An Open Letter to a Black Man from a Black Woman

Maya Gabrielle Pete, Stanford University  

*In this piece I will use “we” as a royal “we” to illustrate the point of view that I, and other black women I have talked to, hold.  However, should you find yourself to be a black woman who disagrees with my perspective, that’s cool too.  No harm, no foul.

Dear Black Man,

Since I was a little girl you have been the most important man in my life. Even as I grew up in cities that you were absent from, I still saw you in my father, my grandfathers, my pastors, and my uncles.  You are the epitome of resilience, brilliance, and strength.  As America continues to try and defeat your spirit and wash away your pride, you stand strong like the answered prayers of our ancestors.  Black man, the media criminalizes, attacks, and defames you, but we see the real you.  We know you as innovators, artists, family and friends.  We see your struggle and we ride for you.  We feel your pain and we heal you.  We witness your potential and support you.  And as we care for, protect, defend and love you, we also need remember the power and platform that you hold.

I probably don’t have to tell you the the black woman is the most oppressed person in America. You already know that we still don’t get paid as much as you or your white counterpart for doing the exact same job (but if you didn’t, may I direct you to season 2 of Insecure). And I won’t remind you that the black woman’s body is consistently hypersexualized while her sexualization is condemned. I don’t state these facts to make you want to throw us a pity party, because we don’t need or want that.  What we need and want is reciprocation.

Even as America attempts to exterminate you, they see you as entertainers, athletes, moguls, politicians and businessmen.  You are desired in spaces which we are not and you are welcomed into circles from which we are tacitly and stealthily shunned.  But as you rise into these spaces, do remember the shoulders of those who lifted you up. Create platforms for those voices to be recognized and heard.  Make it known that you cherish your sisters because they are one piece of a whole.

Please do not see this as me telling you who to love, because love is love -- unless this is my little brother reading, in which case, Mom says you need to marry a black woman. Black man, you do not have to justify your romantic life to anyone, you owe it to no one.  But see it likes this, when you say that you “prefer” white women, latina women, asian women, what are you saying about black women?  When you set this precedent for society and other black men, you are part of the reason that, from Oakland to South Africa, we get groped and harassed in public while our white counterparts are respectfully approached. The reason we have to constantly remind people that our black skin is blessing and not a costume. So, as you read this, I want you to reflect on the last time that you were grabbed by the hips while walking into the club, followed for blocks while walking home at night, or told “Well fine then, you don’t have to be a b**ch!” when you don’t holler back.  Never?  Interesting.

So, dear Black Man, what I’m asking for, what I need is your active support.  Your realization that silence is complacency and for us to be equal, to each other and to others in our communities and societies, we need you to speak up, protect, and most of all be here for us like we always will be for you.


a black woman