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Real Talk: Single, Black... and Bitter?

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Black Woman
Last week, Ralph Richard Banks, author of the recently debuted book, "Is Marriage for White People?” wrote an article in the NY Daily News salaciously titled, "Why Black Women Are Justifiably Bitter: The bleak relationship picture for African-American females."

"Stereotypes of Black women as angry or bitter are pervasive,” Banks wrote. “They are also more accurate than many people would like to acknowledge."

Really?

I’m sadly accustomed to male "relationship theorists" explaining in academic and/or high-falutin' tones what's wrong with Black women. Every new article seems like a parody of the last. But hearing that from Banks threw me off.

When mention of Banks’ book appeared in the New York Times in January 2010, I reached out to him. I liked that his approach to relationships wasn’t about Black women contorting themselves to make a man happy, but about finding happiness with a man who cherished and respected us, whether he was Black or not. I said as much in a feature I wrote on Banks’ book for the September 2011 issue of ESSENCE.

During our interview, his answers were intelligent, and surprisingly personal. He revealed he'd had an internal struggle as a Black man writing about how so many Black men aren't measuring up and are too often doing Black women dirty. He said nothing -- in his book or during our interview or our subsequent conversations -- about Black women being bitter.

Every author is under pressure to earn their royalties and that will make you do and say outrageous things to get attention. But pseudo-confirming the stereotype of Black women as bitter is a low blow.

Newsflash: Bitter Black female is an over-exaggerated subcategory. Bitter is not the new Black.

Even for that narrow segment of Black women who may actually be bitter, it’s disingenuous, and well, arrogant for a man to attribute all bitterness to having a man, or better, lacking one. Quiet as it’s kept, there are topics on single Black women’s minds other than men.

“From street harassment to slavery to Soulja Boy’s entire musical catalogue,” I began in an essay about bitterness in my book, "A Belle in Brooklyn." “There’s no arguing that we have cause to spit hot fire like Lil’ Kim going at Nicki Minaj.”

Pile on media representations of Black women, disproportionate health care, and the recession (or depression as Black folk feel it), and you’ll see there’s much more to be angry or bitter about than whether the bed is cold or warm.

With all that’s on our minds, plates, and heavy hearts, Black women have every right to be bitter, as Banks acknowledges at the end of his Daily News essay. But en masse? We aren’t.

Overwhelmed? 

Yes.

Disappointed? 

Yep.

Hurt? 

Uh-huh. 

Baffled by Black men who attempt to sell us a product while simultaneously throwing us under the bus? 

Good God, yes!

But bitter?

A few?
Okay.

But enough to lend academic credence to a longstanding stereotype?

No. Not at all. 


Demetria L. Lucas is the Relationships Editor at ESSENCE and the author of "A Belle in Brooklyn: Your Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life” (Atria) in stores now. Watch her discuss her book on “The Today Show” this Friday.
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