Tyrese to Black Women: Don’t Be Too Independent

For the past few weeks, as part of my project exploring black women, relationships and marriage, I’ve been immersing myself in books, films, blog posts and other media on the subject. Last week I read Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man and am still trying to wash off the film and stink of patriarchy. I told my husband over the weekend that I am unbelievably proud of black women. As a group we are able to hold our heads high in the face of the relentless narrative that there is something wrong with us that needs to be fixed; that, for us, admirable qualities like independence, only make us more unlovable–a narrative not only championed by the mainstream, but, too often, by members of our own communities.

So, singer, actor and (God help us) author Tyrese decided to drop a little wisdom on the black lady folk during a recent interview with (above) He warns us about being “too independent.”

There is nothing about the descriptor “independent” that is negative on its face, at least not based on Merriam-Webster’s definition above. My parents taught me to be independent. When I became old enough to drive, my father taught me how to check my tire pressure and oil and how to change a tire. I keep my AAA membership payed up, but I know if roadside service can’t get to me, I can take care of myself. To be independent is to be free. Because I can handle an auto emergency, I’ve felt free to crisscross the country on road journeys points southwest to northeast.1

What could be wrong with being free? Nothing, unless, of course, you believe that it is not advantageous for women to be “not subject to control by others” or “not requiring or relying on others (as for care or livelihood).” Would Tyrese caution men this way? Would he warn them against not needing women.1

Sexism lies at the root of the actor’s monologue. In the regressive language of modern black relationship advice, it is not enough for a black woman to want a man deeply, with all her heart and soul. Male egos must always be fed with the idea that women are unfulfilled and incapable of living without a man. We must avoid being uneducated free-loaders, sayeth Tyrese, while being sure to remain needy and helpless enough to be attractive to men like him.1

Tyrese’s “helpful” advice carries the condescension and arrogance typical of mansplaining, plus a dash of amorphous homophobia. What was that weird sidebar about homosexuality? No doubt, some ill-spoken repetition of the idea that gay black men harm black women’s marriage chances with their gayness. Silly.

But here’s another thing Tyrese’s advice is: racist. It is specifically black women who are singled out for some of the most dehumanizing and denigrating messages about their lovability and marriageability. Indeed, Tyrese directs his comment “especially” to black women. Our culture remains in a place where it is acceptable to assume black women, apart from other women, are intrinsically wrong and in need of correction. It is not just mainstream sources like ABC News that serve up “What’s wrong with black women?” programming. Black men like Steve Harvey, Tyrese and Jimi Izrael are getting in on the action. And no one blinks an eye. Read complete article at Racialicious

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