By: Terrence A. Merkerson
Last weekend, Russell Wilson took the step that most black men acknowledge at “some point” to be an inevitability, but will fight tooth and nail to ensure that “some point” is any other time but the present or immediate future. He asked the woman he’s dating to marry him. On any other occasion, this would not be a big deal… maybe brief mention on a talk radio show, but considering who he proposed to (Ciara, of course), it has become a black national news story. In a previous post, I kiiiinndddaaaa came for Russ and CiCi (and all of Christianity, for that matter) after an interview where Russ dropped the nuclear warhead that he and Ciara were abstaining from pre-marital sex (for my positions on their reasons, check the other post. We are not here for that discussion today). All good. Now, that Russ has made ultimate gesture of commitment to his partner, the only debate that SHOULD be held is whether or not they got loose that night, are waiting to get them papers, or will they save the fireworks for after the wedding. But na, we could not let it be that easy, could we?
Across the various social media channels, I have seen posts or re-posts of statuses, tweets, memes, etc. from black men (and some women) trolling Russ, Ciara, and their relationship. The general attitude amongst that constituent is that because Ciara had previous relationships with other celebrities and she has a child by one of them, she is not allowed to flip her script, she is not allowed to choose whom she wants to be with, and she is not allowed to move on with her life and be happy. On the flip side of that coin, Russ is being ridiculed as being a “simp” (slang reference to simple; translation: a dork) for wanting to be with her. First off, I would like to go on record admitting my guilt for calling Russ a simp in the past. While I will not retract that statement, I must be clear that my reasoning for calling him a simp preceded his relationship with Ciara. He’s just a seemingly well-to-do, clean cut guy and there is ABSOLUTELY nothing wrong with that. I commend him for being (what most black folks would label him to be) a “square” because it is extremely difficult (or unappealing, more or less) to be a “good guy” these days. It certainly helps that he’s the $87 million man, but I digress. I cannot be upset with a man who finds a woman that he loves and wants to be with and she reciprocates those same notions. Ideally, that’s the goal, right? Eh, guess not. Russ’ ex-wife has even gotten in on the shade throwing, but we don’t really care about her anyway, so nevermind.
Ciara has taken the bluntest of criticism, primarily because of the ongoing back and forth between she and her ex, Future. Future (and many of his male fans) have been critical of Ciara’s parenting style. He claims that she uses their son and her relationship with Russ to get media attention and to make him look bad… com’on bro. There are some real deal salty people out here! To them, I say.. stop hating and let them L I V E!
There is an idea of ownership in regard to the female body and female sexuality when it comes to men. There is also a perception that many black men hold about women with children and black women that exclusively date wealthy black men. At this moment, Ciara is a victim of all of these attitudes attacking her at once. Ciara has been involved with a handful of celebrities over the years, most of which are confirmed that real relationships existed and from one of those relationships, she had a child. Because Ciara is a public figure, she is subject to public critique. The issue exists when some critiques are unfair and are rooted in misogyny and patriarchy. These considerations are made in the interest of male privilege. Patriarchy predispositions us to cherish and romanticize a woman’s “purity” & chastity. It encourages women to only embrace themselves as sexual beings at the discretion of the man that they are bound to. While there seems to be a welcomed shift in these attitudes, they still are very much entrenched in our (external) ideas of what woman are and are not allowed to be. Because we are aware of certain parts of Ciara’s personal life, one of the perceptions around her is that she is “damaged” or “unworthy” because of how and who she has dated and because she has a child. The man that the chose to have a child with also plays a significant part in this.
The only thing that Future and Russell Wilson have in common, outside of their celebrity and both of them being black men, is Ciara. They are two very different black men with two very different performances of black masculinity. Future’s brand is built upon the self-destructive, hyper-masculine black male identity that is as necessary, complex and profound as it is harmful, venomous and fragile (and he makes catchy songs). Russell’s is the “good guy who finally finished first.” As a football player, he came into the NFL as being overlooked, underestimated and undervalued but through hard work, perseverance and a little bit of luck, he has earned his reputation as being one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. He’s openly religious and affectionate with Ciara and her son. All of that plays into his safe, non-threatening performance of black masculinity. Unfortunately, Future’s masculine performance is more easily identified, understood and defended by most black men. We all know (and some of us are) a “Future” of some variation. We know what he faces, we know how he is perceived by those outside of our communities and culture. Because we know these things, we protect him. We defend him because he is familiar. He’s “real”. We attack Russ and we attack Ciara for “choosing” Russ because Russell Wilson is not as familiar to us. He is familiar, but in a different-Bryant Gumbel-kind-of-way. He’s safe and does not necessarily need “us” in the way that we believe that Future “needs” us. Russ is that cousin from the “good side” of the family that when to college, earned a degree, holds down a good job and dates white women. He doesn’t come back for “us”. He does not need “us” for his validation in the same way Future does and in a way, we resent him for that.
That is one of the reason why Ciara receives some of the criticism that she does. Ciara is that fine ass girl that grew up in your hood that everybody wanted, but nobody could seem to get. She’s the “good girl” but she has a cool to her. She was our “Debbie” in Friday. She was our “Brandi” in Boyz N The Hood. In a weird and profound way, by being with Future, she gave us hope that maybe, just maybe, we could get that girl and keep that girl, in spite of our varying inadequacies. Then she left. Upon realizing that we’ve lost “ownership”, we resent her. Then she dates Russell, we resent her more because he is not like us.
Step outside of the hyperbole. In our society, women arguably are not afforded the capacity to “choose”. We are conditioned to believe that they are meant to be “chosen”. Both men and women subscribe to this abdication of choice. In moments where it is convenient, such as this, we focus on the perceived “fallacies” of the woman and selectively ignore those of the man. Ciara did not “choose” Russell in the way that we typically frame romantic relationships because society does not allow or encourage women to “choose”, but she did choose to not be with Future any longer, for whatever her reasons may be. We are unfairly critical of her past, yet there is not much to be critical of. We bring up all of Ciara’s past relationships to discredit her “worthiness” but we do not bring up Future’s past quite as vehemently to discredit his “unworthiness.” What they (Russell included) have done in their past relationships is irrelevant and has no true barring on the present or “Future” (see what I did there?). Most seem to grasp that concept when it comes to Future, but for some reason, Ciara has to be held accountable for every boyfriend that she’s ever had? Seriously?
Hello there Mr. Double-Standard!!! Where have you been hiding all post?!
All this is to say that regardless of the circumstances, we have no right to pass judgement on a woman’s or a man’s decision to be with who they want to be with, in whatever capacity that “THEY” should chose to be. What we must do is be cautious in holding women to a different set of expectations than we do men. We are all relational, sexual beings and that’s F I N E. Do not be indoctrinated into a set of beliefs that you cannot fully understand or explain and be extremely cautious of prejudices and judgments that you cannot reasonably and objectively defend. Congratulations to Ciara & Russell. It is always refreshing to see black love. I am also looking forward to the next Future record… because you can do both…because they are separate of each other… right?
Terrence Merkerson is the Founder & Creator of Avenue Fifteen. Terrence earned Bachelor’s Degrees in both Political Science and Gender/Race Studies from the University of Alabama. Terrence also completed Graduate School at the University of Alabama earning a Master’s Degree in Communication.
He currently resides in Baton Rouge, LA.