Who Else Wants an Optimal Lifestyle?
IMAGINE IT’S A YEAR FROM TODAY
Imagine that it’s a year from today, and you’re having dinner out with a group of your girlfriends.
They’re all in a somewhat sour mood, for one reason or another. One friend is worried about losing her job, and how she’ll put food on the table as a single parent. Another friend is stressed out by a job that she can’t afford to quit, even though her husband works. She’s also exhausted by the constant demands that her relatives make on her time and energy. She’s constantly doing favors for them, but they don’t extend themselves for her. A third friend is nervous because she doesn’t know how her husband will react when she gets home. Her husband constantly switches back and forth from charm to anger to relentless criticism of her, and she’s always “walking on eggshells” trying to please him.
You listen with great sympathy, but you’re not quite sure what to say.
While listening, you feel thankful inside.
You feel thankful because your situation is totally different from theirs.
A year ago, you started developing additional side-income streams so you don’t have to depend on your job. It feels good knowing that you’re not completely financially dependent on your employer.
A year ago, you decided to work toward walking away from your unfulfilling job altogether, and into another field where your talents will be appreciated. You’re not there yet, but you can see that you’re getting closer to achieving this goal.
A year ago, you decided to require reciprocity in all your relationships. Yes, some friends and relatives have distanced themselves from you as a result. But you’re much more relaxed than you were before you made this decision. You’re relaxed because the current people in your life give as much to you as you give to them. You’re being supported and energized by the people around you, instead of being drained.
While all of this is happening, you are also having much more fun in your social life. You’re having fun because you stopped restricting yourself to all-Black social circles. You also stopped restricting yourself to the activities that are considered stereotypically Black. You stepped outside your cramped, suffocating, false-comfort zone to take part in all the previously unexplored activities that you’ve always been curious about.
Along the way, you’ve been meeting and dating several fascinating, quality men from the global village. Men who share a common interest in your newfound hobbies and activities. Men you never would have met if you had continued to socialize in exclusively Black social circles. Men who appreciate your beauty, intelligence, and high spirits. One man has expressed his interest in a courtship that could lead to marriage.
Life is good, and getting even better.
YOU CAN MAKE THIS COME TRUE
This lifestyle is not a fairy tale. You can make it come true. You can have a life that you love. In fact, there’s a science to lifestyle optimization that I’ll discuss at length at this site. Many of the tips and techniques that I’ll discuss come from the relatively new field of positive psychology. Positive psychology is the scientific study of what enables individuals and communities to thrive.
I’ve been interested in the psychology of resilience in the face of negative events, and of self-actualization for many years. When I was sixteen, I volunteered for a Chicago-area crisis hotline. As a college student, I served as a volunteer at my college area’s local crisis hotline. I majored in Psychology as an undergraduate before I went to law school.
Unfortunately, the mountain of psychological literature about suffering does not support lifestyle optimization. The science of suffering gives little information about how to develop the emotional skills that lead to optimal living. Also, I haven’t seen any literature that specifically addresses the issues that African-American women face when they seek self-actualization. This is a research gap that I hope those of you who are clinicians will begin to address.
In my view, what’s worst of all is that African-Americans in general have normalized suffering-based thought and speech patterns. Most African-American women find their identities in suffering. This is the underlying reason I object to the mainstreaming of therapy talk and 12-step program talk. To put it bluntly, these are loser speech patterns. Ones that I hear a lot from the Black underclass clients that I’ve represented over the years. Suffering-based thought and speech patterns don’t lead to optimal lives. At best, they lead to bare bones survival. At worst, these mental patterns serve to reinforce dysfunctional thinking and lifestyles. This is what I’ve concluded after listening to thousands of clients during my years as a defense attorney.
Losers think and speak differently from winners.
YOU DESERVE TO HAVE AN OPTIMAL LIFESTYLE
There are individuals and groups who profit from African-American women self-identifying as long-suffering mules who serve everybody’s interests except their own. This behavior pattern leads to exhaustion, and finally self-destruction. We’ve talked about these survival issues at the previous blog. Countless women have already used the ideas, techniques, and strategies in the blog essays contained in The Sojourner’s Passport to overcome self-defeating beliefs and self-imposed barriers to personal fulfillment.
At this site, we’re moving forward from covering basic survival issues into detailed discussions of optimal living.
THE FIRST STEP TO OPTIMAL LIVING IS TO LISTEN TO YOUR BODY—IT’S BEEN TRYING TO TELL YOU SOMETHING
You have to protect your serenity in order to have an optimal lifestyle. The first step in this process is listening. God (or the Universe, however you conceptualize this idea) is constantly telling us helpful things. He communicates with us in many ways. One way He tells us things is through our bodies’ reactions to various people, places, and situations. Unfortunately, most of the time we don’t listen. We find reasons to ignore our instincts.
For example, it took me some time to realize the reflex of subtly tensing my shoulders is a signal that there’s something wrong in my immediate environment. Either I’m having an interaction that I need to cut short, or I’m considering something that just isn’t the best thing for me. My daily life greatly improved once I started listening to my body’s signals.
THE SECOND STEP TO OPTIMAL LIVING IS TO REJECT MARTYRDOM MISSIONS—STOP TRYING TO SAVE ALREADY-DEAD BLACK CONSTRUCTS BY YOURSELF
Instead of ignoring your instincts, you need to ignore the people who are telling you that you’re obligated to sacrifice having an optimal life to advance their pet causes. Ignore the people who try to browbeat you into martyrdom missions. One popular martyrdom mission is Black women—alone— trying to save the already-dead state of Black marriage in the United States.
FOR EXAMPLE, STOP TRYING TO SAVE “BLACK MARRIAGE” IN AMERICA—IT WON’T BE RESURRECTED BECAUSE 50% OF THE NEEDED PARTICIPANTS—BLACK MEN—PREFER THAT IT REMAINS DEAD
There won’t be any collective solution to what has been called “Black Marital Mogadishu” in the United States because 50% of the participants needed for any Black marriage—Black men—benefit from the current absence of marriage among African-Americans. Black men generally like things the way they are right now.
The collapse of the African-American family is not about a lack of jobs. It’s about African-American men generally being content with the collapse of the African-American family. Black men will complain about the aftershocks created by the mass absence of marriage among African-Americans, such as the legions of fatherless, violent Black male criminals. But other than that, they’re content with the status quo.
Anybody who thinks that this behavior is driven by a lack of opportunity should examine the collective behavior of the African-American men who do have “good” educations and jobs. Since so many Black men in that category are not marrying at all, or they’re not marrying Black women, there’s no reason to assume that Black women would gain from African-American men having more opportunities. I learned that just by watching the behavior of the Black men that went to college and law school with me. There’s usually little to no return on that investment (creating opportunities for African-American men) flowing back to any Black woman at all.
If you look at their mass behavior and not their rhetoric, it’s clear that most African-American men don’t value marriage, and are not concerned about the now-dead “Black family.” African-American men like the status quo situation of their mass refusal to marry the Black women they have sex with and impregnate. From outward appearances, most African-American men are happy with a lifetime of sleeping around without the commitments or responsibilities of marriage.
If you look at their mass behavior, it’s also clear that African-American men are also not particularly concerned about the children they produce.
These “save the dead Black family” discussions are not even a blip on most African-American men’s radar . . . unless Black women start talking about solutions that don’t include continuing to wait around for African-American men—such as interracial marriage and a focus on dating non-African-American Black men (for those Black women who must have a Black man as their husband).
This is the point that many Black men (and the Black “race women” who are so Black-male identified that they can’t see straight) enter these conversations. They do so solely to try to defend Black men’s image and the status quo, not out of any genuine concern about the already-dead Black family. This is when you hear various bad-faith assertions, such as:
Denials that the Black family and Black marriage are dead in the United States.
Attempts to minimize African-American men’s culpability for their own mass actions. (Their mass failure to protect or provide for African-American children, including the failure to provide stable, married households for their children to grow up within.)
Attempts to scare Black women away from exploring their interracial marriage options. (The “White men will just use you for sex and never marry you” rhetoric. Meanwhile, that’s exactly what the masses of African-American men are using Black women for, and not marrying them. Somehow, this detail escapes the Black male protectionists’ notice.)
Nonstop pressure for Black women to lower whatever standards they might have. They apply this pressure through incessant demands to hear Black women say, over and again, that they would date blue collar Black men.
Meanwhile, no other type of woman on this planet is required to recite a “dating loyalty oath” to include blue collar men as dating partners. Many of the same African-American men who insist that Black women swear dating allegiance to blue collar Black men also demand that Black women extend this same dating allegiance to Black male ex-convicts, Black male recovering addicts, old Black men for young Black women (see Steve Harvey), and so on.
Attempts to pretend that others are doing the same things and having the same experiences to the same degree. No, nobody else is having out of wedlock children at the rate of African-Americans. No, nobody else is trying to turn a woman having an education into a stigma at the rate of African-Americans. Others might be experiencing milder versions of these pathologies, but nobody is living like the masses of African-Americans.
IGNORE PEOPLE WHO DEMAND THAT BLACK WOMEN SERVE AS CANNON FODDER
They only expect African-American women to make sacrifices for the already-dead Black community. There are several traits you should note about the people who insist that you must sacrifice having a good life purportedly to save the already-dead African-American community. The first thing you need to note is that they only demand this sacrifice from Black women. These same people don’t demand any lifestyle sacrifice from Black men.
African-American women are the only people on this planet who sacrifice opportunities for personal happiness in support of the already-dead Black community. Ladies, remember that African-American women have been alone in letting anything (including ideology) narrow their personal choices. Nobody else does this, including other women of color. Not African women. Not Latina women. Not Asian women. Not Arab women.
And certainly not African-American men. Black men in general have never narrowed their dating, marriage, work, or residential choices to support any ideology. Please consider the following partial list of individuals before you do so. (It has to be a partial list, because a full one would probably take up an entire phone book.) Also, pay attention to whether any of the “race men” and “race women” you know ever comment about these men. Or do they only start talking about sacrificing for some cause when it looks like you might expand your life options?
Amiri Baraka, Charles Barkley, Harry Belafonte, Billy Blanks, Julian Bond, Taye Diggs, Father Divine, Frederick Douglass, Julius Erving (Dr. J), Frantz Fanon, Marvin Gaye, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Gregory Hines, Rick James, James Earl Jones, Quincy Jones, Van Jones, Reginald Lewis, Thurgood Marshall, Major Owens, Sidney Poitier, Adam Clayton Powell, Prince, Richard Pryor, Lou Rawls, Lionel Richie, Dennis Rodman, Seal, Russell Simmons, O.J. Simpson, Wesley Snipes, Clarence Thomas, Melvin Van Peebles, Ben Vereen, Herschel Walker, Walter White, John Edgar Wideman, Billy Dee Williams, Montel Williams.
Did the above (and countless other) Black men narrow their personal lifestyle options out of concern for the Black masses? Did these men stay in any particular place to fix the problems in the Black areas? No, they didn’t. And nobody expected that of them. In part, because they know that Black men won’t sacrifice their personal bliss for anything, including ideology.
Mark my words: The “Black women as martyrs” recruiters will keep demanding that you martyr yourself no matter what happens. They will continue making these demands until the final demise of the African-American collective. They will repeat the same slogans as African-Americans continue becoming more deeply entrenched in permanent underclass status, and overall disintegration.
They will keep making these demands of you even after the African-American out of wedlock birthrate reaches 90-95 percent. The 1965 Moynihan Report warned about the rising illegitimacy rate among African-Americans. Most of our people didn’t heed the warning. Instead, we recited angry slogans in response.
They will keep making these demands of you even after the African-American male interracial relationship rate approaches 50 percent and beyond. For those of you who think this can’t or won’t happen, I would refer you to the current example of the Caribbean Black male population in the United Kingdom. West Indian Black men’s interracial relationship rate in the UK has reached 48 percent. (See the BBC Caribbean.com story from January 19, 2009, The Mixed Race March in Britain.)
In fact, the UK situation is a sneak preview of how African-American men will continue their singular focus on seeking their own individual bliss while the deceived masses of Black women in the U.S. keep trying to uphold “Black love” and the “Black family” . . . all by themselves.
Every (false) solution proposed by “race men” and “race women” requires work and sacrifice from Black women exclusively. This is why even when they use slogans like “man up,” all of their solutions lead back to heaping more chores onto Black women’s backs. For one of countless examples, see the discussions surrounding the dreadful Raising Him Alone program.
Also see the conversation about Roland Martin’s “call” for pastors to refuse to christen illegitimate babies unless “somebody” holds the father accountable (by somehow getting him to attend the christening). Note that Mr. Martin didn’t suggest that men such as the pastor, deacon, and other male church members seek out these baby daddies and counsel them.
People know better than to expect African-American men to take any active role in Black communities. They know most of these men won’t assume any responsibility for what happens in their own communities. They know most Black men won’t even assume any responsibility for what happens in their own Black male-led churches. That’s why they give these various “save Black folks” assignments to Black women exclusively.
The “race men” and “race women” demand that Black women do what should be Black men’s work of protecting and providing for Black children, communities and people. Over the centuries here in the United States, African-American women have cooperated with creating a set of cultural norms to soothe Black men’s wounded egos while accommodating their many failures. Including the consistent mass failure to protect and provide adequately for Black women and children over the centuries. Black women did this out of love.
While doing this for centuries, most of us have forgotten our natural roles as women. It’s not a woman’s role to protect and provide for the community. It’s a man’s job to function as a protector and provider. Every other culture on this planet understands that a man who is not a protector and provider is of low- or no value to his collective. Instead of seeking lives in alignment with this human norm, too many Black women grade African-American men on a curve. One result is that Black women often find themselves taking on men’s roles and burdens.
This is why most African-American organizations (except for the Nation of Islam) have a majority of Black women as their foot soldiers. This is why many African-Americans demand that Black women serve as not just the primary, but the sole protectors and providers for the interests of Black men, Black children, and the already-dead Black community.
They even expect Black women to fight for the interests of Black men (O.J. Simpson, Prof. Henry Louis Gates, Van Jones, and others) who protect and provide for women from other races. Let’s be clear. This is not about Black men’s romantic choices. I don’t care about Black men’s interracial relationships and marriages. Now, I do want Black men to stop their hypocritical efforts at blocking Black women from following their example in expanding their marriage and lifestyle options. But my main point is that I want African-American women to stop wasting their support on people, places and things that don’t support them.
This is about the stupidity of African-American women rallying around Prof. Henry Louis “Skip” Gates. Skip Gates who was fixated only on the White male police officer involved. Not on the Black male police officer who was also involved in his arrest. And not on the White female neighbor who had originally called the police on him. Skip Gates, who wanted to send flowers to this White female neighbor. Skip Gates, whose White wife had said nothing publicly on his behalf. Some African-American women are still foolishly upset on behalf of Skip Gates.
This is about the stupidity of African-American women rallying around Van Jones. His White wife also hasn’t bothered to speak out publicly on his behalf.
The established pattern is that these non-Black wives don’t bother to speak out for their own Black husbands when their husbands are under attack. The race men and race women never question this pattern. They don’t know (or don’t care) that many African-American men have assigned Black women a lesser status based on these men’s inner belief in White supremacy. This means that for many African-American males, when it comes to choosing a woman to protect and provide for, they select non-Black women to pamper.
But when these same Black men get in trouble and need somebody to do some heavy lifting on their behalf, then they (and their supporters) look to Black women to run to their rescue. All the while, their non-Black wives sit back, relax, and refrain from lifting a finger to rescue their own Black husbands. Many foolish African-American women run to rescue these men. By doing so, they take on a burden that rightfully belongs to these other women. Many foolish Black women are performing this workhorse role while their own needs to be protected and provided for are going unmet.
All of this is insane. This behavior of supporting people, places and things that don’t support them is a large part of why African-American women are in crisis. This is a quiet, self-contained crisis, since Black women generally aren’t running around shooting or hitting other people in the head. This quiet crisis is killing Black women one at a time with various stress-related ailments such as the emotional overeating that leads to obesity and its consequences (diabetes, heart disease and hypertension).
Black men consistently do whatever works best for them, with or without Black women or Black children. If you want to claim your passport into a better life, you have to leave the hive mentality behind. It’s long past time for Black women to lay down other people’s burdens, and seek full, fulfilling lives for themselves.
The people who demand that you narrow your life options generally have no personal history of service or sacrifice. They have not sacrificed anything for any cause, including the one that they insist you make sacrifices for. Their educational, employment, free time, and personal life choices do not reflect any commitment whatsoever to the uplift of Black people.
They are generally talk-only, with no concrete actions that they can point to. Besides offering you as a human sacrifice, the only support they give to their pet causes is rhetorical.
Unlike most of the “Black women as martyrs” recruiters, I have a long-term, consistent personal history of various kinds of service to Black people (including political activism, such as my participation in the anti-apartheid struggle when I was in college).
These experiences have convinced me that, at this point, the best thing individual Black women can do for the rest of the collective is not be part of the substandard lifestyles that have become the norm for African-American women. The best thing we can do is serve as living examples of African-American women having optimal lives. Because, frankly, most African-American women are convinced that this is impossible, which is why they settle for scraps. Scraps such as by-design single parenting (a majority African-American out of wedlock birthrate), and a life filled with nothing but sacrifice.
The “Black women as martyrs” recruiters have no positive vision or practical answers. They especially have no answers for the problems that face African-American women in particular. Their entire offering (such as it is) consists of criticizing others who offer suggestions and solutions that are not to their liking. Their “save the community” and “Black love” rhetoric is a scam. They only start talking this rhetoric when it looks like Black women might follow Black men’s example of doing whatever works best for them.
The “Black women as cannon fodder” recruiters tend to be singularly unproductive. For all their (in some cases, years of) ranting, they typically have no completed projects of their own, and no accomplishments whatsoever that they can point to. Their list of accomplished deeds in support of their beliefs is as empty as it was the day they first started ranting. They are spectators only, which is evidence of their final major characteristic.
The final trait of the “Black women as martyrs” recruiters is that they are content with the current situation of large numbers of African-American women and children suffering. This is what underlies the rest of their behavior. This is why the only thing that captures their attention, and rouses them into anxiety is the possibility that more Black women will follow Black men’s lead and seek their own bliss.
Despite their insincere “Black love” rhetoric, they don’t have a problem with the mass absence of marriage among African-Americans. They are not concerned about most African-American children being born out of wedlock. The legions of African-American children who are fatherless don’t bother them.
They are also not concerned about the collective consequences of the above circumstances. Consequences like the increasing numbers of atrocities committed by roving packs of fatherless Black male adolescents. One example was the crime against humanity known as the Dunbar Village gang rape case. The assailants in this case (a pack of fatherless Black male teenagers) raped a mother and forced her at gunpoint to perform oral sex on her own son.
I hate to mention these appalling details, but you need to be clear about what the martyrdom recruiters are demanding of you. First, they want you and other Black women to continue living among such predators within increasingly dangerous Black residential areas. Second, they want you and other Black women to take the lead in somehow dealing with the growing legions of these types of fatherless, Black male predators.
And they intend for those misguided Black women who take on martyrdom missions to continue to do so alone. It’s significant that these recruiters have not formed their own version of the Guardian Angels, or lifted a finger to lessen any of the threats to your life that exist within Black residential areas. All they do is talk about why you should not seek an optimal life. They are content with the collective situation as it is. This is the reality underlying their lack of action.
AT THIS POINT, THE BEST THING ANY BLACK WOMAN CAN DO ABOUT MASS AFRICAN-AMERICAN PATHOLOGIES IS NOT BE PART OF THEM
At this point, the best thing you can do about various African-American mass pathologies is not be part of them. The masses of African-Americans are well on their way to forming a permanent underclass in this country. The lifestyle choices and modern cultural norms underlying permanent underclass status (out of wedlock births, single parenting, and a lack of respect for education) are too entrenched to be reversed.
As more Black women stop settling for scraps and seek optimal lives, they will indirectly stop the spread of these pathologies. Let me explain.
Out of wedlock births are at the root of the violence, crime, and chaos in Black residential areas. I can’t think of a single human society or ethnic group (past or present) that expected women to raise children alone. A woman trying to raise children alone is the logical, predictable outcome of most out of wedlock births.
I can’t think of a single human society or ethnic group (past or present) that expected women to socialize boys into productive manhood. A woman trying to socialize boys into manhood is the logical, predictable outcome of most out of wedlock births.
I suspect the reason I can’t think of any such societies is because this does not work; and leads to crime, violence, and ultimately chaos. It should be obvious to all by now that engaging in these practices on a mass level leads to the literal destruction of any group of people foolish enough to try to make this work. This is confirmed by the current self-destruction of the African-American collective.
As more Black women expand their lifestyle options to include the best the wider world has to offer, this means that more Black women will be married (of those who want marriage). In particular, this also means more Black women will be married to men who were raised by their fathers to be effective protectors and providers. In turn, this means fewer Black women involved in the out of wedlock childbirths and single parenting that are at the root of all these other catastrophes.
WOULDN’T YOU LIKE TO LIVE LIKE WOMEN—LIKE WOMEN FROM EVERY OTHER ETHNIC GROUP?
No other group of women on this planet are living under the conditions faced by African-American women. Any Black woman who is serious about lifestyle optimization will ignore the “Black women as cannon fodder” hypocrites, and follow her own heart.
POWER TOOLS FOR LIFESTYLE OPTIMIZATION
Thankfully, several eminent psychologists have seen the error of having a field that is solely focused on mental disease and dysfunction. One of them, former American Psychological Association president Dr. Martin E.P. Seligman, Ph.D., has done a significant amount of work in the emerging field of positive psychology. I’ll discuss several of the suggestions that he offers in his book Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment.
Besides featuring lifestyle case studies, there will be posts about the ingredients that I believe are crucial in any African-American woman’s successful pursuit of optimal living: protecting serenity, a low-negativity mental diet, and pop culture detox.
I’ll be offering all kinds of resources here, so please take a look around and come back often.
Tagged as: lifestyle optimization