by Eric Payne
Nearly a decade ago, a fraternity brother of mine bitterly confessed that he could not deal with black women. He is African-American by way of the Caribbean. Although I couldn’t say I hadn’t heard this sentiment prior to him stating it, I was intrigued to hear it out loud from someone so close to me.
This same man went on to declare that black women simply had too much attitude — on the bus, at work, in any given situation — just difficult and mean without cause or reason, especially the ugly ones.
A few years later he married a brown-skinned Dominican woman.
I’ve watched many black boys like me grow into men who exclusively date and many times marry whites, Latinos and other ethnicities that are not classically considered “black.” Some have been from the athlete set who are in many instances quietly “groomed” to pursue interracial relationships. Some have been artists who in their pursuit of life without restrictions refuse to be “tied down” to race and culture. But many have been outcasts — those in school who weren’t cool or cute enough, the kind that may have been a little on the chubby side, the ones who weren’t even considered when it came time to go to dances, parties or anything else social. I presume many in this last group might feel they had the last laugh considering the ongoing conversation African American women have today regarding the dearth of available “good black men.”
I was a member of the outcast set. Throughout most of my high school career, during the height of the eighties, I rocked a lopsided “˜fro and Coke-bottle glasses. I had crooked teeth which I hid from everyone by rarely smiling. All of this was attached to a slim body devoid of muscles. Be it snickers shared amongst friends or never being asked to any dances, the sisters made their distaste for me loud and clear.
Maturity has been kind to me. I shed most of my awkwardness as I grew up and as a Chicagoan who immersed myself completely in New York City life after grad school, I gained a savvy that allowed me to reinvent myself from the ground up. I’m happy to say this upgraded me had no axe to grind, no revenge to seek, no penalty to levy, nor any white women to flaunt in the face of my sisters. From my mother to my wife, I’ve never stopped loving the women I’ve always loved: black women.
Because I believe love is blind I don’t pass judgment on interracial relationships. Many of my closest friends and fraternity brothers are of mixed parentage, just as the man who now lives and works at Pennsylvania Avenue. These and many other great and wonderful human beings would not exist were it not for love’s ability to see across the color lines.
But for those who purposely pick and choose in an effort to avoid “difficulty”, the jury is still out. Are black women “difficult?” In a word, yes. They’re built strong, to take very little nonsense off anyone. This oftentimes includes their men. Do they have attitudes? Certainly! Black women have a way of conveying their feelings and emotions in a manner unique only to them. A simple glance can stop a conversation from going from bad to worse and I’ve never met a person who has fared well once a sister moves to put her hand on her hip. At the same time, some of the sweetest sounds I’ve ever heard are ordinary words spoken with the flavor that can only come off a black woman’s tongue.
A bad attitude is just that — bad. It knows no specific ethnicity or gender. This isn’t the same as a woman, particularly a woman of color, conveying an attitude of strength and a passion for whatever they believe in or are fighting for. Too many times the two are mistaken for being one in the same.
Does this mean black women should be docile, unaware and subdued in an effort to avoid this negative labeling?
I sure hope not, because my children need their strong black mother, no different than I needed my own. I need my strong black wife to back me up and hold me down when I’m unable to do so myself. I’m even man enough to admit I occasionally need her to put me in check when I’m running around believing I can do no wrong.
A black woman’s “attitude” is as much a part of her as is her womanhood. It’s what makes her a stand-out amongst the family of women. I’m not going to knock her for it. It just makes me love her that much more.
BMWK what’s your take on the Tude? Is it just a bad rap given to black women, another negative stereotype?
Eric Payne lives with his wife and kids just outside of New York City and writes about married life and fatherhood at MakesMeWannaHoller.com. He also writes a fatherhood column at MochaManual.com. He is the author of I See Through Eyes, a book of poetry and short stories. His short fiction has appeared in Spindle Magazine and DiddleDog Magazine.