Armon Perry does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
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Finding and keeping a good Black man in a relationship has become a cottage industry. From celebrities and reality TV stars to social media influencersfor better or worse, there is no shortage of relationship advice to people seeking to figure out Black men. And while much of this content is understood to be for entertainment purposes only, some of it is presented and received as legitimate and data-driven.
This is a problem because too many people cannot distinguish what they see onscreen from reality. Media portrayals are often hyperbolic and sensationalized to attract public attention.
Equally troubling is that the majority of academic research in this area also perpetuates many of the same, negative patterns that are common in popular culture. As a graduate student and university professorI have spent nearly two decades reviewing these studies on Black men and families. The general consensus from them falls into one of two : first, that many Black men are not viable marriage mates because their financial struggles will not allow them to provide for a wife and children. Other studies conclude that many poor Black men reject monogamous romantic relationships in favor of a hypersexual masculinity to overcompensate for their inability to fulfill the traditional breadwinner role.
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‘the most important decision’
These men, the studies conclude, treat women as conquests rather than partners. In both historical and more recent research, studies on Black men have disproportionately examined the lives of low-income men and the struggles they faced in maintaining stable relationships in the face of economic disadvantage. I have found that the near-exclusive focus on low-income Black men in research related to the family skews perceptions of these men. And this perception can be used to perpetuate negative stereotypes that frame them as dangerous and dating a black man.
In response to that limited view, I spent the last four years conducting a study on a more diverse group of Black men to learn more about their perspectives on marriage.
They opened up about their desire for intimacy and companionship in their relationships. My study followed 33 Black men from Louisville, Kentucky, chronicling their personal circumstances, as well as their attitudes, experiences and behaviors within their marriages and romantic relationships. The data for the study were collected from over hours of interviews with the men. The men I interviewed ranged in age from 18 to They represented a variety of relationship statuses, with men reporting being single, romantically involved, married, divorced and remarried.
The men were also diverse in their educational attainment.
Some had graduate and professional degrees, while others had high school diplomas and GEDs. In sharing their experiences, the men provided an in-depth look into their love lives. Their discussions touched on many important factors that have shaped their past and current relationships.
They reflected on how they met their partners and the characteristics that made them stand out from partners. The men described their ideal marriage mate and shared what marriage means to them.
Resetting the image
So it made me learn to be comfortable being myself. In the interviews, many of the men credit their partners with making them better husbands, fathers and men.
The men even recognize the ways their relationships serve to combat the negative perception that often surrounds Black men. I think when you see a man with a woman treating her well, a man with his children treating them the way they should be treated, it dispels a lot of what folks see in the media. Most often, the men talked about how the unique characteristics that set their mate apart from others they had dated.
Her presence made me want to be with her and I never had another woman make me feel like that. However, many of these men said they struggle with traumas that challenge their relationships.
A detective alluded to the psychological stress he faced in being a Black man having to police his community at a time of distrust and unrest, only to come home and have to be emotionally available for his wife. It just does. Another man wrestled with the realization that many of his former girlfriends had a striking resemblance to a babysitter who abused him as.
In discussing their fears and insecurities, many of the men acknowledge being guarded with their emotions as a result of some of their early experiences. In these cases, the men expressed concern that their relationships would not last.
Yet over and over again, in the interviews, men told how they would strive to maintain their relationships in the face of myriad internal and external challenges including racism and early negative relationship experiences. Listening, for a better world.
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Edition: Available editions United Kingdom. The popular image of Black men is skewed in America. Armon PerryUniversity of Louisville. Monogamy Media images Black men black women Black families.
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