Black Men Aren’t Providers Because We Allow Them To Be Contributors
When I first came across this tweet discussing the joys of 50/50 partnerships, I couldn’t figure out what was worse: the misguided attempt at wisdom by a seemingly prepubescent white girl or the fact that Black men and women were sharing and defending it like it was gospel.
At first I thought the tweet was funny, but as I shifted through comments from Black men and women agreeing that any woman who wouldn’t agree to such a division of finances was a complete bust, I thought to myself, half of these commenters have no idea what they’re agreeing to.
For starters, your spouse is not your roommate and if you enter into your marriages and relationships under the premise that everything will always be equal, you’re in for a rude awakening. Marriage and relationships are not about keeping tabs and demanding intentional turn-taking, they’re about give and take, long-term reciprocity, and working together to maintain balance in the home. Does that mean that both parties should contribute equally to the health and growth of the partnership and the family? Yes. Does that mean that all contributions boil down to finances? Absolutely not.
The concept of the 50/50 relationship is quintessential capitalism. And for Black people who are bordering on social wokeness, we sure haven’t rid ourselves of the capitalist pathology that dictates “every man for himself.” Not only is the 50/50 arrangement fairly juvenile in thought and in practice, it’s also frowned upon by financial experts everywhere. David Trahair, professional accountant and best-selling author, spoke on the subject in Financial Post saying, “The 50/50 partnership in theory sounds great, but most couples don’t survive the inequality of the arrangement. The higher-paid spouse should pay the household bills so any money the lower-paid spouse brings in can go to investing.”
Other experts contend that while most people assume 50/50 is equal, it’s not always fair. Fair would be an even split of all household responsibilities, not just the bills. That means cooking, cleaning, childrearing, liaising with school/daycare, organizing holidays, making household purchases, managing appointments, maintenance/DIY, laundry, managing savings and investments, caring for and helping other family members, ironing, caring for sick children, hosting guests, sorting and distributing mail, organizing storage spaces, disposing of trash and recycling, yard work, supervising homework, planning summer activities, and an overabundance of responsibilities that, guess what, women take on by a large majority. And I’m not talking 55/45, I’m talking to the tune of 80/20. According to a 2014 Mumset survey, not only do women do twice as much housework, they typically do so in addition to a full day at the office. But it doesn’t stop there, 71% of women take full responsibility for cleaning and cooking, as well as managing their children’s upkeep, from birthday parties to school supply shopping to doctors appointments and everything in between. Research also shows that at least 36 household chores, including vacuuming, cleaning the bathroom, washing clothes and ironing, are done by women all or most of the time. So remind me again who benefits from “50/50” financial partnerships, because it’s certainly not women.
But since we’re on the subject, le’s really put the whole discussion in context. Black women, in particular, have been pulling their weight financially since they’ve had the ability to earn an income in this country. Not only are Black women generally more educated than their male counterparts, they also boast higher earning potential in the work place. And given our irrationally unyielding devotion to Black men, the affects of mass incarceration, and consistently high unemployment numbers for our male suitors, we’ve often assumed 100% of the financial responsibilities as well as 100% of the household responsibilities. Perhaps that explains why some Black women are in favor of such an arrangement. A 50/50 partnership might actually be a break for those who’ve grown accustom to a less than “equal” split. Oddly enough, when a Black women becomes the primary breadwinner in her household, Black men applaud her for “holding her man down.” Other Black women praise her for her strength and resilience cause “we always make a way where there isn’t one.” (God forbid a Black woman got a break.)
On the other hand, when Black men are looked at with the expectation to be the breadwinners, Black women suddenly morph into leeches, gold diggers, and lazy good for nothing’s who refuse to pull their own weight. How convenient. The ugly truth is a lot of Black men aren’t accustomed to being providers in the home because Black women have allowed them to be contributors. For some of us, a Black man who’s willing to pay half is a “good man,” a man who’s willing to “help out,” a man worth praising and holding on to. Who set the standards for Black manhood so low? Perhaps we only have ourselves to blame.
Before you complete that eye roll, understand why I contribute this phenomenon to Black women’s refusal to demand more of their men. Let’s take a look at Hispanic women, for example. According to the institute for Women’s Policy Research, Hispanic workers, both male and female, have lower median weekly earnings than White, Black, and Asian workers. Hispanic men earn a median weekly wage of just $690, in comparison to their black male counterparts who earn $710 a week on average. Yet, 47% of married Hispanic households had male breadwinners, compared to just 18% of Black households. Not to mention, this number shifts dramatically after the birth of children. For Hispanic households, the number of male breadwinners increases. For Black households, that number decreases. Additionally, 50.4% of White households boasted male breadwinners and a whopping 55.8% of Asian households did the same. Black women are the only women who consistently saw an increase in responsibilities coupled with an increase in burden. While other men, even those with lower earning potential, step up to the plate when required to do so, Black men step on social media to gripe about why they shouldn’t have to. And that tells me that while Black men are applauding this 50/50 concept, they have yet to actually be responsible for 50% of anything as far as Black households are concerned.
Let’s be clear, if half is all a Black man can contribute, then he needs to sit this conversation out. Of course he would be in favor of such a division of financial labor because demanding anything more from him would reveal just how non-contributive he really is. And for the record, it’s nice of Twitter Becky to take on the role of equal financial partner in her own relationship, but at the drop of a dime she could require that her partner take on more of a provider role and not be met with vitriol or disdain from her male counterparts. So forgive me for not jumping at the bit to praise a young woman who actually has a choice in the matter and has chosen foolishness. For centuries, Black women haven’t had a choice. Now remind me again, who exactly benefits from “50/50” partnerships?
This isn’t to say that these arrangements aren’t operative for some, and I’m sure those of you who are on the line for half the rent next month will defend your arrangement to the best of your ability. And if that works for you, then congratulations. But what we’re not going to do is pretend that a Black woman who requires more from her partner is in any way, shape or form a parasite. In fact, she may just be a woman who is in full acknowledgment of her intrinsic value. Black women are the only women who consistently have to forgo their relationship requirements for the sake of salvaging their partners’ egos, all while defending, supporting and uplifting them. I, for one, won’t engage in relationships where my partner thinks it’s my duty to compete with him in earning capacity, all while solely managing the stresses of our daily lives. I’m not your competition, I’m your complement. And because I’m your complement, I require you to recognize the substance I add to your life. The social science is clear that marriage offers enormous benefits to men. Married men earn more than their single counterparts, report better sex lives, live 10 years longer on average and report significantly better mental health. In other words, congratulations on bringing bread to the table but make no mistake, I’m the reason the table exists in the first place. So let me correct Cassy G’s statement by saying this: Stop expecting to be treated like a Queen if you’re allowing your man to live like your roommate.