Why I Haven’t Given Up On Black Men

by Sevetri M. Wilson

“Why aren’t you married?”

“Why aren’t you dating?”

“Do you even like men?”

These are all questions that arise when people glance down at my bare wedding ring finger. I shoot off answers such as, “Have you seen any good (black) men lately for me to date?” Or my favorite go-to: “I work far too much and I don’t have time to date.”

Although there is much truth to these comebacks, more so than not I am a bit discouraged when I think about finding a black man that compliments me. I’ve long moved away from believing I’ll find a “knight in shining armor,” and as each year ticks by, I am more aware that the list of expectations I had as an 18 year old dwindles by the day.

Every insecurity, every heartbreak, and so many of my tears and my fears have been at the hands of a Black man. Black men have been the root of a lot of the pain I have experienced coming into my womanhood. Yet, I have not given up.

Black men have also been some of my biggest champions: the first to give me a contract as a small business owner; and the first to act as a mentor, wanting nothing in return other than to see my ultimate success. Black men have opened doors to some of my greatest opportunities with encouraging words, “You are capable” and “You are destined.”

When my brother was around 11 years old, my uncle told him “Your number one job is to look after your little sister.” To this day he has taken that literally. I remember in middle and high school, he would never let another guy disrespect me. He was my protector. Growing up without a father was tough for both us. I saw the effect that would have on him for years to come—and even to this day.

My father was the king of the castle. He was a loving father, protector, and provider, who also served as a lightening rod of discipline and respect. I was only 8 years old when he died, leaving me with images of his tirades through our house and loving memories of me sitting on his lap during business meetings. He is who I get my business acumen from, although I get my passion for helping others in the community from my mother.

I recently spoke to a group of high school girls, and one of them had also lost her father at a young age. I could empathize with her on all of the missed opportunities for “daddy-daughter” time, like I saw my friends share with their fathers. For girls like us, there are no father-daughter dances or a comparison chart we can make, to see if the guys we date match up.

But thank God for my uncles. They showed me what it meant for a man to be a provider. I was raised around these “old school” example of a man, and I still absolutely cherish it to this day. But as I continue to date, I see less and less the kind of men my uncles are.

One of my mentors, who happens to be a black man, told me recently, “ You need to find someone, not because you need someone, but because everyone should have a companion as a built-in support system.” I found this interesting, as others have told me that I should allow my twenties—and even my early thirties—to be my years for educational growth. They tell me to “build a foundation” for myself so that I will not have to depend on a man.

Yet, isn’t that a part of the problem for black women? We have been taught that we should never “depend on a man.” And though I have been paying my own way since the age of 17, it would be nice to be able to depend on someone.

A recent study shows that Black women are dominating the ranks as the “most educated” demographic, compared to any other race and sex. I’m sure there are many reasons why, but one reason is because we marry much later, if we marry at all. While black men are filling jail cells at alarming rates, we are filling classroom seats and stacking degree after degree.

I was talking to a black male friend of mine recently. He is newly engaged to be married. He expressed that was was having second thoughts: “I don’t really want to get married, no man really does.” The fear that he expressed in our conversation was discouraging. So much so, that it made me question: “What if my future husband feels the same way? Do all men feel like this? Do all black men feel this way?”

Of course, I know they do not, as I watch my mentors give credit to their wives during awards ceremonies and speeches left and right—calling them their “champion or “rock” or “foundation.” It gives me hope that all is not lost.

My work in the community is so heavily focused on the upbringing of black children. I have a significant motivation to further ensure black boys receive the support and resources that they need in order to flourish. Why? Because I want black girls to know and be able to date, if they so choose to, black men. I want black boys who are growing into those black men to understand their role and responsibility to women, especially black women. I want black girls to understand that their value is much greater than being someone’s “Woman Crush Wednesday” and to have standards for themselves and the men they love. He does not have to be the man of generations past, but he can set the precedent for generations of black men to come.

Black men, I have not given up on you. I refuse to give up on you. Because one day, I may have a daughter, and I hope she will, as I have, so deeply love a black man.

Sevetri is a small business owner based in New Orleans, La. You can reach her at www.sevetriwilson.com or @sevetriwilson on twitter.

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