Intimate partner violence, police violence, the wage gap, cultural appropriation, and reproductive justice are all concerns under the umbrella of Black feminism. And for all of these concrete issues, there are even more ideological practices that Black women operate under on a daily basis. We are expected to live up to expectations of Black excellence and respectability, and we are supposed to uplift and appeal to Black men in the process. In the season two opener of Queen Sugar, the free-spirited Bordelon sister, Nova, addressed this latter point and it was a Black feminist perspective we all needed to hear.
At a baby shower for one of her friends, Nova and her homegirls — all Black women — gathered around the table to chat. The mom-to-be is single and intentionally expecting twins, which comes as a surprise and source of concern for some of her friends. One of them asks if she’s scared of “doing it without a partner,” and it grows into a broader conversation about finding partners, starting families, and still being single at an age when you thought both of those things would have already happened already. Nova’s pregnant friend — who is a partner at a law firm — is scared, but happy about her decision. And when she mentions that her mama told her she was starting her family “out of order,” Nova had some truth for her.
“Who said there has to be an order? No offense to your mama but that idea is outdated. Just like the idea that we’re incomplete without a partner and kids,” Nova boldly stated. Despite its accuracy, it’s still not an idea that all Black women are willing to get comfortable with. This is evident when another of Nova’s friends speaks up to say that before she has kids she wants her “man first,” even if it makes her old-fashioned.
But Nova throws her most controversial curveball when she suggests that Black women don’t have to limit their dating pool to Black men exclusively. When she suggests that men of other races, and even women, are also options to consider, she is met with side-eyes and laughed off. The moment packs a punch for its realness.
The loyalty that Black women feel towards Black men can be a source of pride and, in some cases, pain. I’ve witnessed this in my personal relationships, in public discourse about pop stars like Chris Brown, and in my own social circles. The idea is that Black women haven't lived up to their full potential until they've secured a Black man to validate them. Black men like Tyrese and Steve Harvey who spout sexism masked as “relationship advice” have a platform because so many people still believe in that narrative. Act like a lady. Think like a man. Don't be a hoe. Get an education. Accept his flaws. Don't have strong opinions. Don't be too sexy. Don't be unsexy. These, and about a million other rules, are laid before us as law in the service of men's approval. It's exhausting.
I don’t think there is anything wrong with preferring to date within one’s own race, but I know from personal experience that the shame some Black women feel about being single past a certain age is reflective of more than sexist narratives about women’s place in the world. Part of it is about this perceived failure of not finding the Black man of their dreams. I love that Queen Sugar has created a character that is unafraid to present some acceptable alternatives. It’s 2017, and we need them.