by Dr. Boyce Watkins
The other day, I was speaking to an amazing spoken word artist by the name of Madam Prezident. She was asking me a question about relationships, and how modern media has come to shape the dating preferences of men and women in their twenties. I’m not one to give relationship advice for a living, but I always argue that if Steve Harvey can give fatherly dating advice, then I can too.
One of the things that came up were shows like Love & Hip-Hop, and how media has come to glorify the men least likely to ever become good husbands or fathers for anyone. She and I agreed that the promotion of these dating and mating patterns cannot be healthy for the black community, but I also shared some perspective on how some of this came to be.
First, the War on Drugs and Mass Incarceration have severely undermined an entire generation of black children and what they expect from relationships. These systems have made single parent homes the norm, where a lot of women have stopped talking about the father of their child even before the baby shower. It has also raised millions of women who have no clue how to interact with a man or see the role that he could have in their household.
It has also led to millions of men not knowing the first thing about being a true man or a father. If I’d been born without a mother, I wouldn’t necessarily feel that my kids needed one, and I learned the principles of manhood from the step father who raised me. That’s how I learned that no self-respecting 20-something year old man should be living in his mama’s basement smoking weed in his underwear and playing Xbox all day. Even when times were hard, I remember the man who raised me going out and looking for a job, since he took it personal if his family didn’t have what they needed.
Despite the host of structural factors that must be addressed in order to rebuild families, there are times when we must slap some sense into one another. One thing that Dr. Steve Perry mentioned to me during a recent conversation is that there is now a class of men who didn’t grow up in the hard knock life, but have learned their version of manhood from their favorite rapper. These “middle class thugs,” in some situations, see women as playthings, and their bodies as human garbage disposals, sleeping with any cute thing with working sexx organs.
If one wants to seek out the heart of the black STD epidemic, you need only ask yourself, “What happens when a group people witness a steep drop in marital rates and a media culture that glorifies irresponsible s*xual behavior? All the while, a large percentage of those people are not getting tested for the whole range of STDs, and at most only know if they are HIV negative?” The Answer: You get the kind of mess that we are looking at today.
My argument for Madam Prezident during our conversation was simple: If a man has no goals and isn’t seeking to work to make himself into an adequate husband and father one day, then don’t give him access to your body. In fact, I said, “Don’t give him your phone number, don’t let him text you, don’t go out with him at any point.” All baby mama/baby daddy situations start out with a first date, first glance, first phone call, first conversation. If you abort the process from the very beginning, then you don’t find yourself five years later complaining about why you are raising little Paquan without any meaningful male role models.
The point here, and this is one that I share with my daughters regularly, is that we all teach others how to treat us. If you open your womb to anything the dog drags in, then don’t be surprised if dogs are running your life. The same is true for men who are seeking good partners. By holding each other accountable and pushing one another to higher standards, we can get past the era in which every other boy wants to be Lil Wayne, and every other girl is trying to be one of his baby’s mamas. Families and communities are not built without some degree of intelligence, foresight and discipline.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is a professor at Syracuse University and author of the book, “Financial Lovemaking 101: Merging Assets with Your Partner in Ways that Feel Good.” To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.