I had a very interesting experience on Friday night in a bar in Brixton, South London, in which I was surprised, impressed, disappointed and enlightened within the space of 15 minutes by my conversations with some brothers.
The first one, I’ll call him Mr X, started his game by telling me he had high standards for his women. For a start, they had to earn over £25,000 per year. (Wow, he’s really aiming high…) I asked him, tongue in cheek, how much he earned and he told me – proudly – £32,000. Plus a bit more from his side job. I asked him what his side job was. “Hustling”, he told me. I asked him what “hustling” entailed. He told me “Fraud, innit”, as if I ought to have known… He then tried to make a long story short by telling me that it basically involved him transferring money into and out of different accounts until it reached his. He did it because, despite his £32K a year salary, he was “poor”. He was the “black robin hood” stealing from the rich to give to the poor (i.e. himself). He didn’t want to end up in prison though, because he’d already been there twice before. *sigh*.
What to make of that conversation?! I could have started a mental rant along the lines of “the problem with brothers is…” but I didn’t. I felt saddened and disappointed – for him more than anything – particularly because it’s not the first conversation of that type that I’ve had (do I look like the kind of woman who is impressed by criminal activity?!).
However, I was pleasantly suprised and impressed when I got into the next conversation with another brother, Mr Y. We talked about the “hustling” mentality, but this time the brother gave me a well-thought out, intelligent and thought-provoking analysis which encompassed, amongst other things exploitation of people in general, the World Bank, business and consumerism. It turns out Mr Y is the general manager of a large and successful internet company. What to make of that?!
At the end of the night, having exchanged phone numbers with Mr Y of course (I’d like a few more of those conversations thank you very much), I reflected on both interactions… I came to the conclusion that we hear so many negative stories about Black men, some of them perpetuated by Black men themselves, that it’s so easy to think those stories must be right. There are a lot of people – Black women included – who are very down on Black men these days for that very reason.
However, my evening just reinforced to me that there are good and bad apples in every cart. We shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss and embrace those negative stories, even if we meet those who may appear to confirm them. At the end of the day, sometimes we forget, that people are just people!