Mumia Obsidian Ali is the author of the book of Obsidian, a book that takes a look at black mating and dating in the 21st century. It is the preeminent book for black men and women to understand what is going on in regards to relationships and how things have gotten the way they are.
Consider that today, according to US census statistics, twenty-nine percent of African Americans are married compared to 48 percent of all Americans. Fifty-two percent of black men are single compared to 48 percent of black women. These figures compare to thirty-four percent of all Americans who are single. So clearly there are a lot of factors that deal with the singleness of African Americans, especially when you consider the past high marital rates of African American.
According to Black Demographics.com, African Americans aged 35 and older were more likely to be married than White Americans from 1890 until the late 1960s. In 1980, these figures began to swap, as the number of never married African Americans went from 10% to more than 25% by 2010. While the percentage for White women remained under 10% and just over 10% for White men during the same time period.
I was able to sit down and talk with Ali about his book, which is a series of essays on black male female relationships and the influences that led to him write the book.
Explain the book of Obsidian, the manual of the 21st Century Black African American Gentleman.
This was a result of a lot of observing a lot of talking and listening to a lot of black love related issues. What really did it for me. I attended an event two years ago. A Derrick Jaxn event, in which the whole thing was a spectacle. While I was sitting there, it was a 1000 women in attendance. He was on tour around the black United States. So this event was Philadelphia. It was standing room only. The spectacle of the thing, and the things I studied over the years (relating to black love), Hill Harper, Steve Harvey. It all came together and I was like, why don’t I write a book. What is preventing me from doing it? All of these other guys are doing it. That was early May 2019.
In July of that same year, Oshay Duke Jackson made a YouTube video, in which he gave his take on what made a good dating coach. And he made a good organized list. It all surrounded around the idea of being a really good writer. In his view, it was what you write, not what you put on video. I studied the video and then I asked him, if I could write as a dating coach on the Negro Manosphere. (a web-publication that Jackson is the publisher and editor)
Oshay said I could and I started writing a weekly column on dating from my perspective. I used those columns as the basis for the book, that is out right now.
This I take it, made the book easier to write?
Yes. It made me really focus on what I wanted to say and how it would fit in the overall arc of the book. The Negromanosphere was a testing ground for a lot of the ideas I had and I am grateful for Oshay for allowing me to do it.
You mention a lot of Derrick Jaxn in the book. You even give him an acknowledgment in the beginning. How important was he to being your foil in your book?
It was kind of tongue and cheek. A wink and nod. It is fascinating in light of what is going on these days (with Jaxn’s marital affair and the public’s reaction to it.) To kind of look back on it and bring it up forward. In the book, I make the case there are two kinds of generalized views of black men.
You have the select fuck boys and the non-select guys. Derrick Jaxn is a select fuck boy. Nobody can dispute this. When I first said this, I was out in the wilderness, but now no one can dispute. Derek Jaxn in a real sense is a poster boy for the so called reformed select fuck boy. He along with others is a kind of foil throughout the book.
In the book, you describe the state of black male/female relations? What do you think it is?
I think it is in bad shape, in light of the Derrick Jaxn thing. This blew the black love thing apart. How can anybody argue in favor of black love, after what happened to Jaxn last month. That is the capstone, of what has been going on between black men and women over the past half century. Marriage rates are tanking. All of the indicators, speak to how black Americas are behind the curve when it comes to dating, mating and family formation. All of this is interconnected. This impacts black communities, black civics, black politics, black business and black commerce. This is all connected in American life.
There has been a lot of analysis regarding the black community when it comes to income, race, progress, housing policy. But no one has really looked at dating since the civil rights moment of the 1960’s I think your book gives a good intro into that subject. What do you think?
I make a case in the book that a lot of the black brain trust. The intellectuals and academics haven’t been able to address these (marriage and relationship) problems, because the consensus is racism is the number one issue facing blacks. W. E.B. Dubois, said a century ago the problem of the Negro was the color line. He was and remains a century later, a heavyweight when it comes to shaping black intellectual thought.
Many black intellectuals still think the way W.E.B. Dubious thought. That the biggest problem facing black people is racism. Dubois like we all are, was an animal of our time. In his time, he was right. Racism was the single biggest problem facing blacks. If you were a black American back then, he was right and these issues I am talking about (marriage, mating and dating) had to take a back seat.
Rightly so. It was only a century ago, we had the infamous Tulsa, Oklahoma race riots. The argument, I make in the book is that we aren’t living in those times anymore. We have new challenges for a new age. The biggest challenge black men and women face in the 21st century, is that black men and women do not get fundamentally get along. This explains a lot of the stuff that goes on in black American society.
Why we keep lagging behind everybody else. Everybody else has figured out that the way to get ahead in America is the men and women in their race or group have to get along. They hammer out some type of deal and make it work. And then they can get on with the business of doing something else.
In Black America. the question of who leads, takes all of the air out of the room. We go back and forth and tit for tat. And we deal with a whole bunch of stuff that is counterproductive and that ultimately doesn’t work.
A lot of the issues in America begin and start with the family If you have two people at odds you are kind doomed in a way don’t you think?
American society is very interesting. It’s a mixture of old and new. On one side the best outcomes are two parent orientated. It hues to traditionalism. On the other end it is a lot of modernity at work. We see this among the upper middle class in American life who are an interesting mixture of old and new.
They attend church services and the like, more as a class then everyone else. But at the same time they embrace a hedonistic marriage model. You have to be savvy to navigate both effectively. My argument in the book is that we have to be more savvy in the 21st century in navigating these things.
How did we get this way? Some in the manosphere blame everything on feminism. Others like you say things changed due to freedom from the civil rights movement. That black people are free people now since the 1970s, and this has carried over into mating and dating.
There is a bit of truth in both. Feminism is about freedom for women in a real sense and that would include black women. Every time there have been major movements to free a segment of people there were new challenges and downfalls. But what our society today is being reluctant to do is to admit to any downsides of feminism to fear there will be voices that will say we need to trash the whole thing, because they never wanted it in the first place.
A more cosmopolitan evolved view is to correct things that are problematic and keep that which is good. Black people being free meant that there were new challenges, that we were not equipped to deal with. The writer, Shelby Steele talks about this. Black people being free means there is new challenges, we weren’t ready to deal with.
In the 1980’s and 1990s. The gate keepers on television dealt heavily with black male pathology. Do you think that day time television talk shows, helped to shape the story of black male female relationships?
I am a bit ambivalent about pitting day time television as the culprit in the breakdown of the black family. Empirically there were a lot of forces at work. The war on drugs. Factories leaving cities. That being said, the welfare state is the biggest culprit, when pointing to the breaking down the black family. And day time television surely didn’t help. Thanks to the black manosphere, the narrative is starting to change.
A new conversation is emerging on the black manosphere. Look at the whole high value man conversation that Kevin Samuels has brought up. This has replaced the argument about black men being in jail. When you sit down and think about it and kudos for him for doing this, in a short period of time. Black women today who say black men are in jail, gay and all that other stuff, they sound like some angry cranks, when you sit back and think about it. That is a good thing. It shows the power of the black manosphere and Kevin Samuels in particular, who has helped to change the conversation.
The Black Manaosphere? How would you describe it?
It is wonderful. There is room for all of it. It can be whatever we want it to be. I think the big challenge for black men is that we have never been in a position to make what we want manifest. Most black men have not had the background that I have. I grew up with black men running things. They ran their own businesses, they ran their own homes, White people only played a bit part in my upbringing. Even today, they only play a bit part. My thinking is when I want white folks for their input, I will summon them and then send them on their way when they are done.
For a lot of black men that has not been the case. I think of a lot of black men, they are the bit players, while the white people are on the stage getting top billing. For a lot of black men in the black manosphere, it is a shock of freedom. They have never had the opportunity to be in a position to actually shape things. The black manosphere can be what we want it to be. It is up to us.
When the black community is so fractured along family lines. To me, it’s a no-brainier a lot of our conversation (on the manosphere) is about getting along with black women. That is the basis of a black family, a black community and black society. Black men and black women getting along. That makes sense to me and that should be job number one.
In your book you mention Kevin Samuels. What is the Kevin Samuels effect on black male female relationships?
It is wonderful It is a good thing. It didn’t come without its bumps and bruises. Ultimately, it is a good thing. To be far, he wasn’t doing this alone. We are now having a conversation that has never taken place, that wasn’t taking place over the last few decades. The narrative over the past few decades was that black women were wonderful and that we got all of these problematic black men with all their perpetuity, drug addiction, down lowness and that sort of thing.
That conversation has completely changed. Now the question is this. You have a rising tide of black men who got their act together. Now can black women keep up. That is a real conversation that’s taking place. Kevin has been having this conversation over the past year.
It is clear that a lot of black women can’t keep up. While a lot of black women are rightly concerned about their man cheating on them. Far enough. I have to ask are you the type of women that can be a wife, a concubine, and mistress at the same time. The rank and file brother that tunes into the black manosphere you let him tell it, trying to find a black woman that is a wife alone, is few and far between.
One thing about the book. Many people can’t explain. Your critics don’t have any solutions to the problems black men face in relationships?
This goes back to the earlier point. The black brain trust doesn’t have a clue when it comes to male female relationships. I understand why they are reluctant to address it, as it is a hot button issues.
Kevin Samuels has proven this. And our black thinkers don’t want to lose their jobs, dealing with these issues, by saying something that would upset someone. There are a lot of men in the academy that are shaking in their boots. I have had black academics tell me this. I am glad we have the black manosphere, and we are able to speak to these issues. And hopefully approach these issues with a level of thoughtfulness. In order to bring out, tease out the important points that need to be explicated by the body politic overall.
Politically, I have seen some that will try to debate it on the right and left, but they also can’t address the issues. Why?
As a black conservative. I am a moderate. Not a hard core to the right. I think some of their positions (conservatives) are untenable in today’s climate. As a black moderate conservative, I agree. If there is anyone trying to get their arms around it, it would be the black conservatives
You believe the Black Manosphere has the solutions to relationships?
The black manosphere is in a good condition. A good position. It’s a fishbowl effect. We are in a good position to shape things. We are in a position to change the trajectory of the entire conversation between black men and black women and we really need to seize on this (now).