Black Men and Relationships: Can I Call You Friend?
By Meta J. Mereday
Male and female relationships are usually classified in sexual terms or based on physical attributes. What is so often lost is the dynamic of a genuinely platonic relationship between a man and a woman.
The relationships between Black men and Black women are so often categorized by societal stereotypes with Black men coming across as violent and arrogant and Black women as demanding and cold. Both descriptions are far from the truth that lies at the heart of multifaceted Black men and Black women who have historically hidden their emotions under the ever present discriminatory assaults and societal stresses put upon them.
For Black men, in particular, these assaults have caused extensive damage to their growth and development as men, husbands and fathers, and equally important, as friends. There is a crisis regarding Black men and relationships that needs to be addressed.
According to the Center for Disease Control, cardiovascular disease overall is more prevalent among Black men – about 41 percent – compared to 34 percent in Caucasian men. Also, similar CDC studies show that Black men and Black women are twice more likely than their Caucasian counterparts to have a stroke and Black men are 60 percent more likely to die from a stroke.
These statistics are matched with the high rate of unemployment impacting Black men and relationships especially and discontent that adds to their stress and affects their social interactions. With the increased rate of divorce and the growing number of challenges that Black men, who are not “dead beat dads,” face to gain custody or have visitations with their children, it is a wonder that Black men and relationships are in jeopardy. It is a wonder that Black men can have any type of productive and positive relationships, especially with women.
However, Black men and relationships are not a lost cause. Black men can have relationships with Black women that do not involve court battles, custody fights or overall control issues. It is called friendship and sometimes, it is this relationship that carries them through all the dramas and traumas in their lives and provides that oasis to reduce the stress of life.
I was taught that if you have at least one good friend, then you are blessed. I can say that I have been very blessed throughout my life, but there is one good friend who was the right to my left, he was my “big brother,” my sounding board and one of my biggest cheerleaders and support systems and, equally important, I was his. So, I know that a positive connection exists with Black men and relationships and a Black woman can have a genuinely platonic relationship with a Black man because that is what I had with my “big brother” and the best friend anyone could have—Mark R. Griffith.
Unfortunately, Mark’s life was suddenly cut short in December 2008 from cardiac arrest due to a stress-based hypertensive condition. However, he filled the lives of those of us around him for the forty-eight years he was here.
To my mother, Emma Waters Mereday, he was another son and part of our family. He believed in people and lived life to the fullest. As an award-winning, broadcast journalist, he not only helped to bring the messages to the community, he inspired many of the messengers you see and read about today. We laughed, we cried and we could just sit around and shoot the breeze. He always spoke in the royal “we” whether we were hanging out eating exotic food or handling events at journalism conferences, it was always “we are going to do this” or “we need to address that” and we supported each other when the chips were down.
No idea was too wild for Mark and he was always ready saying, “When do we start!” Ironically, the last “great idea” that “we” had involved starting a project to address health issues affecting Blacks in the media. It was always M and M Productions. Now, I cherish his memory and his friendship and I encourage Black men to first, take care of their health and second, take care of all their relationships. Black men and relationships should start with friendships most of all!
For more information on the Mark R. Griffith Black Men’s Health Empowerment & Longevity Project (MRG-HELP), administered through Empowered Health Partnerships, Inc. visit www.empowerhealthpartnerships.org.
Mereday is a contributing writer for Regal Black Men’s Magazine.
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