the Black community has the undercurrent of Black male failure on some level. Why can’t folks just laud Black female achievement without stating that it’s only because all the brothers are losers? It’s a refrain that is all too common in our country’s dialogue about race–professionally, we’re underachievers; academically, we’re inferior; and romantically, we’re unavailable.

  • sharon
    April 23rd, 2010 2:13 pm

    Though the actual convo was 3 hours long, I suspect that the editing didn’t deprive us of anything more substantive. Yet another presentation of our concerns as pathological. SMH

  • Julia
    April 23rd, 2010 4:15 pm

    [Purposely] Missed it, but you and other black women bloggers who feel this way should let the producers over @ Nightline have it. Steve Harvey and Sherri Shepard — entertainers — leading such a discussion — ridiculous. Izrael — bitter. Hill gets a pass ’cause he’s educated, thoughtful and has never been on the chitlin’ circuit.

  • theHotness
    April 23rd, 2010 4:43 pm
    Author's Reply

    @Justin: Yeah I think a few things are happening here. I think this “obsession” with the love lives of Black women serves to disempower us. By making our single status pathological says Black women may be successful professionally but they are failures personally. They are unhappy and can’t even keep a man. I think with the mega success of so many single Black women like Oprah, Tyra, Halle, etc. reportage like this implicitly takes them down a notch and attempts to make their success less attractive to Black women. I also think that by focusing less on Black people who are married or who are in fulfilling committed relationships the media is creating a schism between Black America and what we see in the White House. Michelle and Barack Obama then become the exception, the anomaly and therefore less connected to Blackness and Black folk. Just some after thoughts.
    @Sharon: 3 hours of Sherri talking about her weave!
    @Julia: Yeah I’m not watching anymore of these type of reports. I helped to drive their ratings up and so the buck has to stop here 1st!

  • Zelle
    April 23rd, 2010 5:32 pm

    Once again Nicole you’ve been able to express so much of what I’ve been feeling. The assault on Black women in the media is real! And it’s everywhere – in music, television, film and on gossip blogs. There is no escape. I’ve had to deactivate an account or two and turn off the radio and television just to filter out some of the noise. I think sometimes as Black people we don’t see the bigger picture and often times forget that we’re not talking amongst ourselves. The constant negative images, attitudes, dialogue not only affects us and how we see ourselves but it perpetuates to the world that we as black women and black men are still less than.

  • KG
    April 24th, 2010 1:24 pm

    Unfortunately, I tuned out when CNN aired Blacks in America. The fact that it was sanctioned by ESSENCE and was at the same time painfully insulting was really the last straw for me. Plus, I know its petty but why are there NEVER any sistahs with natural hair repped? Off the subject I know, but couldn’t Jill have rocked her natural in Why Did I Get Married (1 or 2). Mainstream white and Black media render so many aspects of our culture invisible, so often that it truly makes me nauseous. Not even Black media stands for anything today. Corporate media (Black and white) are so focused on reaching the lowest common denominator that they dumb themselves down to the point of being simply moronic. Real reporting, investigation and deconstruction of relevant issues is no longer profitable. So, they don’t bother. I mean really, who needs Charlayne Hunter Gault when we’ve got Sherri Shepherd and Flav’s New York?

  • Tiffany
    April 25th, 2010 10:28 am

    Nicole great post you are on point this one.

    Peace, Love and Chocolate