When I immigrated to America, I was 13 years old. I was quickly given “the talk” about becoming a self-empowered, self-sustained immigrant black woman. We’re all given this “talk” to some degree as people of color at some point in our lives. I felt like I had to choose a partner based on his level of education, at least a bachelor’s, and his potential to make lots of money to create a sense of a secure future. We all know by now the future is not secured by money alone.
What’s not often discussed is how to maintain, share, or relinquish some of this lone she-wolf empowerment when you enter into a relationship. The hidden message whispers unconsciously that if the person did not meet specific educational and financial standards, that meant they probably wouldn’t be a great overall partner. We are not taught how to choose partners beyond some form of monetary base judgments.
That isn’t to say that some kind of financial conversation should not happen. Money is one of the main reasons relationships fail. However, when money is the primary driving force in establishing a relationship, it will be the primary binding (and thus dividing) factor instead of other intrinsic principles. We all know by now someone can have all the money in the world and not love you or treat you with respect. So where’s “the talk” that intersects values and money?
The New Talk
The new talk starts with us. It begins with us who now have children and understand the reality of dating and long-term relationships. I will teach my son to value both in equal measure, but if anything, he should choose long-lasting values over the potential of long-term financial wealth.
I’m not religious by bible standards in any way, but I respect many of the lessons the Bible teaches. Something can be learned from people who choose the bible as the foundation of their relationship, not money. Understandably, you might say relationships based on the bible fail. I counter to say that relationships of all kinds fail. It doesn’t matter what country you’re in, if you are LGBTQ, or if you use the bible or another form of religion. “Failure” occurs, but the wisdom we get from deep self-analysis teaches us how to choose better.
If anyone says money, infidelity, or any one reason their relationship failed is missing the full story. Before a major line is crossed, many little signs appear along the way. Maybe money was the main reason, for example, but distrust and lack of spending judgments appeared first. One thing always crescendos in another until it crosses a line.
We’re not taught how to personally catch ourselves shape-shifting into someone we don’t want to be either. It then makes it difficult to know how to spot the signs in our partners and trust our instincts when we see flags changing from yellow to orange to red. Acquiescence is consent, whether we want to admit it or not. It’s easier to play victim than to face the fact that signs showed up, but we didn’t show up for ourselves.
I believe confronting the small things with reasonable judgment can prevent broader issues from sprouting. People of color are especially not taught how to tackle discourse directly. We’ve spent too much time arming ourselves not to appear threatening that when behaviors that threaten us arise, we simply absorb energies that aren’t our own. We carry mantles that reinforce the struggle of blackness, and in my case, womanhood and immigration. These things aren’t bad, and that’s the first part of the new narrative that needs to be established.