Sunday, November 15, 2009


In response to the YouTube video posted in the blog, "You Can't Handle a Strong Black Woman!", we’ve had various off-line discussions. In our interpretation, the common theme among women seemed to be the willingness or a lack of the willingness to take personal responsibility for the truth presented in the video. While we don’t agree with everything presented, we take it as one viewpoint about who Black women have become in relationships; one that cannot be so easily dismissed. And, although we acknowledge that the images represented in the video are not indicative of every Black woman, we do recognize ourselves in some aspects of it.

We found that other women were not so open to the video and dismissed everything contained within it based on the approach taken by makers of the video. But, we didn’t find ourselves to be so easily offended. In conversations about the video, we were able to clearly see how being focused on making someone else wrong (i.e. the video makers, men, society, etc.) keeps us stuck and inhibits our ability to grow. However, for us, we were able to look back at some of our experiences and relate to how being resistant to taking responsibility leads to our own dissatisfaction and unhappiness.


I have not always wanted to take responsibility for my behaviors in the past. A lot of the time, I would not even know where I was being hurtful until someone pointed it out to me. When attention was brought to my ugliness, I didn’t want to admit that I had made a mistake. I felt that admitting a mistake would have made me appear weak and would have taken away my power and authority. Now “power” and “authority” may sound like curious words within a relationship, but from an early age, I was conditioned to not allow anyone, especially a man, take advantage of me.

I remember a past relationship where I was very loved by a man that had been my friend for years prior to developing into a romantic relationship. He was funny, thoughtful, sweet, intelligent and a man of his word; his only “flaw” was that he made less money than I did at the time. I recall an incident where I accused this loving man of not living up to his potential. I cruelly exposed his weaknesses and stripped him of his dignity. Although I knew this was wrong on a human level, I felt justified because I felt that I needed to put some fire under his butt to inspire him to want to be more…

Shortly after this incident, he cheated on me with another woman. It's only in retrospect that I see myself clearly. Instead of encouraging him and pointing out his strengths, offering loving guidance and supporting his growth in HIS time, I chose to contribute to his low self-esteem, break his spirit, and reaffirm his internal belief-system that had held him captive for so long.

No one knows whether he would have cheated or not if I had been secure enough in myself to focus more on his intense love for me, his integrity and his positive work ethic, rather than how I felt about HIS life choices. What I do know is that if at the time, I had been less focused on how he was wrong for cheating and more concerned about my role in making him feel like less than a man, I would have become more of a woman sooner.


For me, I see how easy it is for women to evade personal responsibility for our actions in relationships. After all, society supports us in our victimization. No matter what we do, it seems that we can always fall back on the same response, “if he hadn’t done X, I wouldn’t have done Y” or “it’s his fault!” But what is the cost for us using this excuse? The cost is a loss of power, dignity and integrity. It causes us to place our self-esteem and emotional well-being in someone else’s hands and it causes us to look outside ourselves for the truth the resides within each of us.

As I look back on each of my past relationships, I can acknowledge how very clearly I saw my partners for who they were. My “issue” was that I judged them according to the story of who I thought they should be and became offended or made them wrong whenever they couldn’t meet those standards. Therefore, for me at that time, I was quick to jump to the conclusion that it was their fault when we encountered problems in the relationship.

I do not know how long those relationships would have lasted if I had made myself responsible for what I knew from the beginning instead of waiting for them to magically turn into my “ideal man”. But, what I do know is that I would have avoided suffering had I only lived in the truth of what I had always known them to be. I would not have ignored those attributes that inspired me or would have allowed me to appreciate the love that they unselfishly gave; even though it may not have looked the way that I thought that it should have. Today, I am friends with my exes. Not because of who they should be, but because of who they are. My love for them is unconditional, period.

When we look at videos like RIP Black America2, we can choose to take what is true for us and discard the rest. When we are immediately offended by the delivery of a message, it can distract us from hearing the parts of the message that can propel us toward our own personal growth. Through our experiences, we have come to realize that we owe it to ourselves and our partners to be responsible for our choices and the actions that we take as a result of those choices. Focusing on someone else's shortcomings does nothing to bring us to a common understanding in our relationships. Instead, it only further alienates our partners and causes them to withdraw from being emotionally available to us. When we become stuck in the story of "It's not my fault!", NOBODY wins.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


While watching the video RIP Black America2, we were both struck by the narrator’s use of the statement, “You can’t handle a strong black woman,” to describe our denial and inability to take responsibility for who we have become in our relationships. He brutally describes black women as “egotistical children” that have resorted to petty power, bullying and tricks to get our men and/or develop relationships. He says that all the black woman has is an “ego” and a constant need to be told how great she is. While this is clearly a bitter pill to swallow, we asked ourselves “uhh, does he have a point?” :-/

Many times as black women we have been vulnerable in situations where we have allowed ourselves to be stripped of our self-esteem. From that, we have equated being vulnerable with being diminished, or made powerless. As a result, we find ourselves walking around at a ‘tea party’ with boxing gloves on; on-guard against attack. We don’t see how we’re contributing to the gap that has been created between black men and women.

The distinction that we see is between demanding respect and commanding respect. When we demand respect, we do look like “egotistical children” that need to resort to “petty power” to get what we want. Instead, when we rely on our authentic power as women to nurture, and to lead, and to hold things together, we are naturally positioned to command respect from a person that is willing and able to respond to our best selves.

What do you think, have black women replaced “authentic power” with “petty power”?

Sunday, November 1, 2009


Growing up we both have memories of wanting to get bigger so that we could have access to what our older siblings and the big kids on the block had. We remember when we were finally able to make it past the height requirements for every ride at Disneyland, only to become equally as passionate about reaching the age where we could stay home alone. Soon we were looking forward to driving, later curfews, college, and then the freedom of adulthood to make our own rules and live our own lives.

And so it goes, a never-ending cycle of believing that once we get to our next level, our happiness will show up. As children we had defined timelines to progress in life and we used these milestones as a measurement of our success. This practice became a habit that as adults we now carry and we rarely stop to ask ourselves why we continue to race toward where we think we want to be. Often, we compare ourselves to others and feel anxiety if we see ourselves as losing in the race to getting "bigger."

As women, we learn early on that part of winning our race includes the magical day when some man makes us his wife. There is a timeline embedded in this milestone, as well. As single women, we gauge how on-track we are in life compared to members of our peer group that are married or in a relationship. We tend to create our own suffering when we conclude that we are not worthy, or desirable, or that something is wrong with us because we are single.

What's the hurry? We thought we'd be happy when we were old enough to be out on our own. We thought we'd be happy when we could make enough money to buy the things that we thought we should have. But, the more milestones we achieve, the more we feel we need to achieve and the more anxious we become.

When we let go of comparisons and instead appreciate each season of our journey, we release ourselves from the anxiety that is attached to a defined outcome. If being a grown up is about freedom, then let's stop following the cookie-cutter habits we established as children and start creating our own rules.