“All the good black men are either dead, married, gay, in jail or waiting to be born,” is something I heard a young lady say in a bible study once. We were discussing the possibility of some of us in the class never getting married. Before making this statement, she told the pastor he needed to come up with some programs so some of the women in the class could have the hope of getting married. She then went on to give a dramatic speech called “Who Is Left to Love the Black Woman?”
I was very offended. And the whole time she was giving her lil’ speech, I was lookin’ at Mz. Lady like she’d bumped her head. After her speech, the pastor asked if any of the men in the class would like to respond. So, you KNOW I raised my hand right? And the pastor just shook his head, because he KNEW what was coming.
I stood up in front of the class, cleared my throat, and said, “I don’t think the problem here is ‘who’s left to love the black woman, but rather who is qualified!” I also told Mz. Lady that she owed every man in the class an apology because ALL OF US in the class thought of ourselves as good men.
These days, what IS a good man? Everyone has their own idea of what makes a man “good,” so it’s difficult to set a concrete definition. When asked that question, most of the single men I know say they consider themselves good men.
So, if so many people (straight women and gay men) are looking for ‘good men’, why are so many presumed good men single? Maybe the people who say they are looking for a good man, aren’t really looking for a good man at all. Most are seeking out “good-looking men” and are disappointed when they find that those who they think are good-looking often lack the characteristics they say they want in a man. The truth is, most will totally overlook a man of character if he doesn’t personify what society says is beautiful or successful. Even if the man is only trying to be a friend, he still faces rejection based on his looks.
My late Big Mama used to say, “baby, you don’t throw away a diamond because it’s given to you in a paper bag, and not a velvet box….a diamond is still a diamond no matter what it may be wrapped in.” Big Mama knew that a good man couldn’t be measured or judged by what he has or how he looks. A good man can only be judged by his character. Now I’m not naïve to the fact that what we see gets our attention. But it seems that what we see is the most important thing. We value things that are temporal. Good looks fade or can be destroyed. Money and material things are fleeting and can be taken away. But a strong and noble character is something that is invaluable and will stand the test of time.
So to all those women and men, who say they’re looking for a good man, remember that a good man (a diamond) is still a good man (a diamond) regardless of how he may be wrapped. Think about it, that man of character that you’ve overlooked because you’re “just not attracted to him” may be the friend or partner you’ve been looking for all along. Learn how to see people with more than just your eyes. Maybe the problem is not a shortage of eligible candidates, but your inability to recognize a good man when you see him.
Tuan N’Gai is Co-Founder of the Operation: REBIRTH Movement. He’s the author of “Will I Go To Heaven? The Black Gay Spiritual Dilemma,” “Little Brown Boy’s Blues,” and a contributor to the New York Times Best Seller, “It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying, and Creating a Life Worth Living.” He lives in Chicago, Illinois.
Today I discovered I am officially “older”. After sitting in on a workshop and being inspired by college students who are passionate about changing our society, I realized that in alot of ways I was just like them when I was their age. I think I more ways than one, I am still just like them. Watching them interact with one another ignited a fire in me that I thought was long gone.
I walked away from the experience with one glaring realization…the difference between me then, and them now is my respect for my elders. My realizing that people who were older than me; people who had more experience than me were (and still are) assets to me. They are an invaluable resource. Whereas these young men and women feel like everything they need to know, they already know. They feel they need no input from people who have “been there, done that”. In their operating with this attitude, they make their lives harder than they really have to be.
Back in my day, we were taught to respect our elders. Most of that was because the elders weren’t afraid of us. They didn’t fear reminding us what “a child’s place” was. They told us when we were wrong. They demanded their respect. And if need be, they most certainly didn’t mind opening up some SERIOUS cans of whoop-ass.
They taught us the importance of humility. They showed us what it meant to walk in integrity. We learned that community was a necessity. More than anything, we learned that when we were in public, we represented more than just ourselves, we represented THEM.
This all leads me to question whether or not we have failed our young people. Has our trying to empower them actually crippled them? Does our unwillingness to be strong disciplinarians send a message that we are weak? Have we created an environment where the next generation is raising themselves?
I think we need to revive the spirit of Big Mama and Pops. We should remember the lessons they taught us about having noble character. We need to start passing along what the elders put in us…the knowledge that above all things, it’s our responsibility to be honorable people.