But at the end of the day, you are the one who is responsible for your own behavior, so if your relationships are all falling apart, your journey must start by glancing into the mirror. While simply choosing better people to date might be part of the solution, that can also be a copout (since you spend your life searching for "the one" who can manage all of your own dysfunction). Instead, honest reflection on the manner by which you go about loving people who come into your life is probably more important. It is because of my concern on this issue that Deborrah Cooper is today's Dr. Boyce Watkins Spotlight for AOL Black Voices.
What is your full name and what do you do?
Deborrah Cooper is my given name. I'm a dating expert, writer, columnist and broadcast journalist. I've been writing controversial relationship-based articles and dating advice columns under the pen name "Ms. HeartBeat" since 1992. As a matter of fact, I served as the relationship columnist on AOL's "other" Black channel (NetNoir) in the mid-to-late 1990s.
I later developed the first site on the Internet to focus strictly on black male/female and interracial relationships, AskHeartBeat.Com. Launched in the heyday of big black websites, AskHeartBeat.com went live in the fall of 1997. It's one of the few 100% black owned sites still online from that golden era.
For the past three years I've also produced and hosted the 'Date Smarter Not Harder' relationships talk show on BlogTalkRadio.Com.
You give advice on dating and relationships. What do you feel makes your opinion one that people should consider over the alternatives?
There are three key points that I think give me an advantage over most of the other relationship experts in the public eye today:
1. I have close to two decades of experience in the industry, much of which has been on the Web. Being an early adopter of this new technology provided me with the opportunity to collect data on dating and relationships from men and women all over the United States and even the world.
2. Having had a close relationship with my street-wise father, I have great insight into the mind and behaviors of black men. My dad taught me game before I was even old enough to use it. I share that information and insight with women that didn't have the benefit of a positive male to guide them.
3. A strong advocate for women, I refuse to promote the popular mindset that women are solely responsible for the success or failure of black relationships, families or communities.
Black men and women have been socialized to believe that the black woman bears the bulk of the responsibility not only for her relationships, but for the inappropriate behaviors of Black men. The advice that I provide holds men accountable for their poor behavior towards women, callousness towards their communities and irresponsible behavior towards their children.
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For example, it's common to hear "women should keep their legs closed to prevent becoming pregnant by a man that doesn't want to be a baby daddy!" For some reason, it's rare for men to hear that any "baby daddy prevention program" is totally on them! I say "grown men who don't want to be fathers are responsible for where they place their johnson and what they do with their sperm, regardless of what a woman does with her legs."
What was your most controversial article? Why do you think people reacted the way they did?
In June 2010 I wrote "The Black Church: How Black Churches Keep African American Women Single and Lonely" which launched a nationwide discussion of the role of the black church and its negative impact on the lives of single black women. I pointed out that black women make up the majority of the population of the black churches in the U.S. -– a place where single, heterosexual black men are not.
I believe this is by design with the goal of keeping black women single, and under the influence of their pastor, so that the women's time and money will be available for the benefit of the church.
This article resonated with a lot of men and women who were surprised that someone had the courage to finally put in writing what many were thinking or had personally experienced, but were too afraid to say. After all, the black church is deemed sacrosanct and above any form of criticism... anyone that would dare speak against the church is apparently the evil spawn of Satan and a host of other names that I won't repeat.
However, from my point of view, this stubborn refusal to examine what goes on in black churches has allowed corruption and abuses of all sorts to run rampant.
Is it harder to love a black man than a white man? What about loving a black woman?
It's difficult to love ANY man no matter what his race. Men are socialized to avoid any situation which makes them feel out of control. Falling in love for men means that he lowers his shield of masculinity and lets a woman and love in. When a man loves, he worries that he has given this woman the power to bring him to his knees -– that's scary for guys.
For black men the issue of looking weak is compounded. Black men are viewed in our culture as hypersexual, hyper-masculine males, which makes it even more of a challenge for them to relax into love. White men expect to be successful and to achieve their dreams. However, many black men instead expect to struggle and even to fail when it comes to raising a family, taking care of their children, being a breadwinner. So yes, I believe it is much harder to love a black man than a man of other races.
As for loving a black woman, I believe black women also wear protective shield. Our mask of strength is usually adopted after a woman has been disappointed or hurt by black men that she loved. Black women are like any other -– desirous of a man's adoration, support and love. But many black women are emotionally wounded after being gamed on for sex by manipulative men that have no real ability to love.
The challenge for black women is to know what true love looks like, feels like and acts like. My goal as an advice columnist is to help these strong and independent black women learn to recognize a man worthy of giving their love to, regardless of his race or creed.
Why do you think the majority of black households only have one parent?
There is really no one answer to this question, but I'll provide you with a brief synopsis of what I feel are the top reasons:
1. The socialization I mentioned above that makes black men believe that they are not responsible for anything and black women are responsible for everything. It's easy to abandon your children, cheat on your wife, eschew marriage and ignore familial commitments when you believe you are not responsible nor obligated to do anything.
2. When everyone around you has a certain lifestyle, it's easy to adopt that lifestyle as the acceptable norm instead of the unacceptable exception. After all, most people are followers and want to be like everyone else... to fit in.
3. We live in an instant gratification, disposable society. Everything we want, we get right now; everything we acquire is used once or for a short time, then replaced. The patience, compromise and negotiation required to maintain a relationship long-term is not a skill set people have anymore.
Tell us about your book and why you think people should read it.
'Sucka Free Love: How to Avoid Dating The Dumb, The Deceitful, The Dastardly, The Dysfunctional & The Deranged' is a Best Black Books award winning collection of dating advice, questions and answers culled from years of online advice counseling. With great information for both men and women, 'Sucka Free Love!' is a "tell it like it TIS" guide to recognizing potential relationship problems. Catchy titles like "Which Came First, The Chicken Head or the Egg?," "The WTF Files," and "Drama Here, Drama There, Stupid Drama Everywhere" will tempt you to read this book in one sitting. 'Sucka Free Love!' is a humorous, excellent resource which addresses just about every relationship problem imaginable.
Is there anything else you'd like to share with our AOL Black Voices audience?
Though there are hundreds of informative articles available on my websites AskHeartBeat.Com and SurvivingDating.Com, I'd like to leave your female readers with a few words of advice. Over the years, I've seen women get themselves into a lot of trouble when ignoring these three key points:
-Talk is cheap and means absolutely nothing unless a man's words and actions are in sync. If his mouth is saying one thing, but his behavior saying something entirely different, you are being played. If there is ever a conflict and his words aren't matching what is happening, believe what a man DOES, not what he SAYS.
-Steer clear of early sexual involvement to avoid being set up as a "booty call," no matter how many times he professes to love you. Stay sharp, watch, look and listen carefully. Avoid risky behavior that will leave you with an STD or a baby neither of you really wants.
-Adjusting starry-eyed romantic expectations of "happily ever after" will be a challenge for many women. But by taking your time with men, you'll have the opportunity to spend time getting to know him as a person. Ask lots of questions to discover who he is as a man. You'll discover that many of the men you formerly tried to "make it work" with are not at all what you are looking for.
When you don't waste time or emotional energy on Mr. Wrong, you're free to meet other available singles, one of whom may just be the man of your dreams!
Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition and the author of the bookBlack American Money To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here. To suggest a subject for a Dr. Boyce Watkins Spotlight, please click here.