“Yo, buff ting, ya looking nice today, still’. I walk past the bus stop, eyes focused on the crossing a few steps ahead. “Psst, psst - eh gorgeous, can I talk with you”, the thick West African accent cuts through my thoughts, and I glance to my side to be greeted with a smile, and a phone grasped by an expectant hand. I smile back weakly - ‘no, thanks’, and continue to walk briskly, while an angry voice shouts ‘You’re not that nice anyway!’ in my direction. I roll my eyes, slightly embarassed at the looks of vaguely amused passers-by. It’s nothing new - I’m just another black women, walking another street, in another town that could be anywhere in the world.
I’ve been to Jamaica, America, Chad, Guadeloupe, and I happen live in England. They all have unique cultural habits, ethnic mixes, foods, outlooks and landscapes. One thing is for certain though - anywhere where there are black men, I can guarantee I will be approached by a random member of the male species who feels that it is his privilege- no, inalienable right, to have an awkward conversation with me that he hopes will inevitably end in the exchange of numbers and ensuing ‘hook up’ or date. Unfortunately for him, all he will receive is a polite ‘no thank you’, or depending on the manner he decides to approach me, a complete lack of response.
Why so harsh? you ask. How is a man supposed to find a good black women? Answer: Generally, not on the street. As a black woman, I feel embarrassed, violated and intimidated when someone aggressively follows me and then demands that they have my number. There have been cases where I’ve been approached in a manner that hasn’t been intimidating. I’ve had simple compliments -‘I like your hair’ or ‘Sis, you look beautiful’, that made me smile, and in no way offended me, but sadly, they don’t form the majority of my experiences.
I’ve travelled a fair amount in my short years, and no matter which country I’ve been to, I’ve noticed that white women don’t seem to have to face similar interactions with their male counterparts. Sure, in certain areas you’ll get the odd builder wolf whistling from a wall, or on a night out a short skirt will attract a fair amount of cat calls, but day to day, I rarely see white guys stopping white women at random on the street and then hurling abuse at them if they refuse to entertain conversation. I refuse to believe that white women carry themselves in a way that commands so much more respect than I do, so what is it that makes (a large number) of black men feel that their behaviour is acceptable, or even strangely attractive? More worryingly, what in the psyche of these men tells them that a respectable woman would give her details out to someone who has quite obviously been malingering on a random street corner in order to solicit numbers? Or maybe these men are purposely looking for women who aren’t respectable, which makes me me even more concerned. Perhaps I should flip the question around and ask, what is it about black women that makes men feel that it’s ok to treat us like this? Someone, help me out here.
My Grandfather’s generation had a completely different mode of interacting with females than this generation, so I’m not sure I would be honest in just blaming my experiences on the standard ‘psychological effects of slavery on black male - female interactions’. Maybe it’s a reflection of the general moral breakdown in society. Maybe the fact that the media portrays black woman as sexual playthings at every available opportunity also plays a role. It could be the fact that more black men grow up without a father at home now, than ever before, and so are at a loss as to how to interact with women on a meaningful level. Maybe it’s a combination of all these factors.
All I know is that I’m tired of having my daily routine interrupted by every Tyrone, Dick and Harry that wants some ‘digits’ from me. I love black men, but I wish they could show me some love by showing a little more respect.