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Real Talk: Should We Air Our Dirty Laundry?

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African American Woman
A few weeks ago, I was interviewed the author of an upcoming book, “Is Marriage for White People?” which, you can imagine by the title, is quite controversial. Ralph Richard Banks, a Stanford law professor (and a Black man married to a Black woman, in case you wondered), suggests Black women stop dating Black-only, and get some other colors in the mix too. (Of all race-gender combos, Black women are the least likely to date “out.”)

My first question was something like, um… “How much backlash have you received writing this book?” As someone who’s talked/studied/written/interviewed folks about relationships for the better part of nine years — four as ESSENCE's Relationships Editor — I know very well that talking about Black women and their options (or lack thereof) in the dating marketplace is a sensitive subject.

Banks says the response to the book has been… interesting. “Two of my [unmarried] sisters are practically not speaking to me,” he confessed. “As one of them said, ‘We can talk about these issues on our own, but why do you have to write something where White people will read it?”

Airing our dirty laundry, aka putting the “bizness” on Front Street aka blowing up spots is a cultural no-no. And with all the upcoming books and documentaries addressing the shortcomings of the race, I’ve heard the gripe about putting folks on blast more lately than ever before.

I wholeheartedly welcome a trio of upcoming documentaries that pin the laundry to the line. “Dark Girls” explores color complexes by having women discuss the way they’ve been mistreated and judged based on their hue. “Dear Daddy” asked young Black women to read aloud letters they’d written to their absentee fathers. Then, filmmaker Janks Morton tracked down the dads to have them explain their absence. "Borderline Beast," features Miami Dolphins wide receiver Brandon Marshall (you may remember him as the player who was stabbed in the abdomen by his wife earlier this year, which she claimed was self-defense), who attempts to lessen the stigma in our community about addressing mental health issues by allowing cameras to roll during his three-month treatment for borderline personality disorder.

Our “issues” -- men who exploit their shortage by dogging women, rampant absentee fatherism, colorism, mental health issues, and so much more -- exist. They need addressing in any forum we can find, even where White people can see, and especially if that means peering eyes and fear of embarrassment are going to motivate folks to finally get their acts right and solutions in the works. (And yes, the paternalistic tone of “White people seeing” is yet another issue that needs to be addressed.)

Not talking about our problems openly and often, and worse, passing our baggage down through generations, like instability and a lack of self-esteem, has landed us in our current quagmire. If We the Black people intend to do better, all of these topics (and more) need a discussion — multiple ones — in private, and public too.

Demetria L. Lucas is the Relationships Editor at ESSENCE and the author of “A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life” (Atria) in stores now. She has recently been nominated for an African American Literary Award. Vote for her now on literaryawardshow.com
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