The Proper Care & Maintenance Of Black Men

By Gian Fiero

The woman who loves a black man has a special challenge. She will have to be diligent in her efforts to understand a man who often has difficulty understanding himself. It’s not that we black men are being purposely or intentionally elusive; many of us simply don’t know how notto be that way.

It’s part conditioning, part programming, and part choice. Black men enter relationships with a myriad of complex emotions which are often intertwined with unresolved childhood issues, unique socioeconomic obstacles to overcome, and the cumulative effects of racism.

By the time we are ready to ‘settle down,’ our decision to do so is usually accompanied by trepidation. It’s not that we don’t want to commit; many of us just don’t know how to. Yes, we know conceptually what commitment means, but its definition is not reinforced by examples that we can see and emulate in our homes, our communities, in most of our friend’s relationships, or in our churches.

A random sampling of any urban radio station also reveals a subtle, yet insidious cultural affliction which undermines the value and respect for committed relationships: a gluttony of songs about being a player.

When black male teenagers inculcate these messages in their brains, it alters how they think about women, and how they view relationshipswith women. But they are not discouraged from listening to these types of songs. No one can do that; not even their parents who are usually trying to establish romantic relationships of their own, but more on that in a minute. At the very least, parents should encourage their young men to think about the misogynistic lyrics that they can recite better than the star spangled banner.

My many conversations with older black men about music in the 60s and 70s confirm one thing: the love song was alive and well back in the day. It was an integral part of the courtship strategy that black men used to ‘woo’ women. Smokey Robinson, Barry White, and TeddyPendergrass supplied the soundtrack and the lyrics which influenced the romantic aspirations and psyches of young black men.

Babyface carried the torch in the 80s. After that, ‘booty calls,’ ‘hook-ups,’ and ‘friends with benefits’ became – and still is – what the majority of Hip-Hop and R&B songs are about. You’d be hard-pressed to find a song which extols the virtues of being a family man, the love for one’s children, or a song that mentions the word ‘wife.’

Women have to view black men as computers. When they consider getting involved with a black man, they need to find out what programs the model of their computer comes loaded with. Ideally, you want a computer that’s equipped with the programs that cater to your needs, enable you to execute your daily functions, and fulfills your desires.

That’s not usually the case. Most women will have to add some programs, or do some reprogramming.

Because a successful relationship is really about having ongoing successful relations, the first area of concern -and undoubtedly the greatest challenge – is communication. ‘Black men don’t talk.’ I’ve heard this before. I’ve never been accused of it, but I’m aware of it. What’s interesting is that women don’t say that black men don’t talk before they get into bed with them. Chances are he talks just as much now as he did before you became lovers. The only difference is that you are listening to (and viewing) him differently. With your new level of intimacy, you have a stronger need (and desire) to connect with him verbally, not just sexually.

He doesn’t feel the same way.

Yes he pursued you. Yes he expressed his desire efficiently and convincingly in the beginning, but once in a relationship, black men tend to retreat to safety. It’s part of our conditioning. The vulnerability that we feel is juxtaposed with the strength (a.k.a ‘swagger’) that we superficially display. Unfortunately, we don’t know when to drop it, or display it in a different manner (e.g., with compassion, tenderness, or empathy). Have you ever heard someone say, ‘He’s got a compassionate swagger?’ Of course not. Swagger is all about confidence and strength. It protects us from other men, and makes us desirable to women. We just have to be programmed to know when it’s appropriate and safe to be swaggerless.

Because black men don’t talk openly and freely about the issues that affect them most (with their women or anyone else for that matter), they internalize a great deal of rage, anguish, and fear. Some manage it better than others, but we all have it to some degree. It stems from fragmented or non-existent relationships with our fathers, constantly being treated as perpetrators, and having to work two to three times harder than our white male peers to achieve the same success.

Unlike black women who benefit from the mental and emotional support of girlfriends, relatives, networks, or even co-workers, black men tend to be isolated – personally and professionally. On the surface, it would appear that black men are the kings of the jungle giving ‘pounds,’ handshakes, and random hugs to random people. To any onlooker it would appear that they know everyone.

Nothing is further from the truth. We thrive in the area of social status because we often lack status in other areas; the areas that count the most. Publicly, our social persona helps us maintain the appearance of being someone, and being liked. It also fortifies the illusion of our swagger.

Privately, we go through it. Black women have their mothers to call for reassurance and direction which they can draw strength and exemplification from on a wide range of topics. Black men have a longing for their father’s guidance, and a desire to be connected with other men to receive emotional support, but it’s not to be.

Presenting one’s self in a weak, needy, or distressed light to another black man obliterates the perception (a.k.a ‘a front’) which we black men work hard to create, and even harder to uphold. It makes the creation of a black male support system exceedingly and unnecessarily difficult. So we suffer alone to avert judgment.

For the black woman who is in a relationship with a black man, know that he does not experience – nor does he see – the world the way that you do. You were embraced both socially and professionally before we were. You’ve never been considered a threat, and you’ve received more opportunities as a result. The world that your black man lives in can feel like an uphill race. A good woman (i.e., a woman who understands her man and how to positively motivate him) can help a black man embrace his struggles, and not feel victimized by them.

Statistics show that black men are lagging far behind black women in education, professional accomplishments, starting businesses, and executive advancements. Yes, in the words of Aretha Franklin, ‘sisters are doin’ it for themselves,’ but they are doing it alone.

African-Americans have the lowest marriage rate out of all demographics. African-American women are three times as likely to never marry as their white counterparts – which has to be a contributing factor in 70 percent of black children being born out wedlock. Black men often feel displaced. They don’t see their place or their role in their homes when their women achieve the level of self-sufficiency that they have in the last decade.

Being in a relationship with a black man who feels displaced or undervalued is tough. What’s even tougher is reprogramming black men to see their own value; the value they hold to their women, and to their families. Any woman who is successful can’t help but to feel the urge to say, ‘Get it together and make it happen for yourself – I did!’

This phrase works better: ‘Get it together and make it happen for yourself. I know you can do it – your family is counting on you!’ Sometimes that’s precisely what’s needed. Who else is more qualified to tell him this than his woman? Tread with caution and employ diplomacy though; black men have hypersensitive egos underneath their bravado which is why they are hesitant to commit to marriage, the arena where all of the fronting comes to an end.

The black men who do marry are apparently a special breed. According to published reports by the U.S. Census Bureau, 45 percent of black men and 42 percent of black women have never been married. Of the black women who do get married, 52 percent of them will marry by age 30, compared to 81 percent of white women who are married at the same age.

In spite of that, 65% of never-married black women have children, double that of white women. 22% of never-married black women with incomes over $75,000 have children, which is 10 times that of white women. 85%of black children do not live in a home with their fathers. With the reality of these statistics, the magnitude of the problems concerning the proper care and maintenance of black men can’t be overlooked by the women who love them. These problems also can’t be overlooked by the black women and families that are plagued by them.

At the root of so many of the problems which afflict black men is self-love. From self-love comes self-respect. From self-respect comes honor and pride in who you are; not what you do or how much money you make. Self-love and self-worth are delicately intertwined.

Women can love their black men to death, but if they don’t love themselves, they will never feel deserving and worthy of the love and the life they are blessed to have. Black men must be reprogrammed to use self-love as a foundation upon which a greater love of life, and love for others can be built. Self-love and swagger may look the same from afar, but one emanates from the inside. Now you will be able to tell the difference when up close.

Gian Fiero is an educator, speaker and consultant. He is affiliated with San Francisco State University as an adjunct professor, and the United States Small Business Administration (SBA) as a business advisor where he conducts monthly workshops on topics such as business development, career planning, public relations, and personal growth.

11 replies
  1. Brittany
    Brittany says:

    I could be wrong, but I don't think the author was tasking black women with "raising" black men. I think the immediate defensive stance that so many women have taken to this post is indicative of exactly what's being illustrated in this article. We as black women ARE tasked with lovingly encouraging our black men to become the great man that they have the potential to be. After all, it is black women that are giving birth to these young black men. If you yourself were unable to give your son the time, affection and attention he needed, I'm sure you would hope that when he becomes a man that God sends him a woman that compensates for the mother's shortcomings and the father's absence instead of holding it against him. I am in no way making excuses for our black men, but they are certainly facing stigmas that we black women do not face, yet are aware, and STILL refuse to encourage them to get past. Black women making poor decisions regarding who they choose to lay with contribute to these young black men growing up without the fathers, lacking a firsthand example of what it is to be a man and a man in a relationship with a woman. So until THAT family dynamic changes, beginning with women being virtuous and making better decisions about who to share their womb with, we black women ARE tasked with lovingly encouraging and motivating our black men to strive to their best potential as they face the battles of this world. It's saddens me to see all of these negative posts from what I can only assume are black women. Our men have to fight so many battles in the world and to come home and battle with your queen is too much for any man. I love my black husband that was born to a single mother and an absentee father. My black husband that was not given the guidance of a man on how to be a man. My black husband that fought with the need of a father figure and struggled with understanding what was expected of him and fulfilling those responsibilities. So I embrace my duty on encouragingly filling in the gaps that his home life created. And he is a better man for it! #BeEncouraged

  2. Brooke
    Brooke says:

    I have to be honest. I've been married to a Black man for nearly 18 years and I love him dearly. This article makes me, a woman who has experienced the love goodness and support of a black man, not want to be bothered with any black men. You make it sound as though the Black man's journey something so incomprehensible and elusive, that we must treat him with special white, kid gloves. We are all human and we all have our struggles to face. Black women, black, men, white men, white women, etc. We have a human experience that we walk through. This article sounds like it was written by some over protective mother. Black men are strong, introspective, vocal, emotional, responsible, loving, caring, supportive, and they are able to be what we want them to be as long as they know we expect it.
    My recent post Best Cheap Dates

    • Deborrah Cooper
      Deborrah Cooper says:

      I was thinking the same thing. He won't talk, he won't communicate, he can't love, he wants to be a player, he doesn't know how to be in a relationship, you have to add programs and then reprogram what is already there. That is too much work! It's like raising a child. No woman complete in herself would want to be bothered with a man that required that much energy. What is the payoff for her after she puts in that much work? No, I prefer being single to dealing with all that. When a woman has a child already, raising some other woman's son to manhood and completeness as a human being is not a task she would wish to take on.
      My recent post Black Women – Stop Nurturing Grown Men

      • aradjani
        aradjani says:

        Totally and completely agree with you. Why are black women responsible for uplifting brothas? Why do we have to be responsible for the insecurity of our men? If the root of the problem is self-love, then that is something we'll never be able to give them. Self-love obviously starts within oneself. I have a bff who is going through this very same thing with her husband, and all it has made her is tired and full of regret.

        What is the payoff for her after she puts in that much work?
        When he does learn to love himself and leaves her for another woman.

  3. Taisheen Pearson
    Taisheen Pearson says:

    wow thank you for this! Ithink this ewill help me be a better wife. I love all of the statistis and the final note woman must first love themselves in order to embrace those present or future husband's love. Woman tolerate too much crap! All of my married girlfriends dont tolerate any mess, men love it. Its not snotty its dignity!

  4. Kay
    Kay says:

    I like this article. I think some of the points mentioned by Gian Fiero are also highlighted by Haki R Madhuti in "Black Men: Obsolete, Single, Dangerous?". I definitely think it is a challenge when dealing with black men from an over all standpoint. For better and for worse. However, of course, all black men can't be sucked into the vortex of this article's definition of the experience loving a black man. Yet and still, there is a lot of validity in this message. Each man must be judged on his own merits. If he doesn't set himself apart from the self-hating and destructive crown, then I definitely don't think he's worth the relationship investment. Individual merit is what counts.

    Although this article focuses on black men… my hope is that single black women would consider a man based on his merits regardless of his race.

  5. Akuma Saa
    Akuma Saa says:

    This article is garbage….. All you talked about was recent conditioning…. you cant start with a problem towards the end then solve it. You gotta start from the beginning. And Teddy Pedergrass and the rest of those kats were garbage too. They didnt practiced what they preached, and they were addicts and womanizers. There is nothing in context or depth of condition, and we naturalli as Afrikan men do not do this by choice…… So from your experience, or whoever you interviewed, this is flawed. And swagger is a made up word just like america… stop using it as if its defines something because it dont. Most sistas get caught up, because they are taught to hate themselves and look for less, just as the bruthas are taught to hate themselves, and despise their own sistas. Thats why we are dying by the day…. not becus of this bullshyt….. eurasians are pushing and diseasing us, and all you do in response is turn the other cheek and run to their jesus or muhammad, or whatever other homosexual dissexual abrahamic god they gave to u. You still havent figured it out. This artice is half baked like the food they serve people at restaraunts…… come on man…..

    • Yaa
      Yaa says:

      Brotha it felt like your fingertips were screaming as you were typing. While I may not agree with every aspect of the article, it's very clear to me that the essence of the article is empowerment. Please tell me what problem you have with this statement:

      "At the root of so many of the problems which afflict black men is self-love. From self-love comes self-respect. From self-respect comes honor and pride in who you are; not what you do or how much money you make. Self-love and self-worth are delicately intertwined."

      From what I see this article is challenging us to look inward for solutions to our problems vs outwards. Wouldn't you agree that self evaluation is a critical component of KUJICHAGULIA (Self-Determination)?

  6. Cynthia
    Cynthia says:

    This is a really great article. And Ayize, you are so right in saying that many "aren't willing to invest the emotional requirement to "accept someone flaws and all"."

  7. realwife
    realwife says:

    i think this is one of THE best articles i have seen on here!!! you hit it dead on that the root of the whole problem is self-love. too many of our men are taught that having the most "things" in life will give them fulfillment. when in reality nothing they have is enough because real happiness and fulfillment comes from that self respect and self-love you are speaking about. your reprogramming example is really what has to happen for these men to ever be truly happy. i had to do this with my husband and im telling you it takes alot of time and effort but i have a great husband who recognizes his worth not only to me but to the entire world. if you TRULY love him you accept flaws and all but use that to guide him to be the best he can.

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