Black Love White Lies
A PICTURE OF LOVE?
Photography is a hobby of mine. I love it because you can capture a point in history and pass it on. It is also why I like Instagram. Recently I started following “Black Love Doc” and “The Black Love Bible” (no, it is not Christian). I wanted to increase my daily dose of Black positivity to counter the bombardment of negativity that is often splashed across my T.V. and computer screens. I love seeing Black people in love. With that being said, anybody that really knows me knows I am cursed with the gift of overthinking. I actually lose sleep because of it. I began to question if the couples I was seeing on these pages were really in love. I mean, they look it but you cannot tell a couple is in love just by looking at them. For all I know, they got more drama than I do. Click! I un-followed them. What good is an image of love if I cannot be sure it is the real thing? I know what you are thinking. We can never be sure a couple is in love just by looking at them but I would disagree, God made the husband and wife to be a picture of the greatest demonstration of love. Jesus Christ living and dying for his bride, the church (the body of believers). God did not create love, He is love and at the start of creation He created marriage with the end goal of showing the world how love is really done. It is the difference between truth and lies; “therefore let God be true and everyman a liar“ (Rom 3:4 ESV). Today we have it in reverse. When it comes to relationships, it is “my truth” and when your relationship falls apart God’s a liar.
BLACK LOVE ETHIC
I understand the importance of the abundance of Black Love images we see in the media today, so much so, I use the term the Black Love Ethic. Essentially, there is a right way a Black relationship is supposed to look, a subjective morality seen as an objective morality. It flows out of the unique experience of Blacks from the African diaspora. The popular narrative is that the Black love ethic combats the hate Black men and women were taught to have for themselves during slavery. This is what ruined Black relationships but I would argue it has been the departure from marriage and the principles it embodies that has led to the deterioration of the black family in the present day.
GET THE PICTURE
Black Economist, Thomas Sowell in his book Economic Facts and Fallacies argues that even in the face of adversity slaves continued to get married and Black children were raised in two-parent homes. This practice continued up until the early twentieth century. The institution of marriage drastically reduces poverty and promotes the values that lead to economic survival. The witnesses at the weddings during the historic time of slavery were not able to capture their love solely with pictures and videos. They saw it lived out in the context of extreme hardship and loving community. Marriage is not just an event where you spend a lot of money on people you don’t know. It has practical implications for the creation and the preservation of the family. Contrary to popular opinion, the family starts at marriage not at the birth of a child. Genesis 2:24 (ESV) says “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Literally means “a change of allegiance.” This means that once you are married, your parents are no longer your family. You and your spouse are the family. Allegiance is the difference between being family and being a (boy/girl)friend.
THE BIG PICTURE
Why do we see Blacks departing from the institution that preserved the Black family for centuries? I would argue that it is due the rise of popular culture and the position of Blacks as trendsetters dominating all aspects of media. It has fooled us into thinking that the pictures that we see of ourselves are real. Provost Professor of Theology and Culture at Reformed Theological Seminary Carl Ellis Jr. states that Black people are no different than any other race. All ethnic groups have three value systems working within it. First, is the achiever, who values work as a means of getting ahead; delayed gratification for the sake of a better future. Second, is the non-achiever, who devalues work as a means of getting ahead; instant gratification with a disregard for the future. Third, is the deviant, who rejects laws and institutions; they believe that all existence is meaningless. Being poor does not mean you are a non-achiever, it may simply indicate that things just did not work out. Or, you do not have the required skills to improve your situation. In the same vein, not all who are middle class and above achievers. Just because you have money, does not mean that you have achiever values. For example, Shawty Lo, a rich rapper, with 11 kids and 10 baby mothers (non-achiever values) whose lyrics are deviant in nature and not helpful for the Black community. Both the achievers and non-achievers have good and bad characters. Achievers usually out number the non-achievers and the deviant in all racial groups. What is unique to the Black experience is we are the only racial group that is defined by our minority. Hip-hop sage Jay Z said, “we (black people) are culture[,] nothing moves without us.” This is true. However, this gift also comes with a curse. It has led to black non-achiever and deviant values glorified in popular culture. For those who interpret truth through social media they fall prey to the Baader-Meinhof effect, which is the increase in the frequency of the thing you have been told about (ex: cheating, single-parent homes, divorce). It works in two ways. The first is selective attention; you unconsciously keep an eye out for these types of images or news. The second is confirmation bias; which reassures you the image is real and or true. In today’s society, the Biblical institution of marriage appears as irrelevant by devaluing the hard work it takes to make a marriage successful. It disregards the future for instant gratification through pre-marital sex. In addition, anti-establishment rhetoric rejects the laws that help sustain the health of a relationship. In our current context, marriage is practiced in form but it lacks the substance that makes love real.
Let me be clear, my concern is not the images in and of itself. They are beautiful and encouraging to see. My worry is for those who see these images and videos as an idol or a true definition of love. We don’t have kids. My husband doesn’t have dreadlocks, a six-pack and doesn’t cook. My wife aint’ that fine. The Black love ethic has become the lens by which we interpret what true love is. It has the unintended consequence of championing the white lies that Black men and women did not and have not been practicing love in the context of marriage. It has led to the present day trend of images of Blacks turning inward for love instead of outward to the God who is love (1 John 4:8). Relationships are hard and sometimes you only get one chance to get it right. Would it not make sense to seek the one who is love and who created you and your lover? Jesus Christ demonstrated this love by doing what no man would or could do, dying for a bride who did not deserve it (Rom 5:8). This is true love. To believe otherwise is to live out a white lie.
 Sowell, Thomas. 2011. Economic Facts and Fallacies. 2nd ed. New York, NY: Basic Books.