My Black Man Wants Me to Live
A couple of weeks ago, Earl and I were in the car going nowhere in particular. Because he was driving, he asked me to help him plug his phone into the charger, and hand him something from the back seat. It was a simple thing, but afterwards he said, “Thank you babe for being my ride and live.” We both laughed. I had never heard anyone say that before. It stayed with me.
It made me think about the phrase “ride-or-die” and how it’s been glorified in songs and movies. Some women take it on as a badge of honor but I’ve always had a major issue with it. Why do I have to die? Why is losing my life, or at the very least my personal freedom, the true indicator of my love and loyalty?
The ride-or-die trope is a problem. For Black women, our self-worth is always connected to how much labor we can provide for others. We go above and beyond for everyone in every aspect of our lives - family, work, church, and often it’s not reciprocated. A “ride-or-die” doesn’t require it to be because she’s a “strong Black woman.” There it is… the other badge of honor we’ve been manipulated into wearing. I’m exhausted just thinking about it all.
This way of life has left Black women tired, overworked, overlooked, and feeling rundown. Black women are too susceptible to this mentality because it’s normalized in our culture. It rings loud in our favorite songs, and it even shows up in the most important relationship we will ever have - the one with ourself.
No one is out here talking about a ride-or-die man. There is no expectation for a man to love his woman so hard that he will risk his personal safety, freedom and irreclaimable years of his life. Yet, we see so many examples of ride-or-die women in television, music, and real-life relationships.
The concept of being a ride-or-die is just internalized misogynoir - misogyny directed toward Black women. It’s a way to control women’s actions and strip them of agency and power in their interactions with men. No matter how brave or hard she may be, a ride-or-die must still be submissive to her man. Uh oh… there’s that other word cringe word. We'll talk about that another day. Promise.
But Archuleta, aren’t you just overreacting and taking this out of proportion? No, I’m really not. Why? Because Black women are expected to show love in ways that are killing us. The expectation starts early - in our introductions to music, in observations of our family and in our conversations with our friends. It pours out of the mouths of the women we know more often than we realize. I can be everything you need, without having to put death on the menu. I'm just not buying it.
Well, I suppose we can make valid points about both the detriment of a woman throwing away her self-worth and over-laboring in an imbalanced relationship, as well as providing the proper foundation for a committed relationship or marriage.
Here’s what it boils down to: respect, love, equality, and mutual reciprocation for the person you share your life with.
I have worked too hard to get myself to a level of self-worth and unconditional love within my own soul. I’m not jeopardizing that for anybody, especially not for someone that expects me to subscribe to death to prove myself worthy. So, when my man looks me in the face and thanks me for living… That spoke to my soul, y’all.
I suppose if you end up with a man who does not take accountability for himself, then you my friend, are not embodying your best self. And then yes, you would die just to be liked or thought of in that special way women like. We need better for ourselves. Black women are not emotional landfills. And we enjoy living.