I didn’t understand the term ‘black love’ when I first heard it. I thought to myself ‘love is love, why must there be black love.’ I then discovered there was even a series called Black Love.
I genuinely did not understand what producer, business mogul Oprah Winfrey was trying to achieve by her television production, Black Love. The series sees black couples open up about the joys, challenges and realities of love, marriage and romance in the black community.
I saw snippets of the show and decided to get the idea behind black love. I realised I had judged it before giving myself time to listen to the love stories, and think about the ideas behind them.
Love is love, it has no colour. But, for many young black people, love is hardships, persevering, fighting other women for your man, putting up with abusive behaviour and defending cheaters. That is the love many young people see in their communities. This is the love I saw. It was angry, it was abusive.
Honestly, I don’t think this is love. It is self-loathing disguised as love and that needs to come to an end. How does that happen? Well, one way is to tell the rare stories of black love in our communities. We put a spotlight on them so we replicate them, fixing our own loopholes.
There is an elderly couple that my husband and I often see at our shopping centre. The first time we saw them my husband said he loved what he saw. Seeing an elderly, black couple holding hands and showing affection in public is not something you come across every day. We went up to them and started chatting. They were both retired professors and they were best friends. They said the secret to their marriage was choosing each other over and over again. I understood that love is a choice and it should flow from the heart. After that encounter I had a light bulb moment – this was what Oprah’s series was trying to capture. An authentic love in the black community.
The couple didn’t have to tell me about the challenges they had endured. I knew their way out was choosing to love one other. Coming from what is regarded as a broken home, my parents separated when I was young, and I don’t recall seeing love on display in my community. However, I knew which woman attacked another woman because she suspected the woman was seeing her man. I knew who was being beaten every night by their abusive husband. I knew who was suspected to be seeing a married man. To me, this did not make sense. I wondered what these people were doing with each other. I knew I didn’t want that kind of love.
There was my aunt who had a husband that openly cheated on her. He had another family and everyone was okay with this. My teenage brain couldn’t understand this. They were not in a polygamous marriage, and that’s why I didn’t understand why he would have another family.
Then there was my uncle who had a wife from hell. He would often tell my grandmother how disrespectful his wife was. I also knew I didn’t want to be that wife. I may have not known how a man should treat his wife, but I knew I deserved to be loved by a man who would honour me in my presence or absence. I didn’t want to be with someone who would make me doubt his commitment or myself.
With all that I saw in my family and community, I knew what I believed I deserved wasn’t there. I remember at 16 discovering that my boyfriend had two others in the same village. I decided to leave that, only to date another boy who had two other girls lined up. The lies were too much for my young heart. Two years later I experienced my first heart break. He said I was clingy.
After that dramatic relationship, I met a guy who spoke my love language. He got me and he put a ring on it, as Beyonce insisted. ‘If you like then put a ring on it.’
I know other there is violence, divorce and abuse in all communities. But on screens white love is celebrated everywhere. And many successful white people get opportunities to tell their successful love stories too.
Young black children growing in the townships deserve to see authentic love. They should never think they are not deserving of such love. The kind of love you read about in books. The kind that makes the wait worth it. The kind that leaves you wishing you could call all your ex-boyfriends and let them know how happy you are. The kind that makes you angry when a random guy hits on you: “I have a gorgeous man, leave me alone”.
So yes, love is love. But let us celebrate black love to show young black people what they really deserve.
Tell us: what do you think about the concept ‘black love’ – is it useful, or is love just love?
This blog also forms part of our Rights 2.0 – Bridging Divides project. Find out more here.