Monday, June 26, 2006

Tired Black Men, Angry Black Women
and the BAPSploitation Phenomenon

I recently attended a event to discuss Tim Alexander’s upcoming movie, Diary of a Tired Black Man. A filmmaker friend living in Japan sent me a clip from the movie two months ago. At the time, I dismissed it as dated and derivative, something an eager first-year film student might promote on MySpace. Then last week, a white female friend forwarded me an NPR article on the controversy Alexander’s project is generating. Judging from the buzz around the ‘Net, old attitudes about the sass-spittin' Black American Princess (BAP) are resurfacing under the guise of serious dialogue about black relationships.

For those who haven’t seen the three-and-a-half minute clip that’s been circulating the blogosphere, it goes a little something like this: Four upscale black women are lounging around the house having girl talk. Through the window, they spy ex-husband, James, the titular character, pulling up in the driveway with his new lady – a white woman. The typical reactionary, combative dialogue that many sisters engage in whenever they peep Heidi on Hakeem’s arm ensues. When our weary hero hits the doorstep to pick up his daughter, his ex-wife lambastes him for dating a white woman, calling him a “weak punk.” Nay, our protagonist retorts, this isn’t the case. He’s footing the bill for his ex’s house and car, taking care of his kid, and if he’s now dating a white chick, it’s because the new relationship has finally brought him peace. “I am not a weak black man. I am a tired black man,” James says with fervor. “Tired of dealing with angry black women like you.”

Granted, I haven’t seen Diary of a Tired Black Man in its entirety – the movie doesn’t hit theaters until later this year -- but from the snippet I viewed, something feels exploitative about the project. It seems to profit from and prey on the fears of the BAP who can’t find a mate. There is a culture of hysteria built on the plight of the single, successful black shrew headed for spinsterhood and the diminishing “good black man” resource pool. Are black women with their fabled ‘tudes chasing all the eligible brothers away?

According to Tim Alexander, Angry Black Woman syndrome is at the heart of the conflict. The director graced the gathering to expound on this “disease.” He likened sisters to “child molesters” who keep going back for their fix of the forbidden – in this case, thugs and bad boys. These women are mistreated for so long that they become hardened, and when a respectable black man comes along, he’s dismissed as weak and irrelevant. In his talk at the Blackweekly fest and in interviews that I’ve read, he also maintains that sisters are embittered, hostile and defensive due to a lack of positive black male role models in their childhood, and this negativity is reinforced as they grow older. Alexander comes off as a ’hood psychologist not only attempting to diagnose black women’s pathology, but reframing it as an epidemic in need of immediate treatment. Enter Diary – his way of sparking a discussion and remedying Angry Black Woman syndrome.

I believe some of the filmmaker’s observations about black women are valid; however, I question the sincerity of his attempts to bridge the gap. Did his protagonist James have to roll up to his ex-wife’s crib with a white woman, or is it just a marketing ploy to fill seats in the theater? What would have happened if our weary hero had brought along another black woman? Would the sisters in the house have been so neck-swiveling and eye-rolling then? And, for a black man to finally achieve some “peace” in his household, is Alexander suggesting that non-black women are the answer? If so, doesn't this play into the stereotype of white women as accommodating and subservient?

During the discussion, participants were asked to come up with possible solutions to the dilemmas posed in Alexander’s film. I came up with a suggestion just as controversial as the premise in Diary: black women should consider dating outside of our race. Not simply to be reactionary to the growing number of Heidi-Hakeem hookups, but to demystify deeply-rooted beliefs we have about interracial relationships. It would also challenge us to keep our options open, and rethink the long-held notions of “loyalty” we have regarding black men.

After I made those comments, I was about as popular as Naomi Campbell at a housekeeper’s convention. One extremely agitated brother accused me of high treason, of attempting to destroy the foundation of the black family. A few other black men approached me at the close of the festivities, questioning my “allegiance” to the race, and wondering how long I had been dating white men. Upon cross-examination, I discovered that these brothers had “others” hiding in their sexual repertoires, but for a black woman to consider kickin’ it with Biff or Beltran is unthinkable. Why are we held to such a stringent double standard? If a black man is in love with a non-black woman – and I say to each, his own – he’s colorblind. But if sisters fall in love with someone outside of their race, they’re sellouts or gold-diggers. This lack of balance and fairness further serves to marginalize us and reinforce the notion that we aren’t being heard by black men. Our rather, we’re not hearing each other.

As much as I dislike Alexander’s exploitation of successful, single black women’s woes – or BAPSploitation – I have to give him credit for inciting dialogue. As evident at the gathering, regardless of whether you loved or hated the movie’s premise, it has people talking. What I’m hoping that the director can achieve with his new film is balance. Diary has been touted as the black man’s Waiting to Exhale, and I hope it can resuscitate a genuine discussion about the dilemmas that really plague our relationships, instead of ascribing blame for the failure of said relationships on the loud-mouthed, conflict-driven, gold-digging Angry Black Woman. Neither sex is flawless, and we need to take accountability for our shortcomings instead of pointing the finger. A movie that seeks to liberate a brother by shutting down his sister will be just plain Tired.


Sallie said...

AMEN!! Your articles, as usual, are on point, and are a great source of relevant information. I look forward to debating the pros and cons of this issue with all my fellow "sisters".
Kudos on another fine piece of journalism.

Anonymous said...

As always, you are insightful and on point. Why do the sistas get such a double standard. I know when I tell men that I date out of my race they want me to explain why. And how many times have I had to contend with the stereotypes of white men -- that aren't true at all!!!! And most sistas are closet with their desire to date out of their race. I know I am tired of being the mule for many brothers!!!

Way to go girl! tnj

Anonymous said...

Excellent article!

Yes, there are tired brothers and angry sisters out there, but at what point do we stop labelling each other and start focusing on healing the rift between our brothers & sisters? This film has certainly got people talking, but is it a healthy dialogue?

I only have this three minute clip to go by, but if this is yet another example of how black women, with their attitudes and baggage, emasculate the black man, then I'll pass on supporting this movie.

ES said...

I like the clip. This whole argument can be squashed with one word, "RESPECT". Black men and women respecting one another would kill half of the problem. From what I saw in the clip the girlfriends were part of the problem in the marriage in the first place. My wife and I agree other peoples problems should not become our problems. If we would just be respectful to God's creations this would not even be an issue. Are there differences yes, but it should not take a movie to get people to realize that we all have issues.There are things that I must get through and I don't need self appointed folk to judge me on my choices or the choices of those who decide to date outside of their race. I really don't care. My household is all that I have control of anyway. In the long run they will have to live with their decision. I live with my decision everyday and wouldn't change it. My wife is a beautiful person and she is everything that i'm not which makes me whole. I chose her.The fact that she is black is great for me, but that fact that she is a great person is more important. I rather be happy in my life than make people who I don't know or who don't care or respect me happy.
The stereotypes in the movie is not every man and probably not most. You only see the extreme examples on tv, in the movies, and on the web. You never see the guy who just loves the girl because he loves her. That's his or her choice and I can live with it.
This was a great article and you really hit the the nail on the head. Keep on doing what you do. But you know I have to be me.

Anonymous said...

After reading your article, I surfed the web to see what type of buzz "Diary of A Tired Black Man" was generating and all I can say is women are being raked over the coals! While Tim does bring up some valid points about SOME black women, I have to wonder where these tired (frustrated) brothers are meeting all these angry black women. If you constantly find yourself in relationships with people that bring the drama, ultimately you need to take a look in the mirror and analyze why it's happening. We all need to check our baggage at the door and deal with each person on an individual basis. Your new man/woman isn't responsible for the old one's faults.
But you know what, I'm tired too... tired of being stereotyped and made responsible for the black man's burdens. Black women don't hold the corner on dysfunction - you'll find that across the board in any race. ALL black women aren't angry, eye rolling, loud and combative shrews just like ALL black men aren't jailed, uneducated, on the DL deadbeats.
While I agree that we do need to have honest, RESPECTFUL discussions about the plight of black male & female relationships, how much drama do we need to see to know that we don't need drama? We need to stop pointing fingers and respect ourselves and others.

Thanks Nikki, for having forum to discuss! msj

jnetsworld said...

Excellent and very thought provoking, my dear black american princess. This "mixed" american princess wants to see a colorblind world that breaks down stereotypes and is built on authentic relating. I think we can 'keep it real' if we can learn how to respect and truly value people beyond their color.

Anyway... if someone keeps finding angry girls to date, I think we should look at the common denominator... the MAN who keeps finding angry girls! The world is so big and diverse and it is him that has gotten himself stuck in a niche.

noir said...

i think u make soem valid points but i would say one aspect of your initial premise needs tightening. it's not that these women can not find a mate, it's that they can't keep a mate. and although i dont think beleive the state of black relationships is in a crisis, it could use an examination as the filmmaker is trying to do. but don't get it twisted, it is a movie. and alexander is trying to sell tickets and make money, so thus it by its very nature has to be exploitive. i've met many women who date and are married to men outside of the race, especially those in white collar careers. there is no easy fix, but i think until we can all live as human beings without judgement and shallow prejudice, then these kinds of discussions will continue to pollute the planet.

Anonymous said...

Good article. I think we are angry and I think we have damn good reason to be! We have been loyal in so many ways only to be constantly trampled over by our counterparts. I for one am no longer bothered by interracial relationships to the extent I was in the past (if you hold on to anger it destroys you). I do think that we have high expectations that "boys" can't deal with because they can't measure up to them. The "boys" therefore go where they think it will be easier. Yet, real men rise to challenges. I do think that some of us have "better than you" or "know more than you" attitudes with our mates. This comes as a result from always having to control everything. This sometimes leads to the emasculation of our men instead of the empowerment of them (I see it everywhere and in most the black women I know). I know because I have just realized this as a trait in my own relationship. Although it's scary we have to learn to give a little. This is very threatening to women who have grown up seeing so much done to our mothers. The reality of a relationship is that you have to allow yourself to be a bit vulnerable to receive its gifts. If we can't ever relax and let down our guard, always making sure we reiterate (a thousand times over to our men or to our men within their earshot) that "I'm a educated b**** ... I got this job ... I got this car and that talent, etc," then we can't reap the benefits of a "good" relationship and "good" man. Not saying we should deny who we are but we should not use who we are as a weapon to juxtapose how much we "have" against what they are "lacking." -- Blue

The Thinking Black Man said...

As a Black man who is married to a Black woman and before her - only dated Black women... I have to say I understand and agree with your point about Sista's dating outside the Black race.

When I was single, I did my fair share of dating and I loved the variety of Black women I encountered, different educations, different occupations, different perspectives - it was great! It was then that I realized that most Sista's have it tough when it comes to dating in big cities.

In DC where I am, there are just a lot more eligible Black women than there are Black men. I assume this holds true in most places. Sadly, when you factor in the large number of Brothers behind bars, in early graves, livin' Down Low, trying to be Playa's, trying to be pimps, and trying to run game - Sista's are faced with slim pickin's from our side. You ladies deserve to have your emotional and relationship needs met, so if all of us Brothers don't want to step up, then we have to accept you all in the arms of Chad, Hector and Hassan.

I think a lot of Brothers get angry when Sista's say they're willing to date men of other races because what they are hearing is, "I'm not dating Black men anymore!" but, that is not what is being said. What is being said is - if a man of another races steps up correctly BEFORE a Brother does, then the other man is going to get her time and attention FIRST!"

The moral of the story is, "Brother's, we have to step up more repectfully and more responsibly if we truly want to keep our women. The other men are well aware of their beauty, and they are coming for it!"

Anonymous said...

i find that the people who are most upset by anyone dating outside of their

race/social or economic class

are usually the ones who are unwilling to understand that a rich intimate life affirming love relationship requires more than just sex.

specifically when black men become upset by black women opening themselves to love from a Hispanic, Asian, Caucasian man -- that upsetness may come from a mindset that dictates that black women should sacrifice their desires and needs for the good of the black man, family and ultimately, race.

Not anymore.

If a black woman has the chance to receive love from someone who is deserving -- they should do so regardless of skin color.

i've seen the harmful effects of black women waiting for black men to love them the way we need to be loved.

it's not worth it.

and please, please don't feel that this is a call for trifling black men

(definition of trifling: if you have 2 or 3 children and don't pay any child support or have a woman who financially supports you that you cheat on with other women or men
or refuse to help the mother of your child change a diaper)

to mature --
it's not.

when the black men who are trifling want to step up and be adults, they will. and if they don't, they won't.

this is a call for black women to forget any bitterness for black men who marry/love/sex outside of the black race
and focus on embracing love regardless of race/color.

Anonymous said...

What's up Gurl! It's Adrienne. Well, I'm so glad that I read your POV and all of the comments here. For the longest time I've wanted to tape my public access show on this topic, but didn't think that I could get people, men especially, to admit to a lot of the issues we are dealing with when it comes to Black women and men and this perception of "loyalty." Did anyone see "Something New" with Sanaa Latham? It bombed at the theatres, but I have to say that the movie was about me. It spoke to me. Although I don't need heavy convincing to date "outside", I must admit that my upbringing in Richmond, VA does (did)influence how I view the world and how I view relationships. I've always believed that Black women, unconsciously, and sometimes consciously to a fault, are loyal to Black men. If we weren't a lot of us would be in healthy relationships right now. But we don't know why we're loyal. We see how we're "last pick" on the female choices--LA is a magnifying glass. Yet, we choose not to see the opportunities that are around us. By the way, we shouldn't even sweat the brothers that go "outside." More often than not, he's not your type anyway. Just because someone has skin like yours doesn't mean he's cool or someone you can actually relate to. You know what I'm talking about. So, if he's not really conscious or if he can't possibly share an "inside joke" on old school trivia...why would you want to be with him anyway? Bottom line--the Lord is preparing you for the person he's created especially for YOU.

Here's my theory that I'd love to discuss on my TV show and would welcome GUESTS!!!!! to discuss:

Our generation--Black women and Black men--are feeling the aftershocks of our strong, beautiful, independent, take no shit, career-driven, cover-your-ass, single mothers. My mama is one of those women. I've been thinking that our moms raised little Black girls to be "male" and protected and babied their little Black boys to be "female" in their roles in relationships and society. I think the role in society was on purpose, but the effect for Black women/Black men relationships was a horrible after effect of this. Don't get me wrong, I am so grateful that my mother taught me to be strong, independent and "don't depend on any man." However, this thinking has placed me, and many of my sisters at the opposite end of the success spectrum from our brothers. Many of the men we are expected to date and be loyal to are helpless, living at home with mom (yes, many are educated), perhaps a kid or two, and it's all good. They have no idea why a Black woman wouldn't want them. EXCUSE ME? Your mama has made you helpless--dependent on her--to the point where you can't take care of yourself, and you either want me to trust you to take care of me (hell no!) or you want me to take care of you (hell no!). That's my theory. It's not a happy ending for Black women and men. Unless something dramatically changes within our community, I don't see that we'll be able to recover from the affects of this "role reversal" rearing. I believe there is definitely some validity to this, and it's bigger than us. It's bigger than a brother preferring a white, Hispanic or Asian woman. It's fear. It's feeling's a lot of shit. I just feel that Black women are also tired of a lot of things, not just our relationships with Black men. We can't wait around for our "first picks" to realize that we're their "first picks"...We're at the point now where our social and professional circles, particularly in LA, include everyone--although it's hard to find a brother sometimes in many of my settings. I love my brothers, but I can't sacrifice myself to have one. I can't and I won't. But, I will not save myself for someone for whom I'm invisible. Do I want to marry a Black Man? Yes. Do I know why all the time? No. That's not the question I, and many of my sisters ask ourselves. The question is whether a Black man will want to marry me. I wish I had an answer for that.

P.S. I have a few theories...the other being that men want helpless women--that's another topic, but HOLLA BACK...LET'S GET THIS ON MY TV SHOW...