Black Relationships I

Black Relationships I (1986)

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Themes: Education and Families |

Guests: Dr. Donnie Smith, Dr. Rosalind Griffin
Host : Ed Gordon
Producer : Tony Mottley


Summary: Gordon starts by citing some statistics: (1) in the 24-34 age group, there were only 59 employed black men for every 100 single black women; (2) 55 percent of all black babies were born out of wedlock; and (3) nearly half of all black families were headed by a female. He cites the suggestion of a national black sorority leader that black women might have to resort to polygamy to have a relationship with a man, and asks the guests what they think of the problem.

Both Griffin and Smith argue that much of the problem stems from a lack of responsibility among black men. Many men, Smith says, have been raised by single mothers and have come to expect the kind of attention they received from their mothers in their own dating and marital relationships; they are not prepared to accept the responsibility and expectations of a more equal relationship.

For their part, Griffin says, women end up feeling angry and resentful over what they perceive as the unwillingness of men to consider their needs and to cooperate on an equal basis in the relationship.

Gordon asks whether some of the problem rests in the different expectations that society has of men and women. Men, he suggests, are supposed to be macho and not show their feelings while at the same time, black men suffer most severely from high unemployment rates and a lack of education.

Smith agrees that many black men feel overwhelmed by society's expectations and limitations and by their own feelings of inadequacy. Griffin adds, though, that black women often feel that black men had taken the increased freedom that came with the liberation movement of the 1960s to date white or fair-skinned women rather than really embrace the idea that "black is beautiful." "It's as though they were liberated unto themselves," she says.

A male caller challenges Griffin, asking whether black women, as they advance more rapidly than black men into the white working world, are not simply expecting black men to be like the white men they see in relationships with white women. Griffin replies that it is not a matter of whether they expect black men to act like the white men they see; it is a matter of what makes for a good relationship.

"If the old family values of blacks working together as they did in slavery time still existed, this wouldn't even be a problem," she says. Smith adds that, "The problems we are discussing are not peculiar to the black race." Communication, commitment and responsibility are at the core of any good relationship.

Through the observations of the therapists and the comments of the callers, this program illuminates the ideas and concerns that made the question of male-female relationships a significant concern in the African American community in the mid 1980s.