By: Ryan D. Daniels
I always imagined myself marrying my “equal” or what I perceived to be my equal. He had to have a college degree and he had to make a certain income. I thought these things were what it really took for a man to be my “equal” in life. But what I have discovered is that it isn’t a man’s incomes or pedigree that makes him my equal, but rather it’s his character, perseverance, and his hustle. And these traits can be found in a blue-collar brother not just the Brooks Brother brother.
Time and time again we are bombarded by negative and oftentimes distorted images of our black men like the falsehood that there are more black men in jail than there are in colleges or universities. It is also drilled into our heads that black women outnumber black men on the campuses of colleges and universities. We see these images so often that when we see our brothers breaking those stereotypes it is almost compulsory that we applaud them and we shower them with plaudits.
However, an effect of this is that some of our college-educated brothers have forgotten that their college-educated sisters are prizes as well. College educated black men have been told time and time again that they are a rarity, a downright anomaly in our communities. Thus, they are to be chased after and pursued. Having a college education is a wonderful thing but it is a piece of the puzzle.
This harkens back to a scene from the first episode of this season of “Being Mary Jane”. Mary Jane was talking to her brother, PJ, about her ex, David, and his “bitchmade” ways. During the conversation PJ dropped a jewel that had me in my living room giving him a standing ovation. He said this, “We silver-spoon brothers think just because we went to private school or were never in jail, Black women should be happy they’re in our presence.”
He goes on to talk about how men who have a certain level of education have women pandering for them because black women have been taught that a college educated brother is a rarity and consequently that he is the prize and should be lauded just because he played it straight in life. If a brother makes it to 25 without a criminal record, a kid, or being another tragic statistic he is considered golden.
My parents are both successful college educated professionals. They live comfortably and have been able to provide my siblings and I with a certain lifestyle. Don’t get it twisted they aren’t balling out of control but at the same time I’ve never had to go without the things I really needed when I really needed them. I want this kind of life for my daughter and my hypothetical future chocolate babies. I thought to have this kind of life I HAD to have a college-educated brother but in my dating experiences I’ve realized my male peers have the game messed up.
They are used to women bending over backwards to placate them because they are the “catch”. I am not saying any of this to denigrate the beauty of the college educated brother because education is a beautiful thing but it isn’t the only thing. A man’s character says more about him than a degree every will.
Last year I moved back home to take some time off before heading to law school. I’m from a small town in eastern North Carolina. Most people my age from this area that have college degrees never come back and those that do teach in one of the local school districts as I did. During my time home I didn’t have any real intentions of dating anyone.
I just wanted to “chill” and prepare myself for my next step. However, I casually dated Mark* and Lamar*. Mark is a tow truck driver, we went to school together, and had known each other for some years. He has a young son. Then there was Lamar. Lamar was an administrator and we’d met through a mutual friend. Beyond a high school diploma Mark had a little bit of college under his belt but left after having financial difficulties. Lamar, on the other hand had his bachelor’s degree and is currently working on a master’s soon to be followed by a doctorate. The closet thing he had to a child is a dog.
Mark never forgot anything about me down to my favorite ice cream. He was probably the most thoughtful man I’ve ever met. Mark and I shared a passion for movies, books, and traveling. When talking with Mark I never felt the need to keep my guard up because he knew everything about me and never judged me for my faults or flaws. Lamar on the other hand was sweet enough. He would call me every morning and we’d talk as he made his way from his home to his office and I was preparing myself for work.
Lamar and I challenged each other intellectually; we’d have friendly debates for hours about different subjects. However, around Lamar I could never fully be myself. Lamar was prepared to nitpick me for the slightest thing and when conversations grew too personal he became deaf and mute. In hindsight, I feel as if Lamar felt because of his status he had the luxury of being more judgmental.
Time and time again when I was with Mark. I’d think to myself how he’d be the perfect guy for me if he’d chosen a different path. When I was with Mark I felt special, I didn’t feel like an option. On the other hand when I was with Lamar it was clear to me I was an option. An exact quote from Lamar, “I have plenty of women who can take your place. They’d feel lucky to have me.” He didn’t think he was a crown jewel he knew it.
Lamar is the prototype for what it is to beat the odds. He was born into poverty to a teenaged single mother, all of his childhood friends are either in the jail yard or the graveyard but somehow he made it. Everyone including me praised him for accomplishing this feat.
Talking with a few of my homegirls about our dating prospects I realized that for the most part college-educated brothers are playing the field because they know they have option after option. A few of my friends met their husbands or soon to be husbands in college. However, for the most part guys in college aren’t interested in seriously dating. And honestly, why should they be thinking about settling down? On most college campuses women outnumber men and the men have their pick.
Recently, one of my sorority sisters who has so many degrees I call her Karen Parker*, ABCDEFG, got married. She has her own business and does extremely well for herself. The man she married is a maintenance specialist. Not too long ago I saw them at an event and the love I saw between them was beautiful and unmistakable. Their relationship got me to thinking. At the end of the day, what’s wrong with a man that gets his hands dirty for a living? The answer is nothing.
I realized that what I want in a man has less to do with his pedigree and more to do with character. I want a man who cherishes me and shares the same core values as me. My core values have nothing to do with a degree, a job title, commas on a paycheck, or something as banal as a fraternity membership.
Don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean that income doesn’t matter because it does but as long as a man can provide for himself and his family that is all that matters. He doesn’t need to be a CEO or vice-president. And to be honest many blue-collar brothers are quietly pulling in six figure salaries.
One the biggest things I admire about blue-collar men is the pride they have for what they do. My grandfather was a foreman for a paper manufacturer and even as dementia erodes away at his memories he still can fondly remember the work he did and the pride he took in the products he made. That is part of the beauty of the blue-collar man, the pride that he takes in what he does.
I think of my beautiful brothers that work as car technicians. They literally keep us moving. I think of my brothers who work as long distance truckers that bring us the products that we need. I think of my brothers that maintain buildings, build homes, lay bricks, construct our roads, and work in factories.
I didn’t write this piece to bash black men who are college educated nor to diminish their accomplishments. I have simply written this piece to implore my sisters to explore our options beyond what we think our equal is. At the end of the day what really matters more to you? His degree or his dedication? His pedigree or his perseverance? We all should open our eyes to the possibilities beyond what we think is conventional and that is where we may find our love.