Over the weekend, I had the extreme pleasure of seeing Alicia Keys’ production, “Stick Fly” on Broadway. Lydia R. Diamond’s script expertly deals with the cross section of race, culture and class in our romantic and family relationships. The top-notch, Tony Award worthy performances by Tracie Thoms and Condola Rashad help weave a tale, which demonstrates that even within the Black “community” we struggle with issues of class, culture and social position. It begs the question: “Does class make a difference in dating?”
I always find it ironic when people presume that all Black people are the same; we are not. We are as diverse culturally and socially as any other race of people. Often times, our class and socio-economic dynamics are far more complex because of our history of slavery, segregation and the contemporary separation of the black elite from working class and poor black people. Stick Fly evidences all of these nuanced contradictions and led me to think about one of my dear sister-friends.
Five years ago, my sister-friend who is a Managing Director at one of the top investment-banking firms met a plumber. She met him at a picnic. The plumber pursued my sister-friend for weeks and she never returned his calls. Still, she talked about how they’d had an instant connection, how fine he was and seemed intelligent.
“Well, why don’t you call him back,” I remember questioning? “I can’t date a plumber,” she quickly replied. I didn’t understand why she didn’t at least go out with him to see what he was like. Although, my sister-friend is no snob, she was confronted by an unsettling dilemma. A well-educated, upwardly mobile and successful woman dating a blue-collar worker — she couldn’t wrap her mind around it.
Just as it happens in the play, my sister-friend had made some assumptions about the plumber that were unfair and inaccurate. True, their economic statuses were on opposite ends of the spectrum. However, that didn’t mean that they were culturally different. I encouraged her to call him back and give him a chance. “The question really is do you have similar core values, goals and life perspectives. I think that upbringing — how someone was raised — is far more important than what they do for a living. As long as he has ambition, what does it matter whether his collar is white or blue,” I asked?
Thankfully, five years and two kids later, she took my advice. It turned out that the plumber, now her husband, was not just any plumber. He too, was educated and owned his own business. They enjoyed the same things culturally and he’d been raised in a similar way to my sister-friend. He was much closer to her ideal man than the Harvard-educated brokers and lawyers she’d been dating unsuccessfully. And, they’ve learned to cope with the issues surrounding the disparity in their incomes.
Class and socio-economic status do play a major role in all black relationships. We are a complex people. However, traditional assumptions may not apply and if you are interested in someone who may (or may not be) from a different class or background it’s worth giving it a try. By overcoming your prejudices, you potentially open up your spirit for an unexpected surprise.
Wishing you LOVE & CEASELESS JOY!
Follow @NathanHWilliams on Twitter!