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“All black women are crazy,” he said, unsolicited, out of nowhere, in an email.
What prompted the statement didn’t really matter. But my friend Schwartzie (not his real name) still threw that out there, never expecting that it might be interpreted as offensive.
Schwartzie, a black man, said it as a joke to me. Not a good joke, mind you. But it fit his usual, kind of “Chris Rock-style” observational humor where he says the most stereotypical, shocking, odd thing. And depending on the delivery it’s either met with chuckles or out-right hostility.
Only, Schwartzie is a “professional guy,” not Chris Rock.
The lazy, unintentional sexist is always the most frustrating one because he often doesn’t make the connection between the words flying out of his mouth and his larger actions. He doesn’t see himself as a “sexist,” but simply “keeping it real.” He’s the sort of guy who will hire a woman, depend on women, work with women, fall in love with women, be an all-around gentleman and polite towards women, choose -– over and over –- to be around nothing but women, but then will say infuriatingly tone-deaf things like, “All black women are crazy.”
In Schwartzie’s case, his life is filled with black women who directly contribute to his happiness, as well as his personal and professional well-being, yet he likes to complain, constantly, about this hypothetical, crazy black woman of who is supposed to be the “norm,” and all of us –- the non-crazies -– are aberrations.
This is a man who is sad, and near impossible to deal with, when he can’t see his wife. Who primarily works with women. Whose best friend is a woman. Whose career is bolstered by the influence, support, and management of women. Who is a “Mama’s Boy.” And who respects and values me despite being born of permanent tan and temperamental va-jay-jay.
He’s simply insensitive in the most fratty, bone-headed way, often influenced by other men with checkered relationships with black women. But he’s also the sort of guy who has spent most of his life winning at nearly everything he touches. He sometimes loses his empathy for not only women, but men who don’t fit his worldview as well. Yet, when actually confronted with someone outside his circle, he’s as understanding and caring as anyone would be.
His heart is politically correct, but his language is engendered, sexist, and sometimes rife with stereotypes.
Schwartzie works with nothing but women. And these women are sometimes offended by him, but say nothing even when he hurts their feelings out of a mixture of loyalty and engendered expectations.
Oh, they complain about it plenty. To each other. To me. But Schwartzie is such a sweet, charmer that most women –- and black women in particular –- give him a pass. Some even find ways to agree with him, even when what he says sounds completely ridiculous.
It’s sometimes about being in the “middle.” Being both black and a woman, often you are so aware of the plight of black men that you want to be protective of them, even when what they’re doing is borderline idiotic, potentially harming themselves and others.
But it’s also about the path of least resistance. Where you put up with the comments to be “one of the boys.” To be accepted. To get the job. To avoid harassment. To avoid being labeled “uncool” or a prude.
So much of being a woman is about getting along –- even when it’s the last thing you want to do. Women who break the “go-along to get-along” rule are outcasts -– not only despised by men, but intensely disliked by other women.
And it’s not fun for Schwartzie to shout out: “Certain status conscious, looks conscious, competitive black women I used to date are crazy.”
So all black women it is.
Hahahahaha … no.
When I got Schwartzie ’s crazy email of crazy black lady stereotypes, I knew I had to respond instantly. Not because it was the right thing to do, but because GOOD LORD, he’s my friend. What if he said that mess to the wrong person? What if he got labeled a horrible sexist? What if his reputation ended up trashed? What if he potentially offended all those OTHER women who aren’t me that he depends on for love, work and support?
Coddling him (and his lazy worldview) wasn’t doing us any favors. And after I called him on it -– in the most polite, but blunt terms possible –- he backed down, admitting he may have been influenced by one of his more “Bitter Brother” friends. But I reminded him that if I wanted to lose all nuance and be intellectually lazy, I could make the mistake of ranting that every black man is moody, bitter and emotionally crippled to near comatose levels, who despite complaining incessantly about black women are overly dependent on some black woman -– in the form of mother, wife, girlfriend, baby mama, sister, grandmother, BFF or the Virgin Mary.
But that wouldn’t be fair. The most stand-up and dependable man in my life is my father. And one of my best friends is a man who is among the most kind and altruistic people I know.
Out of respect to them, my other male friends and relatives and black men who have protected, loved and supported me I judge all emotionally crippled male Negroes on a case-by-case basis.
I told Schwartzie all I’ve ever asked is that he do the same.
Reprinted with permission fromClutch Magazine.