About this Blog

The title of this blog, "I'm About to do My Thing," was inspired by Jill Scott's introduction to her poem "The Thickness" from her live album Experience: Jill Scott 826+. In this intro, she warns that the content to follow is "real" and proceeds to deliver a beautiful message about self-esteem in young black girls, what can influence and damage that self-esteem, and the entire village's responsibility--"it takes a village"--to elevate its children.

Friday, July 30, 2010

A Bone to Pick

Black men, a lot of people have a bone to pick with you. What did you do? Or maybe it’s what you didn’t do, according to some. I’ve noticed that black men’s roles as protectors and nurturers are being questioned lately, not that this is a new topic. The question came up recently in an earlier post on this blog. Chris Rock humorously alluded to the question in 2004’s Never Scared when he warned fathers that the test of their fatherhood would be whether they could keep their daughters out of “clear heels” (i.e., strippers’ shoes). Toni Morrison raises this question with the character of Cholly Breedlove in my favorite novel, The Bluest Eye (1971). The question is much older than that, though, going as far back as the days of American slavery, when countless black men were left defenseless as a white male-dominated world raped their women and sold their children.

Now, the question rises again—in a world that is fundamentally different from one in which men could only stand by while their women and children were violated. Check out this video depicting audition clips for a reality show featuring rapper Plies. (Shout-out to my bro-in-law for posting this on Facebook!) The women depicted here are clearly proud of their sexual “talents.” More power to ‘em and Lord love ‘em. But note not a spirit of simple competition but of divisiveness that permeates these women’s statements. They’re bragging that they’re better than every other woman in line because of what they can do in the bedroom and because of what they’re willing to let Plies to do them. While there’s some pride in being independent and being able to cook, for example, the emphasis is placed on sexual versatility and skill.

Interestingly, the person who posted this video to YouTube titled it “BLACK MEN RAISE YOUR DAUGHTERS SO THEY WON’T DO THIS!” Black men, fathers in particular, you’re being called out! And all this makes me wonder why it’s the father’s responsibility to keep their daughters from seeking this type of attention and from promoting this type of division. Is it not primarily women who are interviewing other women for this TV show? Granted, these women are working for a man, but they don’t have to. These women are choosing to do a job that exploits some arguably weak-minded women. Is this a complication that should be laid at their fathers’ feet too?

Perhaps, but who knows what kind of fatherly experiences we’re seeing the fruits of, from one woman to the next? There are women out there who were raised by hardworking men who taught their daughters to love themselves and others. Others may have had absent or horrible fathers. Still others may have had nothing but negative experiences with men, to the point that they don’t know how to deal with them or themselves in a healthy way. Then again, while some may have missed their biological fathers in their lives, maybe they had uncles or teachers or neighbors who filled the void. Whatever the case may be, 1) there’s got to be a level of personal responsibility involved here, and 2) women have to bear some responsibility too. That’s not to discount the long-term psychological and emotional effects of absent, deadbeat or otherwise subpar fathers. I realize that men do have an important role to play in helping to shape their daughters’ and sons’ futures, but they don’t play the only role.

Jill Scott tackles this issue from a slightly different angle in the August 2010 edition of her Essence column, “I’m Just Sayin.’”August’s installment, “Boys to Men,” argues that, while women can instill morals, values, and a treasure-trove of knowledge into their sons, there are certain aspects of manhood that boys can learn only from men. The most important point she makes, however, is that so many black boys lack instruction from a community of black men. A community of black men instructing their sons, she argues, is invaluable:
While there are men who take pride in raising and instructing their sons, there is very little communal education. Just imagine if our men taught our boys conflict resolution—how to settle a dispute so that everyone walks away alive. Maybe if our outstanding men shared that one skill with our boys, there would be fewer violent deaths in our neighborhoods. […] What if our great men taught our boys how to nurture women and children with love, respect and understanding? Maybe our artists would be more creative when depicting women in their music and videos. […]
And maybe our rappers would be more creative when depicting women in their reality shows too. Do you see why I love Jill? She’s making a very cogent argument about how a concerted effort of our strong, dedicated, responsible men can turn the tide of negatives in our communities, from violence to relationships. I think she’s right, but the concerted effort of our men and women is really the ticket, and that’s what I’m getting at--an idea clearly not lost on Jill, as she explains her role as a mother. I wonder how many of those women waiting in line for Plies’ show are mothers, and I have the same curiosity about the women behind the interviewing table.

Maybe a community of men can prevent boys from exploiting females on national TV, and maybe such a community can prevent those females from exploiting themselves. Perhaps, too, the combined instruction of men and women can curb the unhealthy images promoted by “television and hustlers in the streets,” as Jill puts it, and help our boys and girls grow up to be men and women who respect and love one another and themselves: not a selfish love but a love that appreciates one’s inherent value. That’s not the value being promoted by these women clamoring to be “Bust it Babies” or by the women and men seeking to put them on TV.


  1. I agree with your assessment.

    As radio personality Zo Williams likes to point out, "There are no absolutes." Everything has an exception. That being said, you did mention that Black men may not have anything to do with this "inappropriate" behavior. I will agree that as Black men we have to do better. BUT, the culture we live in is becoming more of one where it's always someone else's fault. A lot of people grow up without fathers, mothers, abusive households, etc., but in the end we all have a decision we must make for ourselves. Some of us are strong enough and have the support systems we need to overcome and be productive members of society. Others may not and that where Black men should come in because it is our role to protect our Black sisters and children.

    I think the underlying problem the community is facing is that we have people who don't know how to be parents having kids and they don't want to listen to any advice or criticism. Its understandable in that no one wants to be told they're horrible parents. I think we have to somehow overcome this divide and bridge the gap so that we can get BACK to a point where the community looked put for each other.

    And as far as "clear heels" as Chris Rock said, someone has to entertain the working men of America lol. Not saying me because I don't see the point of "shoe establishments", but others do.

  2. Good blog post. The problem you wrote about is so deeply intertwined in how things are perceived in the media. Sex sells. But in some parts it's like walking tight rope and in other parts moving from one side of a see saw to another try to to keep it balanced and it all goes back to responsibilities. Being responsible for what kids watch and what they do, but also letting them know the consequences of their actions because daddy or momma cannot always be there. If there was more adjustments to make that balance better, it would help as Chris Rock would say, "keep the girls off the pole"

  3. I can imagine that Montana Fishburne's parents probably did everything they could to keep her "off the pole," but this girl is so desperate to be famous that she is starring in a porno. It comes down to the individual's decision-making many times, no matter the home life or upbringing.

  4. Responsibility: I'm sensing a theme here. Lol. For the women trying to be "Bust it Babies," I wonder if they can imagine any consequences other than time spent at the audition and 15 minutes of fame? If nothing apparently negative could result, what's the harm?

    Montana Fishburne. SMH. At the end of the day, it all comes down to choices, but a similarity between her situation and the women in the video is that they all want to be famous--even if they're just famous for being famous. I'm still trying to wrap my head around this phenomenon. Are we getting into straight-up narcissism here?

  5. Hmmm...perhaps we are. Maybe they should all be turned into beautiful flowers and firmly planted by the water so they can stare at themselves forever. But that wouldn't work. They don't want to stare at themselves...they want others to stare at them.