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Do Black Men Love Black Women As Much As We Love Them?

What happens to Black women if Black men aren't our allies fighting against the patriarchy that shrinks us?

Culture & Entertainment

As Black people – across genders, sexualities, shades, ages, and geography – we share a common fate of living through and trying to survive global white supremacy. But what happens when certain groups of Black people have more power over others? What happens when we, as Black women, deal with the intersection of oppressions – white supremacy and patriarchy?


For generations, Black women have been fighting, organizing, and laying our bodies on the line to protect our brothers and ourselves from white supremacy. Under the system of patriarchy, which gives cis men power and preference over women and non-binary people, what happens to Black women, if Black men aren’t also our allies fighting against the patriarchy that shrinks and kills us?

Two of the greatest American thinkers and writers in history, Nikki Giovanni and James Baldwin, talked to each other at length about what Black men and Black women owe each other in a 1971 episode of the TV show Soul.

Giovanni speaks to Baldwin of the ways that Black men have taken out their frustrations over white supremacy onto the Black women who love them. “I’ve caught the frowns and the anger,” Giovanni says. “You come home and I catch hell. Because I love you, I get [the] least of you. I get the very minimum. And I’m saying fake it with me. Is that too much of the Black woman to ask of the Black man?”

In 2022, as we mark the deadliest year on record for Black trans women; at a time when one in four Black women experience domestic violence, one in four Black girls will be sexually abused before the age of 18, and one in five Black women are survivors of rape, we’re long overdue for another conversation about protecting Black women and what we owe each other.

“[Black women have] been made to feel not just that it’s our duty to support Black men but that being loved by Black men is the ultimate validation,” prolific writer and culture critic Jamilah Lemieux shares on “Obligation,” the latest podcast episode of Truth Be Told with Tonya Mosley. “I want for Black men to love and care for Black women the way that we love and care for them,” she says. “It’s more than a gut feeling that this love is not reciprocal.”

The Baldwin to her Giovanni on the podcast is the prophetic writer and professor, Kiese Laymon.

“When there is no duty [for Black men] to collectively defend Black women unless it appears that the person doing the harming of Black women is white men…I know then we’re in a place where asymmetry is a kind way of saying it,” Laymon says in response.

In the episode, Lemieux and Laymon break down Lemieux’s mega-viral Vanity Fair article, “Dave Chappelle and the Black Ass Lie That Keeps Us Down.” Using Chappelle’s career of misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia as an example, Lemieux writes in an early contender for best essay of 2022, “Black America’s version of “the big lie”—“the Black ass lie”—is that Black men have it worse than any other group of Black people.” It’s this belief, she explains, that can prevent Black men from fully understanding the struggles of Black women and even their own complicity in those struggles, and therefore, the obligation to help lift the burden.

“The deeper question for me,” Laymon says, “as a Black man who has reaped the benefits sometimes in asymmetrical relationships where Black women have loved me far deeper, and far more rigorously than I have loved them, is once you know that, as a Black man, do you have an obligation to not engage in romantic relationships with Black women until you as an individual feel the same equal duty? And unless you’re willing to go out there and do the work that Black women have done to protect us, regardless of who’s coming at us?”

Listen to the whole podcast below:

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When I was ten, my Sunday school teacher put on a brief performance in class that included some of the boys standing in front of the classroom while she stood in front of them holding a heart shaped box of chocolate. One by one, she tells each boy to come and bite a piece of candy and then place the remainder back into the box. After the last boy, she gave the box of now mangled chocolate over to the other Sunday school teacher — who happened to be her real husband — who made a comically puzzled face. She told us that the lesson to be gleaned from this was that if you give your heart away to too many people, once you find “the one,” that your heart would be too damaged. The lesson wasn’t explicitly about sex but the implication was clearly present.

That memory came back to me after a flier went viral last week, advertising an abstinence event titled The Close Your Legs Tour with the specific target demo of teen girls came across my Twitter timeline. The event was met with derision online. Writer, artist, and professor Ashon Crawley said: “We have to refuse shame. it is not yours to hold. legs open or not.” Writer and theologian Candice Marie Benbow said on her Twitter: “Any event where 12-17-year-old girls are being told to ‘keep their legs closed’ is a space where purity culture is being reinforced.”

“Purity culture,” as Benbow referenced, is a culture that teaches primarily girls and women that their value is to be found in their ability to stay chaste and “pure”–as in, non-sexual–for both God and their future husbands.

I grew up in an explicitly evangelical house and church, where I was taught virginity was the best gift a girl can hold on to until she got married. I fortunately never wore a purity ring or had a ceremony where I promised my father I wouldn’t have pre-marital sex. I certainly never even thought of having my hymen examined and the certificate handed over to my father on my wedding day as “proof” that I kept my promise. But the culture was always present. A few years after that chocolate-flavored indoctrination, I was introduced to the fabled car anecdote. “Boys don’t like girls who have been test-driven,” as it goes.

And I believed it for a long time. That to be loved and to be desired by men, it was only right for me to deny myself my own basic human desires, in the hopes of one day meeting a man that would fill all of my fantasies — romantically and sexually. Even if it meant denying my queerness, or even if it meant ignoring how being the only Black and fat girl in a predominantly white Christian space often had me watch all the white girls have their first boyfriends while I didn’t. Something they don’t tell you about purity culture – and that it took me years to learn and unlearn myself – is that there are bodies that are deemed inherently sinful and vulgar. That purity is about the desire to see girls and women shrink themselves, make themselves meek for men.

Purity culture isn’t unlike rape culture which tells young girls in so many ways that their worth can only be found through their bodies. Whether it be through promiscuity or chastity, young girls are instructed on what to do with their bodies before they’ve had time to figure themselves out, separate from a patriarchal lens. That their needs are secondary to that of the men and boys in their lives.

It took me a while —after leaving the church and unlearning the toxic ideals around purity culture rooted in anti-Blackness, fatphobia, heteropatriarchy, and queerphobia — to embrace my body, my sexuality, and my queerness as something that was not only not sinful or dirty, but actually in line with the vision God has over my life. Our bodies don't stop being our temples depending on who we do or who we don’t let in, and our worth isn’t dependent on the width of our legs at any given point.

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