Where Did Our Love Go?
Love and Relationships in the African-American Community
Edited by Gil L. Robertson, IV
Agate Bolden Books
Book Review by Kam Williams
“SBF. Single Black Female. Walk through any major city in the U.S. on a Friday or Saturday night and you will find her. She’ll either be alone or with her girlfriends, but almost never, EVER with a mate…
The how and why of relationship status among African-Americans is a touchy subject… The black marriage gap has become such an open secret that it is now a source of endless bad jokes and fodder for prime-time reality shows such as “Basketball Wives” and “The Real Housewives of Atlanta.”
So, what’s going on? “Where Did Our Love Go?” explores the substantial issues surrounding relationships and marital status in the African-American community, from the Baby Mama Syndrome to the more serious implications of what single-parent households will mean for future generations.”
-- Excerpted from the Introduction (pgs. xiii-xiv)
Traditionally, the marriage rate has been a reliable indicator of the stability and vitality of a culture. For this reason, the decline in African-American marital unions is a very troubling sign.
The shocking statistics indicate that over 40% of black men and women are choosing to remain unmarried, and that about a quarter of the brothers tying the knot are picking partners of another ethnicity. And when you factor in the 75% African-American illegitimacy rate, the black community’s long-term prospects aren’t exactly brilliant.
This grim reality wasn’t lost on Gil Robertson, a veteran journalist with his finger on the pulse who examined AIDS and what it means to be African-American in his earlier books. His latest offering in the series, “Where Did Our Love Go?” takes a hard look at black love from the distinctly different perspectives of dozens of contributors, each of whom was given the freedom to expound on being single, engaged, married or divorced.
R&B crooner Anthony Hamilton identifies “having confidence and a willingness to want it to work” as the keys to a successful relationship. However, he also warns folks to forget about trying to find a “perfect mate” because “that keeps you blind from what’s really real.”
By contrast, marriage-minded Melody Guy has been patiently waiting to walk down the aisle since accepting a proposal from a fiancé who not only has cold feet, but won’t let her have a key to his apartment. Meanwhile, at least he did “put a ring on it.”
Amy Keith, a self-professed BAP (Black American Princess), is in no rush to pressure her Mr. Right, despite her fast-approaching 30th birthday. Why not? Because, as a child, her own family was irreversibly fractured by her parents’ separation, so this wounded victim of divorce is cognizant of the high stakes associated with failure.
“Where Did Our Love Go?” devotes space to same sex and interracial relationships, too. For example, NYC radio talk show host Clay Cane’s chapter is structured in the form of journal entries recounting his frustrations with a passionate affair with a Broadway actor which failed to blossom into more.
He discusses the sometime awkward etiquette of gay dating, like how his man asked to switch places after being penetrated. Later, “Avery” declined to take an AIDS test, expecting to be trusted on his word that he wasn’t HIV+. Sounds a little risky.
Atlanta news anchor Veronica Waters entry, entitled “To Swirl, or Not to Swirl?” refers to the mixing of vanilla and chocolate in soft ice cream. Veronica is a sister who readily admits that “It’s white men… who make me swoon” before issuing a call for recruits with “Let’s get jiggy with it, sisters!”
Overall, “Where Did Our Love Go?” proves to be a most informative and entertaining read, at least in terms of the individual contributors’ intimate experiences. I can’t say that the diversity of personal opinions contained on the pages allows one to draw a conclusion about where African-American culture is headed but I don’t think anybody’s expecting the black community to share a monolithic mindset anymore anyway.
Where did our love go? Who knows? But it’s apparently still leaving behind a trail of broken hearts with a “yearning, burning, yearning feeling deep inside” like The Supremes sang about a half-century ago.