Posted by Amanda Hess on Sep. 4, 2009, at 1:13 pmLike The Root blogger Jimi Izrael, I’m pretty sick of the recent spate of stories that paint all black women as overly-ambitious career women, and all black men as uneducated imbeciles—as Izrael puts it, “the story of the hard-working, over-achieving black women being held back by the shiftless watermelon-stealing, generally no-account black man.” Unlike Izrael, however, I don’t think a helpful addition to the discussion is to suggest that black women just stop going to college so much. But that’s exactly what Izrael does here in an essay that manages to be not just sexist, but pretty damn misanthropic through and through.
To Izrael, there are four kinds of black men: the “Sugar Daddy,” the married dude women have sex with for money; the “Pierre Delacroix,” the educated black man who is probably gay; the “Bar-Napkin Poet,” the open-mic night poser who will get you pregnant; and the “Bartleby,” the poor slacker. Black men, in other words, are not marriage material.
There are only three kinds of black women, however: “Dr. Donhavamon,” the PhD who “doesn’t know what a dustpan is for”; the “Poetess,” the open-mic poser who won’t give you head; and “Goldbrick,” the girl without a degree who is “jealous of anything you may have going on.” All black women aren’t marriage material, either but for a different reason: not because they cheat on their spouses, or don’t use condoms, or are secretly gay. Black women aren’t marriage material because she, in Dr. Donhavamon’s case, went to college and was really fucking good at it; in the Poetess’s case, went to college and thinks it’s important; or in Goldbrick’s case, simply wants to go to college. Of course, the one black man who succeeded in college, “Pierre Delacroix,” doesn’t get off either—Izrael even argues this guy doesn’t count as “black” anymore.
Apparently, black men and women are just not supposed to go to college. Make sense? Of course not. It makes no fucking sense. Perhaps, you think, Izrael is simply engaging in an ironic exercise in order to remind singles men and ladies that no one is perfect, and stereotyping the opposite sex can be damaging to everyone? Nope: He’s pretty much arguing that while the stereotypes of no-good black men are bunk, the stereotypes of overachieving black women have got a grain of truth to them. The argument, in a nutshell: everyone still sucks, but all these sucky people could, at least, suck together, within the context of marriage, as long as one set of sucky people—specifically, educated black women—take one for the team, quit their jobs, and lower their standards. Also, Michelle Obama something something:
There are a lot of women, but not a lot of GOOD women to choose from, educated or not. For some reason, every woman with a college degree now presumes herself to be a Michelle Obama looking for her Barack, when few of them have any of the other qualities that made Michelle a good catch: patience, vision and a sense of purpose and priority. She wanted a career, but she wanted to be a wife and a mother more, so she figured out what was important to her and made the necessary sacrifices. She didn’t just have a child baby-mama or turkey-baster-style—she wanted a husband and a family. You see? Love came first, it was the first consideration beyond her career. (What kind of lawyer-on-the-rise shackles herself to a broke community organizer driving a hoopty?) And her decisions paid off.
Love was first: that was her choice.I don’t disagree that Michelle Obama is a pretty great lady who looks happy with the life she has. But I don’t know—maybe it’s because she lives in the White House, is married to the President of the United States, and has found that, for the time being, she can accomplish her professional goals through her national leadership role and enormous celebrity? No, to Izrael, the only incredible thing about Michelle Obama is that she’s the only successful black woman willing to get married and have kids. Nevermind that the dude she married was a highly successful, Ivy-educated black man that Izrael would probably razz as overly white and overly gay if he didn’t happen to be necessary to his Michelle Obama myth.
It gets better:
I love me some black women—all the most important people in my life are black women. My daughter will be a black woman one day. The truth? Many “successful” black women have simply made choices they can’t reconcile. They have skewed measures of success. Because if you are the other of 35 with an advanced degree, a high-level career but no man or family to share it with, you have successfully isolated yourself, but I don’t know that we could call your life a success story by any measure.
That may not be what you want to hear and I know it’s hard … but it’s fair.Yeah. After all of the rambling over the failures of both black men and women, the story circles back to the same sexist classic. At least black men are responsible enough to reconcile their choices. Women, of course, don’t know how to choose for themselves. They don’t know what they want. They certainly can’t multitask well enough to hold down a job while simultaneously fostering personal relationships. They’re so stupid, they don’t even understand that their masters diplomas don’t magically poop out a baby after a couple of years! If they say they’re happy, they’re lying. And no matter how successful her choices have made her, no one respects her. Because she wasn’t smart enough to let some relationship writer make those choices for her.