By: Lanisha Porter
The black woman is always working overtime to ensure the survival of herself, and those she came with. She is divinely organized; able to handle more than she should without much reward. She is the root of the family unit. And most notably, she is at work even when we least expect it.
Quietly but surely, I was always at work encouraging him to see in himself what the world wouldn’t have him see. Since I was a teenage girl, I became aware of my power. I noted early on that my sensuality extended a power that would enthrall many men and keep them under my influence. Conscious of this power, I promised to always use it for good. Given the Black man’s social destiny, and the social backdrop of the times, I had one agenda for each man I shared romantic space with--to leave this man better than I found him. In my relationships this meant planting roots so strong that he believed enough in his wings to fly. It looked like discouraging him from partying to stay home and study. It was me proofreading essays, and listening to presentations. It looked like me suggesting he spend more time with his family in lieu of his friends who were often lost in inhales of marijuana smoke and sips of Hennessy. It looked like phone conversations at 4am, not necessarily to talk but just to provide that assurance that he had a companion during the loneliest of hours when it’s difficult to mind your thoughts about the world. Often times my loyalty to the Black man has rendered me to lend out my sanctuary so that he may find peace in a world that ripples with uncertainty and terror.
There have been times when my self-proclaimed moral duty has been misconstrued as being judgmental or too mother-like. But as I once explained to an ex, I wasn’t going to be okay with, nor endorse him being mediocre. The truth is, the reality for the Black man isn’t favorable. They have to work harder to rise above the burden of their race in order to compete. Even more, they are competing in a system that profits from their enslavement and doesn’t necessarily flourish from their freedom. Prisons make their projections on how many more prisons to build based on the behavioral patterns of black males as early as 3rd grade. There is a disproportionate feed from schools-to-prison through a pipeline that far too often criminalizes and harshly punishes minor offenses, with colored students being the target. This considered, I will never romanticize averageness from the Black man. I will not be sympathetic to the excuses that perpetuate the never-ending cycle of destitute. I will not allow him to slouch on the comforting excuse of colonization, and be squandered hopeless by post-traumatic slave disorder. I will not let him disrespect the marches nor the efforts of our ancestors who braved injustice, to make the race a bit better for us to run. I will by no means assist in normalizing the destruction of the Black man. My responsibility to him is not to let him leave this earth without giving the next generation their proper due of a better start than we got. There are many things I will not do for the Black man out of consideration for our dignity, and the cultured roots that plants our belonging. However, I will—without a doubt—help him to help himself. As long as he is, I too will be a willing participant in pushing him forward when social pathologies push him back. Careful not to jeopardize my own welfare, I will help him, in any way I can, to be extraordinary. Simply because, the ones he must compete against for survival don’t descend from marginalization influenced by Jim Crow Laws, or oppression. In fact, chances are they probably descend from generational wealth and have a pretty healthy start in this game of life. Meanwhile, history would have him descend from lesser starts, including a lack—or none at all—of wealth, putting himself and myself at a tremendous disadvantage. These facts cannot be taken lightly. It would be foolish for the Black man not to equip himself in preparation to compete for his own survival. Speaking of the same ex, I remember meeting his grandfather for the very first time. It was then that he said to me, “maybe you will encourage my grandson to finish up school.” Though this was my first time meeting the Patriarch of his family, I understood very closely the entreaty from his grandfather to me. It was a request that sheds light on one of the Black community’s greatest problems today—Black men not preparing themselves in a system that is set-up for them to fail. This is where I come in, and many other women alike, prepared to serve our responsibility to the Black man. I certainly think we should be encouraged to take on this responsibility before there is a request to post bail, or an urgency to find money for a funeral ceremony.
When it comes to the Black man, I do not expect him to bow his head and believe he’s not allowed to be great. I expect him to defy the odds. I do not expect him to deny himself of all the things he is deserving of that will sustain. Truly, when we fail to prepare, we have prepared to fail. Therefore I hold the Black man accountable for rising up. His failure to do so is not only a disservice to me as a future wife, but also to our future dependencies. The Black man must be willing to lead in such a way that is conducive to a stable and healthy-functioning family. He must have the integrity to challenge historical forces, and debunk the multi-generational scars left by men who stray from faithfulness, on the hearts of their beloved but mistreated women. Women, time and time again, emerge from emotional trauma, somehow offering the best of ourselves. Allowing others to find refuge in our innermost center of self. We are able to work overtime, and settle for less than a thank you just to keep our family unit afloat. We are able to forgive and wash clean with baptismal waters, the most filthy of hearts—sometimes belonging to the men who are supposed to love us best. However, I dread the day when the Black woman stops caring for the Black man. I dread the day she stops assuming the responsibility to help make the Black man better. Because when she does, not even the temporary flight from reality gassed by weed fumes can stop him from feeling the weight of the loss. It is then that he will become acutely aware of just how much more lonely it is to be Black in an unequal America. So I write this for the Black man who I am responsible for; the one who is a direct reflection of me, the one of ones who I will merge with to create our own human legacies…the one thing I owe you is to leave you better than I find you. The least I owe you is to be sure I’m never a coconspirator with the world to help subjugate you. That said, I will serve this responsibility even when the utility of my actions aren’t immediately obvious to you. As a black woman, there is something I know very well of myself, and it is this: I am always working overtime to ensure the survival of myself and those I came with.
Welcome to my views from this horizon!