Hello Ms. Evia,
My name is Kayla. I am 23 and I have been reading your blog for quite some time. It and other BWE (Black Women Empowerment) blogs have really helped validate things which I had felt and observed for so long. I had grown up in one of those households that trained me to sacrifice for the “black community”, and I’m grateful that I threw off that yoke and chain while I was still young. I am writing to you because I have a question about how to conduct myself in my IRR. Am I doing the right thing by not divulging certain things about my past to my boyfriend, particularly the fact that my father practiced polygyny? I do not tell anyone about that, even most of my close friends, to avoid the stigma that comes with it. I feel that I am protecting my image by doing so, but I also feel like I am keeping secrets. I’d appreciate any input you might have. Or perhaps there is a blog post you wrote touching on that?
Re your question, a lot would depend on your boyfriend’s background and specifically how much exposure he’s had to a broader range of ideas, cultures, and ways of life. Maybe you’re talking to the wrong person about this since I’m a cultural Anthropology enthusiast (lol), but polygyny is just another lifestyle, to me. I first heard about polygynous cultures during my first year in college and have met many Africans who grew up in that background. To me, there isn’t much difference between folks from that background and any other person. Or, I should say: it all depends. I would have 2nd and 3rd thoughts if my potential husband had personally come from a polygamous home. We’d have had a very serious talk–upfront. LOL
Not sure why you think your boyfriend might view you negatively if you told him–since you’re a woman?
My ex-husband and I did talk about it since you know that polygamy is widely practiced in Nigeria, but he didn’t come from a polygamous home. He assured me that he was very much against polygamy and considered it “backwards” since he’d seen how divisive it can be. He’d seen how it had caused major issues and setbacks in other families. He also knew that if he’d try to pull that with me, I would have been out the door before sunset. I always have my parachute right inside the closet, and I’m the type of woman who won’t hesitate to use the parachute. LOL
I have a close black American girlfriend who married a Muslim man from the Middle East. After they’d been married for about 12 years, he married a younger wife and had 2 children by the new wife behind my friend’s back. For years, my friend had no idea about this. When she did find out, his defense was: “Well, you knew I was a Muslim when you married me, so you should have known I have the option of having more than one wife.” OMG–my girlfriend was shattered by this and hasn’t recovered yet–though that happened many years ago. He is a professional man. She was a savvy professional woman before that happened to her, but that whole experienced demolished her.
Since you’re a woman, not sure why your boyfriend would consider that ‘less-than’ in any way, but maybe I’m not understanding enough about your socio-cultural background? Tell me more.
Well, as far as my boyfriend’s background, he is LDS (Latter Day Saint), and born in Utah, but raised in Georgia. And I’m sure you know that polygamy was practiced early on, but now it isn’t an accepted practice now by the mainstream LDS commnunity, except by, as LDS church members will stress, by fringe Mormon groups. My boyfriend is very adamant that Mormons don’t practice polygamy and is very much against it. I have heard him express how he is strictly a monogamous person and would only ever have one wife. I have not wanted to ‘other’ myself to his family by telling him that I actually came from a polygamous home, although, as you mentioned, since I am a woman he likely would not consider that ‘less-than’. I was hesitant on discussing it, especially earlier in our relationship because my experience with it was very negative and I wanted to keep things light, but we have been together for close to a year now. However, I had very briefly dated a Nigerian guy of a Muslim background before and I had discussed the subject of polygamy with him very early on, but I felt more comfortable talking about it since I knew that polygamy was widely practiced in Nigeria, and I wanted to get a read on what his views on it were. It intrigued him that, as AA, I had come from a polygamous home, and, as a Nigerian, it did not shock him at all.
I’m African American, Caribbean-American, and Puerto Rican. My mom is Haitian/Jamaican-American and my father is AA and Puerto Rican, but mainly identifies as AA (African American). Both of my parents converted to Islam when they were teenagers, and I was raised Muslim in my formative years. My last name is Arabic because my father legally changed his name to an Arabic name. I used to speak some Arabic as a child as well. I am also from New York City, so I have been exposed to a variety of people having grown up there. And actually, when I was younger I wanted to a be cultural anthropologist! I have always been very interested in different cultures and ways of life.
Personally, I view the practice of polygyny by AA Muslim men as largely dysfunctional. I consider my father to have been a DBR male who was able to sanctify, so to speak, his desire to have multiple women under the cover of Islam. As I mentioned, it was mostly a negative experience for me. In Islamic culture, men who take on more than one wife are supposed to have the means to support them, instead my father lived off my mother and his other wife and refused to work ‘for the devil’ i.e. white men. Your questions did have me think about why I think my boyfriend would view it negatively. And I have to say that my boyfriend probably would not care that I came from a polygamous home at all. I realize it is probably not so much that I think he would view it negatively, but that I view it negatively, and I am concerned that his family would think it reflected poorly upon my background.
Kayla, I’m glad you’ve traced where most of your anxiety is coming from, and since your prospective husband and in-laws are from a reformed LDS background, they would most likely be appreciative that you’ve separated yourself from that type of background too. Sounds like that’s something you’d have in common with them, but I know it’s not the same. I would just mention it casually to my boyfriend–slip in it, just so he couldn’t say in the future that I never told him.
Yes, a large portion of black American men have been bamboozling black women for years, very selectively picking around in the “cultures” of black and brown men from other parts of the world, and using the Bible, the Koran, white hegemony (I never use the misnomer “white supremacy”), etc. in order to justify or excuse their promiscuity and other foul deeds. As you know, polygamist Muslim men in other parts of the world and Nigerian men (whether Muslim or not) absolutely must financially support their wives and children. My ex-husband told me it was common for ‘mysterious’ deaths and crippling ailments to occur in the homes of some who practiced polygamy, and that was one of the reasons he was so against polygamy.
No reflection on your parents, but what has stretched my tolerance to the limits about too many black American women is that they continue to listen to and allow other people who have ill intentions towards them promote destructive propaganda about them and bamboozle them with countless okey-dokes (cleverly-constructed, highly damaging lies). SMH I’ve wondered whether women who convert to Islam ever really think critically about what they’re getting into.
As an aside, I must point out that deceitful people have always been among us. I believe in trusting people until or unless they give a hint of a reason not to trust them. Most people give advanced warning before they con you, but many women refuse to see the warning signs. Women should have their antennae on high alert, especially women who come from cultural backgrounds in which the males or older people around them do not protect women from male users and predators. We know that the black American culture has collapsed, so millions of unsuspecting black women no longer have any protection from males such as this one.
A lot of black American women stopped vetting black (and sometimes, even brown) men during the Civil Rights movement and have been cutting them insane amounts of slack ever since then. That’s because black American men totally convinced typical black women at that time that holding them to the normal standards–that women around the world hold men to–was unfair, racist, and akin to siding with hateful whites. You may find it hard to believe but prior to the Civil Rights movement, most black women held black men to a much higher standard and insisted that the men do all in their power to provide for and protect women and children. There were exceptions though: there’ve always been a minority of women who were utter fools.
Yes, and thank you, I appreciate it. I’m sure I can casually slip it into conversation.
Limited finances were a big issue in my home. The lion’s share of what my mom made went to the “household”. My mom was too “nice”, so my sisters and I ended up losing out a lot and being deprived of basic things because my mom wasn’t aggressive enough. While my father’s first wife was very sure to make certain that she secured the best of what was available for herself and her children and my father was sure to take care of his needs first and everyone else’s were secondary.
The LDS community is very family-oriented, so my rationale when I first began dating my boyfriend was that, with an LDS upbringing, chances are he was likely to see being a provider as natural to a man’s role. I feel that’s a basic standard, but it also was particularly important to me and one of the first things I was looking for during the vetting process.
I can believe it, but AA standards for bm are so broken down now. I don’t think AA women realize how much women shape the standards for men. My mom likes that my boyfriend treats me well, but, of course, she wishes that he were “chocolate” *sighs*
There are always lessons to be learned from any situation. Many younger women in the U.S. have been plopped down in the middle of a situation where some of the most critical “rules” that used to work for women are working against them, or there are no discernible rules. The feminist movement has caused a degree of confusion for women and men, but it was a good and necessary movement because it addressed some heinous wrongs practiced against women for centuries. Critics of feminism conveniently forget that the feminist movement rose up for that reason. If women had not been oppressed, the feminist movement would have never occurred. And that movement is still not over. Self-correction and balancing in the social realm is still going on. Balancing is always good.
In summary, I would urge black American women to continue getting as much formal and informal (social and skills) education (as cheaply as possible), set and work towards realistic standards and goals for themselves, be critical thinkers at all times, require reciprocity in their interactions, take care of themselves physically, have at least 2 private plans that they are implementing everyday, always, always, always aim toward excellence, do all in their power to leave spiritually deflating environments, form uplifting connections with others globally, and most importantly: nourish their spirituality. If black women do these things reasonably well, they will thrive. I promise you this: Smart people in the world will flock toward black women who do these things because smarter people gravitate toward others who are thriving. Smarter people from all backgrounds and cultures will never ignore the excellence in others.
Required Motto: Aim towards EXCELLENCE!