These questions plague me now at the end of my 30s, engaged to a black man I consider my equal in many ways, but with whom I struggle daily to make the relationship work. At 44 he's dated a number of white women whom he's found to be more nurturing, softer and a lot more understanding of his struggles as a black man than—wait for it—many black women. Yep, you heard right. I could have asked him why he thinks white women are so much more nurturing–considering so many black women raising their children. Instead, I asked my white girlfriend who has dated a lot of black men if it's true, that even though we're both ambitious and outspoken, that she's so very different than I am.
What she told me was surprising: She'd heard the same thing from a lot of the black guys she'd dated, but it seemed to her that many of these men weren't interested in working very hard, either in the relationship or in general. It seemed to me that this was something they could get away with, with white women, but most black women just weren't having it. Subsequently, this made us demanding, hard, and emasculating.
So how can I be strong and independent but still cater to my man's sense of himself? The answer: find a man with a strong enough sense of himself, so I don't have to change into who he thinks I should be. What we black women need is for our black men to love us for who we are and not put us down for what we're not. After all, it was the same strong, independent type of black woman who'd successfully raised many of our black men, and often alone. And what we black women need to do is to be strong enough to be soft and loving first, not to make our black men "earn our trust" but to give it willingly, even if we put ourselves in hurt's way. We have to lower the barriers we've erected because we've been hurt by men who've abused or used us, or our mothers.
I don't know if we'll make it down the altar. Some days it's hard even to communicate. But I've learned that loving means giving, giving up your time, your mistrust, your barriers, your needs and your preconceived notions. If there's anything I've learned in my long and winding road to adulthood is that you often have to give love to get love.
But here's the thing: Even unsuccessful relationships can turn us into better people. Unless it's an abusive one, we should be open to all relationships, regardless of our perceptions or even our experiences because they can change us as people. Will black relationships make it? I don't know. But I take hope in the many successful black relationships and marriages out there that we never hear about because those couples are busy working on them and perhaps, because that's not the way society wants blacks to be seen. I just hope my fiancé and I can be counted as one of the successful ones.
Carol Taylor is the editor of Brown Sugar, a bestselling erotic black fiction series. She has published 6 books and written about relationships for many publications. She is currently working on a novel.