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Does a Strong Black Woman Make a Black Man Weak?

Saturday, Oct 23rd

Last update 07:02:40 PM EST

Does a Strong Black Woman Make a Black Man Weak?


After my best friend got a promotion, he complained to me about some of his superiors, who happened to be Black women. He felt as if they always went out of their way to disrespect him. Maybe they felt threatened, as if my friend, who is a Black man, didn't deserve his position or their respect.

Can a strong Black woman make a Black man weak? This is a question for all of us in the community to ponder. For those of us concerned about destroying false or dangerous perceptions in order to prevent harmful interactions between Black men and women, there are some things we can do to prevent it.

Family and romantic relationships in the Black community here in the United States traditionally have been under stress due to the added pressure of slavery and forced assimilation into an alien culture. With that added stress, historically, there has developed a perception that the Black community in the United States is matriarchal, with Black women out-achieving their Black male counterparts and thus becoming "Super Women."

Black sociologist, E. Franklin Frazier, wrote "The Black Bourgeoisie" in the 1950s. The Howard University luminary attacked the Black matriarchal structure, calling Black women "evil" for the emasculation of Black men by preventing them from being more involved in the family unit, and involved in the life's of their children.

But even as early as the 1940s, academics like Northwestern University anthropologist Melville Herskovits wrote on the phenomenon of the Black American matriarch. The founder of the first major African American Studies program in the nation said he believed the Black matriarch was a cultural norm that followed Blacks in slavery from West Africa.

The perception of the Black matriarch could not exist without the perception of the lesser or weak Black man. For Black men to allow themselves to be dominated or outdone by their female counterparts directly indicates their weak state in a traditionally male-dominated world.

The perception is really a misunderstanding of social phenomenon, as Black sociologist R. L'Heureux Lewis, assistant professor at the City College of New York, outlines in a new theory he calls, "Black male privilege." Lewis' theory is that Black males are privileged because the focus in the Black community always has been geared toward their failing. Lewis said he believes Black women then can become hidden, and we start to lose focus on their problems and issues, partly because the assumption is made that Black women are always strong.

Lewis uses the example of incarceration rates. Though most people believe more Black men are incarcerated, Lewis asserts that the fastest growing prison population is Black and Hispanic women. This shows us how Black women can lose focus on their issues, while the debate tends to be centered on the weak social condition of Black men.

Lewis said he believes a closer look at the true social phenomenon indicates that Black women may be employed more than Black men in certain economic sectors, like the service industry or the medical field. However, employment opportunities with real power and security are just as elusive for Black women. Lewis said he believes the matriarchal perception of Black women comes from their numbers as heads of single-parent households.

Unfortunately, as these stereotypes and perceptions continue, today there still exists a consensus of people in the Black community who believe Black women emasculate Black men.

A leading Black psychologist and educator, Dr. Umar Abdullah Johnson, advances a theory that Black men systematically are emasculated by Western Culture as a plan to destroy the race. He said he believes the negative behavior of some Black males, such as sleeping with multiple partners and violence against other males, is an attempt to cure emasculation.

Johnson said he also believes because of a desensitized Black community that lacks the awareness of a complex and dedicated war on its people that Black women also aid in the emasculation process. Dr. Johnson said because of pain inflicted on Black women, the emasculation of her sons and other Black men by verbal and even physical abuse is an attempt to release pain.

Is there a way we can prevent these perceptions and stereotypes from doing internal damage to black male and female relationships? Are some of us in the Black community as misguided as sociologist Frazier to believe in the Black matriarch, and are we allowing that to cause a gender split?

As Dr. Johnson said, the black community needs to be aware of our separate realities and shared circumstances in a hostile cultural and racist environment.

There also need to be better lines of communication where ego is sacrificed on both sides. Black men need to allow Black women their growth and potential, while Black women should be aware of their partners' needs to be "men" and what that means to them.

It's also important to be aware of the different contributions Black men can make to a family and not allow broader perception to interfere.

Learn to pick your battles. There are certain things Black women can do to build stronger relationships:

• Don't attack a man's income or lack there of.
• Don't attack the type of jobs he has.
• Sometimes give in and show a submissive side.
• Try not to argue in public.
• Avoid demeaning comments.
• Avoid making comparisons to other men.

As Isis the black female rapper from the Xclan group said in the '90s, "Forget the ego; it takes a women and a man."

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