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We are Worthy: Black Women, Marriage and Babies

Posted Apr 02 2010 3:16pm
(Does this picture of Frederick Douglass and his white wife make you wince?)

By, Vanessa
OurHealth Staff Writer

In an article written for, soul singer Jill Scott attempts to describe the emotional reaction some black women have when they see a black man with a white woman.

Here’s an excerpt from the article –

My position is that for women of color, this very common “wince” has solely to do with the African story in America. When our people were enslaved, “Massa” placed his Caucasian woman on a pedestal. She was spoiled, revered and angelic, while the Black slave woman was overworked, beaten, raped and farmed out like cattle to be mated. She was nothing and neither was our Black man. As slavery died for the greater good of America, and the movement for equality sputtered to life, the White woman was on the cover of every American magazine. She was the dazzling jewel on every movie screen, the glory of every commercial and television show. She was unequivocally the standard of beauty for this country, firmly unattainable to anyone not of her race. We daughters of the dust were seen as ugly, nappy mammies, good for day work and unwanted children, while our men were thought to be thieving, sex-hungry animals with limited brain capacity. We reflect on this awful past and recall that if a Black man even looked at a White woman, he would have been lynched, beaten, jailed or shot to death. In the midst of this, Black women and Black men struggled together, mourned together, starved together, braved the hoses and vicious police dogs and died untimely on southern back roads together. These harsh truths lead to what we really feel when we see a seemingly together brother with a Caucasian woman and their children. That feeling is betrayed. While we exert efforts to raise our sons and daughters to appreciate themselves and respect others, most of us end up doing this important work alone, with no fathers or like representatives, limited financial support (often court-enforced) and, on top of everything else, an empty bed. It’s frustrating and it hurts! Our minds do understand that people of all races find genuine love in many places. We dig that the world is full of amazing options. But underneath, there is a bite, no matter the ointment, that has yet to stop burning. Some may find these thoughts to be hurtful. That is not my intent. I’m just sayin’.

Does she make a lot of valid points in the article? Yes. Have I myself been guilty of the “wince”? Many, many, times – even sitting next to my white husband (Yup, I have one of those) – I have found myself throwing shade sometimes when I see a particularly put together, educated or successful brother with a non-black woman. I’m thinking, do you know how many single friends and family members I have, all ridiculously beautiful, intelligent and ready for love. What about them?

But I digress…

An article about interracial relationships and historical racism is not ground breaking. In fact there is a large part of me that finds the entire argument very dated, circa Spike Lee and School Daze. For the most part, I am wondering why Essence magazine insists on recycling the same ole’ conversations, without even adding any new insight AND more importantly, and what prompted me to write this blog, is my bigger issues with Ms. Jilly from Philly and her new baby daddy and the continually low standards that many black women continue to accept from the men in their lives.

I can’t take her article seriously. As a big fan of her music, lately I have even had a hard time really feeling her “sister-girl- diva” vibe, because I am beginning to wonder is it really authentic. It is the big, bold, regal bravado that I love about Jill the most. Her assertion, that she “can’t bow her head because her crown might fall off”. Her preaching (and me saying AMEN) that her love is “deeper, higher, sweeter, flyerdidn’t you know this.”

She sings about being proud and WORTHY and I believe she makes the women who listen to her music feel the same. You listen to a Jill Scott record and then you look at your man and say – you better come with it and be about something, cause baby I DESERVE it.

Which is why I am so disappointed and honestly perplexed. Last year Jill Scott announced that her and her fiance were expecting their first child together. My honest first reaction was, why is he your fiance and not your husband? Why do so many black women have children with men who have not made any real commitment to them? We could possibly debate that some relationships are above the paper and that it’s possible to have a commitment without marriage, but when 70% of black children are being raised in a single parent household, I say it’s time to get real. Having a fiance who intends to marry you is just not good enough when you are talking about bringing a child into this world. So, I am already looking at Jill Scott sideways when she makes this announcement about her pregnancy. Then I learn that Jill Scott’s fiance - Lil John Roberts - already has FOUR children, by FOUR other women… I’m done. Done. This ain’t no time to play nice.

Really Jill? Jill Scott allowed herself to get knocked up by a “fiance” who couldn’t bother to put a ring on it before spreading his seed and already had four children, by four other women. And you want to write an article about wincing at interracial relationships. Is that really the issue that’s on the table?

Let me go back and quote her directly from her recent article. This article was written just months after she gave birth to her baby, and not too long after she – wait for it – announced her split from Mr. Lil John – no longer my fiance – Roberts.

She wrote – “While we exert efforts to raise our sons and daughters to appreciate themselves and respect others, most of us end up doing this important work alone, with no fathers or like representatives, limited financial support (often court-enforced) and, on top of everything else, an empty bed. It’s frustrating and it hurts!”

Let me break this down for you, because our community is in a state of crisis and the time for pacifying and being politically correct has long passed. The issue ain’t interracial relationships. If we want to raise our sons and daughters to respect themselves, then we first need to respect our sons and daughters, by creating them thoughtfully and out of love and only after we have made a serious commitment as man and wife. If we don’t want to end up doing this important work alone and with no fathers or financial support, then we need to be smarter about the men we choose to procreate with and a man who already had four other kids with four other women, clearly isn’t that man. And if we want to stop being frustrated and hurt, then we need to act like we know – act like the queens that Jill Scott has long said we are and stop accepting anything less than what we, or our future children, deserve.

In a separate interview with Vibe magazine, Jill Scott spoke about what she has learned from her failed relationships with men and she said -

“I used to pray for a man who had potential, but that’s not my prayer anymore. Not only does he have to have potential, he has to have had accomplished some things in his life. He has to have a work ethic, because I don’t want to come home to someone sitting on the sofa playing PlayStation. I’m looking for someone who works as hard as I do. Who loves their work as much as I do, so at the end of the night we have something real to talk about, something exciting that makes our blood flow and boil. I need my man to be my homie. If you can’t help me grow, there’s no point with you being in my life."

She’s right, but this is why you figure these things out before you have a child – after you’ve gotten married.

I know black women want genuine love. I know it is hard to find. I know many of us were raised by hard working, single moms, who did the damn thing, and we love and respect them for it. But we can do better and we should do better. I’m sorry Jill Scott but there is really no excuse for a woman as beautiful, talented and intelligent as you are to end up baby momma #5. My head is bowed because I am sad for you. Put your crown back on.

*edit to add - there are some reports that say Lil John Roberts only had three kids by three different women prior to Jill Scott, not four. I'm not clear there's a big difference but I want to be fair.
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