The deep roots of anti-Blackness & colourism that fester in the very fabric of Black British identity forces us into painful public conversations in cycles. Usually in the form of exposing unrelenting verbal abuse directed towards dark-skinned Black women, and the general denouncement in our communal online spaces of Black women as unworthy of love and respect. There are so many variables at play here. For example, the light skinned or racialised as other/mixed/exotic women who engage in the abuses of colourism, “blackphising” or cosplaying Blackness in the competition for prized desirability and/or proximity to Black men. In the tradition of the thinkers I have found most transformative, I will focus on the root which is lovelessness, and in this reflection on possible paths forward, I am going to center Black women’s experiences of rejection and abandonment (including but not limited to heterosexual relationships).
As I was reflecting on some of the meagre apologies that have been given, and the reconciliation that always seems to be deferred between Black men and women (you can read my thread on this here), I started to think about what comes next? How can accountability be a means to healing our fractured dynamics rather than an end in itself, an apology that is a full stop?
What does it look like for Black men who want to come to terms with the legacy of harmful actions towards Black women & move forward in a different direction? Beyond the guilt and shame what is change & reconciliation in their personal lives, and acts of communion with us as a whole?
If and when Black men do reach a pivotal point of growth and change, little public work has been done to sign-post what rehabilitation of self and harm reduction (especially towards Black women) could look like, particularly in the Black British context. That is not to say that it isn’t healing and transformation isn’t being done, but that the process happens in privacy and isolation; and perhaps is frequently interrupted without communal systems of support. We all ultimately miss out on the collective healing that comes from being a witness to this.
From the liminality of the spiritual, political and intellectual spaces in which I live, it is my work to think about world building and the creative possibilities of love and healing, for Black folk especially. Therefore I have thoughts about where we could go from here, and what responsibility Black men specifically can take, if they so choose.
There are three adjustments that I’d like to highlight that could be a beginning of a blueprint of intra-Black relational dynamics that are rooted in love:
Firstly, what is needed instead of much more talking, is a different structure of dialogue that can be a catalyst for elevating the public conversation out of the routine denouncement of colourism, that has no thought or action that sustainably repairs the exploited value of our Blackness. This could look like public conversations that prioritise vulnerability, as a contrast to the debate style and intellectual performance of notable influencers talking to camera, often for point scoring. Though this rhetoric practice has an important place in the culture, primarily as a public teaching tool, it is not built for reconciliatory conversations.
We need the listening skills and resilience to have the kind of conversations that are surgery. That can be cutting and painful and reveal the mess and the collective trauma within. Until we really hear the horror of what is creeping around inside us, and what’s knocking around in the mental closets of Black men especially, who generally speaking are less in the practice of externalising deep emotional processing, we’ll only be performing relational “success” and affluence like new skins thrown over a carcass.
Black British Therapists, Black Healers, and Black wellness practitioners all have a critical skill in curating safe disclosure, and directing the mood of a conversation so that we might go somewhere we have never been before. Being able to hear and hold truths we have never been made to stay with, because our only option for safety was disconnection, ghosting, loss. Across generations.
I have seen a restorative conversation happen just once in the UK, at the event “Born: Free – Black Love Edition”, hosted by Nana Adae-Amoakoh and Belinda Zhawi, September 2016. Anyone who was there can speak to the energy of compassionate listening and healing in a room packed from wall to wall with over a hundred Black folk being honest about their yearning for love and freedom. I’ve never seen anything like it again. But this is the critical community participation we need.
Our reconciliation starts with our truths, and collectively cultivating more openness and self-awareness in our dialoguing skills might help to liberate UK Blacks riddled by the prison of the endless “talking stage”. Where attempts at intimacy building never materialise into commitments to establish love and partnership.
Secondly, and perhaps most controversially, one of the most healing things Black men can do as they come to terms with themselves is to commit to having deep affective bonds with Black women (exclusively) – as best friends, as partners, as mothers to children, as soulmates. Accepting that desire is socially engineered, hi-jacked even; and that their heated pursuit of white and/or light women is not just a “preference” but a modification.
Coming into the fullness of ourselves requires us to contend with that. Not to fall into polarising actions of making the Black woman “god”, or patronising dark-skinned women (“the darker berry the sweeter the juice”) with romantic pursuits that are ideologically Black, but have not been realised at the level of the body.
All that is tokenism. The work required is to stop seeing (Black) women as parts. To actually broaden our capacity for desire beyond the hacked minimalism of “fat ass, small waist, curly hair and light skin”. It is not a rejection of any of these attributes in themselves, but a cultural and physiological reset that is restorative and allows the body to respond to Blackness in its limitless beauty. Not just aesthetic Blackness, though Black womxn being fine as fxck shouldn’t be understated, but the beauty that is bound up in the spirit of Black women: The quirkiness, intelligence, faith, resilience, quick-wit, loyalty, creativity, passion, sensuality, resourcefulness and so on.
Moreover, Black men who are visionary should come to see that loving Black women is purposeful. It is an act of spiritual devotion. It is a process of multi-generational healing. It is a path that resolves trauma. For this reason is it is a choice & a commitment. A proliferation of love that is transformative beyond the two people who come into communion. This is the work of love that has been denied in the Black British context for far too long.
Lastly, a significant corrective practice that Black men can engage in is the material support of Black women – literally adding value. I know in the UK space there have been many reductionist and even paternalistic conversations about Black men giving Black women “allowances” aka pocket money; or taking on all/the majority of the financial burden when living together. These relationship ideals that tend to circulate on Twitter are at complete odds with the real picture of financial vulnerability in the UK, where 3 million people are one pay day away from homelessness, Black Brits are no exception to this. As @achildof2worlds tweeted when it comes to love and finances we need to “Dash the patriarchy, up the bag”.
My vision of Black men’s investing in Black women is not tied to romantic bonds. It looks like putting Black women forward for job roles or promotions; buying from Black women owned businesses, sponsoring Black women’s creative endeavours, offering skills as a service or doing skill exchanges. Giving visibility to Black women’s platforms, critically engaging with Black women’s work. It even looks like paying Black women for the consumption of their erotic labour through sites like Only Fans. There are so many ways to love Black women as a function of building healthy and reciprocal community.
The ideas shared here are truly intended to be a beginning point, a suggestion for foundational practices because that’s exactly where we are: at the start. The nuances of this conversation are more than what can be contained here. For example, Black men are of course also subjected to anti-Blackness and colourism. Or the conversation has a different emphasis when we consider the broad scope of love between Black men and womxn who aren’t potential sexual options for each other, owing to orientation or just lack of desire. Or what responsibility for reconciliation falls to trans Black men and non-binary people who may have a different kind of personal history with Black womxn? It is my hope that my words are a conversation opener. That we start to think creatively about how we can re-build our bonds.
For Black men wanting to do healing work it is important to acknowledge that it is a choice, a decision, and a pause. You have to make room for it. Reading is always a reliable catalyst for personal change, you might start with “The Will To Change: Men, Masculinity & Love” by bell hooks, or you might see yourself reflected in the anthology “Safe: On Black Men Reclaiming Space”, a critical moment in making public the contemporary life and consciousness of Black British men. Alex Reads curates thoughtful conversations on his podcast, formerly called “What Matters” and now “Time To Talk”. Symeon Brown’s “Good Reader Book Club” could also be a good space that supports broader personal growth by engaging ideas just for pleasure.
Don’t forget to use the spiritual tools that are available to you. I truly believe more Black men could hugely benefit from engaging with tarot in one to one settings, with me, or someone else you vibe with. I do public Tarot Therapy live every week that is reposted to my Youtube Channel. Maintaining a regular meditation practice. Using somatic movement practices that can unlock the emotions, such a yoga. There is so much for you to explore.
Share your thoughts with me on Twitter @LeonaNBlack and let me know what you think about the possibilities for Black love in the context of our personal healing and joint reconciliation…
You can also find me on Instagram: Leona Nichole Black