A few years ago, a well known South African rabble rouser, Eric Miyeni, published a book called, The only black at the dinner party. Not surprisingly, the book caused ructions in certain circles too scared to look issues of race in the new South Africa squarely in the eye and deal. It was much easier to down the bubbly than stomach the aching issues of race relations.
This week, a London based brother told another dinner party story which caused ructions at our dinner party here in Jo’burg. His story was about a group of 40something women who had gathered to celebrate a birthday party in high style.
The story goes like this: picture an uptown swanky London restaurant, jewels, gloss, beauty deluxe, lots of champers and a long table of black women, highly paid, highly powered and highly single.
So, what was wrong with this picture? Amongst the 30 highly eligible women at this dinner party, 28 of them were single. Not by their own doing but definitely by choice. Confused? Their choice of rolling solo was informed by the usual sad song. Black men are simply not available! Sorry, let me rephrase that, good black men are an increasingly scarce resource.
Our brother (the storyteller), seemingly an endangered species was one of the two men at the table. As everyone introduced themselves, he proudly presented his credentials as a professional husband. Tongue firmly in cheek, he knew he’d touch a raw nerve. He’s a man, gainfully employed with two jobs. His day job and his 24/7/365 job as a partner and soul mate is his badge of honour and his lifesource.
The gloss began to melt as his partner was interrogated about where she found such a gem. As the long table bowed beneath unyielding anecdotes about the scarcity of black men and reasons; ranging from wukliss, no ambition to ‘no sugarmama here’ talk, our professional husband looked on in bewilderment.
Confusion reigned as poison arrows missiled by harsh tongues landed in hearts already pierced with pain. As he tried to anchor the issues, he told us the sistas were clear. No surrogate motherhood for them! If it means being single and childless in their 40s, then that was better than carrying a deadweight partner for the rest of their lives.
Start with forgiveness
Reeling in disbelief and horror, one key question emerged from our dinner party table– how did we, black men and women get to this point?
Of course its complex and there’s no simple answer. It could not be as simple as sisters getting too picky or men just abandoning the sistas? Is it really an issue of man scarcity or are we still too scared to deal? For in dealing in truth, the requirement is that we’d have to start with forgiveness, ourselves before others, in order to build bridges of healing. It seems tongue-lashing is far more appealing. Meanwhile, what happens to our communities while we put our lives on hold through fear and blame? Man scarcity? I’m not convinced.