FAKE 4:44- Stop Blaming Everything On Mental Illness!

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The sheer beauty of 4:44, was Jay-Z's willingness to be open, vulnerable and honest about the type of man he’s been over the years.  Let’s be real, he wasn’t honorable. He treated women as if they were disposable over the years. It wasn’t just the type of man he was as a husband, but the many women who came before Beyoncé, who were left with certain experiences that I’m sure shaped and impacted parts of their lives.  My reaction to the song was layered.  Feelings of pride as I listened to this black man get real about his mess and openly apologize for his actions.  Then sadness as I thought about the women in his past who dealt with this mess. Damn… he put them through a lot.   As Candace Benbow put it so eloquently, it’s the apology most black women never receive.  As a result of the song and the album’s equally important themes,  conversations about Mental Health and Black men have been in the forefront with seminars, discussion groups etc. with black men discussing being vulnerable, healing and emotional availability.  Black men addressing toxic masculinity, mental illness and emotional issues in safe spaces brought joy to my soul because it’s a conversation that is necessary and needed.  I watched “Footnotes to 4:44” and listened to black men get real about love and relationships, I felt hopeful.  It was raw, honest and real.  However, being accountable for your actions, real remorse and true healing cannot come without honesty and truth; first with yourself then with others. As Jay Z says, “you can’t heal what you won’t reveal”.  You gotta be watchful of the “Fake 4:44’s”, using the idea of vulnerability in a dishonest way. 

"I long for the day when a woman’s strength isn’t measured by how much shit she takes from a man as deeply as I yearn for a time when the growth of men doesn’t require broken hearts, shattered dreams and pounds of flesh".-Candace Benbow (4:43)

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I have more #meToo stories than I’d like to admit and like many others, many of mine started in my teens.  I’ve been harassed and/or abused by men in some shape or form my entire life. I’ve been sexually harassed as a teen while working at the mall by grown men, I’ve experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, and I’ve had a boss promise me promotions if I slept with him. I had a boss brush up against me inappropriately and make lewd comments about my body.   I’ve had men grab me without my consent while out with friends in clubs or bars, I had a man rob and attempt to rape me on a bus stop in my 20s, I’ve been a victim of domestic abuse by my ex-husband and experienced the after-effects of leaving a narcissistic ex-boyfriend.  The real tragedy is that my experiences aren’t uncommon.  For many women, the entire hashtag was triggering, reliving moments that we tend to push down inside because we just want to forget and move on.  The #MeToo hashtag connected with so many women because of the pain, the shame and the culture of victim blaming that we are all aware of.  For every woman who bravely shared her story, how many more couldn’t out of fear, or an unwillingness to be scrutinized and criticized by men and women who needed her to prove “her abuse” or otherwise label her as “crazy” and “bitter”. 

Lately it’s become popular to justify this bad behavior, abuse and other disgusting acts of misogyny as anything but what it actually is “Toxic Masculinity” and “Rampant Narcissism”.  Kevin Spacey blamed it on the alcohol,  Nate Parker, claims “he didn’t know what he did was wrong”, Bill Cosby said, they knew what they were doing when they took the pills and R. Kelly acts as if his behavior is normal because his community continues to give him a pass. It’s always something.   Even now, my timelines are filled with sympathy for singer, Tyreese even though he’s known for some of the most hate filled, grammatically incorrect rants towards black women for years! Now it’s black women screaming, “he’s ill, we can’t criticize him because he has a mental illness” or the “don’t kick him when he’s down or the “See this is why black men don’t show vulnerability…it’s because you dog this man, knowing he “clearly” has depression.   DOES HE? Does he "CLEARLY" HAVE DEPRESSION?  Or is he just another pathetic narcissist who can’t deal with the after effects of the bullshit he’s been doing for years?   This man who’s been on a month long rant about his co-star, The Rock.  This man who publicly attacked his former band mates?  This man has disrespected the mother of his child publicly on so many occasions and when she finally had enough and left, he trashed her some more publicly. This man who has spent the majority of his career "telling black women what they need to do to be considered "respectable" while being 10000% disrespectful.   Tyrese been doing this for years and now all of a sudden, because he sheds some tears on a video, we are supposed to wipe that slate clean because “he’s sick”?  Hell! Even drug addicts and alcoholics have to make amends to people they've hurt as part of the 12-step program!

 Hmmmm…not so fast. Sighs… where was all that compassion and empathy for the people he’s hurt, humiliated, lied on, cheated on…etc.?

I’ve seen people claim “depression” or other conditions when bad behavior is exposed so excuse some of my cynicism…I’m not ready to drink the Kool-Aid just yet.    I don’t deny the fact that depression is real especially in our community and I don’t deny the fact that toxic masculinity is a huge reason many black men have mental health issues, however, EVERYBODY AIN’T DEPRESSED…SOME PEOPLE ARE JUST TRASH.  It’s is disgusting and infuriating to see some use it as an excuse to justify their behavior,  their actions, shape false narratives and elicit sympathy for likes, and even use it as a thirst trap to get more women.  (Because some women love to love a wounded man) Narcissistic behavior will justify anything and paint victims as crazy or unstable or dare I say... "The Devil". 

We have to be careful and aware that narcissism is just as much an epidemic as any mental illness and many are getting away with murdering and raping the souls, spirits and hearts of women who tried to love them.- D. Sanders

Narcissistic Men are the men who proudly boast they “never put their hands on a woman” while they run around homes shouting, yelling or even punching walls (I mean…they didn’t hit you…right?), or proudly proclaim “I’m not a player, I’m a one woman man” but in reality their inboxes and text messages are full of nudes and solicitations for sex. (But they are faithful because they “never did anything” but talk?) They are the men who run online to tell black women what they should look like, how their hair should appear and what they should wear or shouldn’t wear to be considered “respectable”,  while at home doing their best to cover their insecurities with beards, dreads, hats and hair coloring. (Isaiah Washington, Tyreese, Joe Budden, 50 Cent, Floyd Mayweather….the list is endless) The Men who publicly shame women about their miscarriages and/or abortions but would have been deadbeat dads. The men who talk about being honorable fathers in public while in reality are social media fathers with a new kid that pops up every few years.  The Fake Hoteps who speak about building community and unity but don't understand you can't love black people and hate black women.  (Umar Johnson anyone?)  Are narcissistic men depressed? Not hardly, but I’m sure that mask gets heavy sometimes.  They appear like wonderful men, boyfriends and husbands publicly but in private they’ve put their partners through pure hell.  Master storytellers, incredible actors and manipulators, they are determined to control how they are seen even if the entire thing is a complete mirage. 

"I guess until #metoo becomes #youtoo, it’s easier to mock and criticize another woman’s pain than acknowledge the reality of her experience with empathy and compassion". -D. Sanders

These are predators, psychological, mental abusers, emotional leeches and manipulative narcissists who have repeatedly abused women mentally, spiritually and emotionally but will never acknowledge it.  These are the worst kinds of men. They are the ones that appear sympathetic, likable and honorable to the outside world but to the women, who know them intimately, they are despicable and the most morally bankrupt people you will ever know.  The women left behind like road kill are the ones damaged the most. The women you mock…the women you gossip about and the women whose pain seems to bring you a certain amount of joy.  

There aren’t enough spaces for sisters to grieve the loss of love. We actually shame women, especially Black women, for vocalizing the pain of a breakup...unless we can benefit from it. Women confided that they’d been holding on to the pain of heartbreak for 3, 5, 10, 15 years with no room for release. They said they felt ashamed for even saying that what happened to them was traumatizing and were often met with “you’re stronger than that...let it go” or “you’re still talking about that after all this time?” Because they couldn’t find safe space, they retreated into themselves. Relationship “experts”, charlatan pastors and online trolls would say it’s their fault for carrying that pain so long. But the shame is not theirs- it’s ours. When we don’t create spaces that invite women to just be sad and mad and cry, we’re doing them a disservice. When we, as homegirls and fellow Black women, continue giving each other dumb and trite advice, we are doing more harm than good. I wouldn’t have made it without the spaces that gave me room to grieve this loss. And I make the commitment to pay it forward by creating spaces that give women that same necessary grieving room. If healing is to come, we must be willing to sit with sisters in their pain...
— Candace Benbow, 4:45 (For Sisters Who Want Healing in Real Time)

I watched women, berate and question these women’s stories even worse than the men. Women were still being asked to prove the validity of their experience instead of being shown the same empathy and compassion. We treat the abuser like a victim and the victim like an abuser.   It’s like Stockholm syndrome after generations of patriarchy and misogyny.    I always find it interesting that women will consistently wrap their arms around and forgive broken men, abusive men and “mentally ill” men, justifying their bad behavior and deplorable actions instead of wrapping their arms around the women they abused and broke. Does “depression” or “mental Illness” somehow excuse their behavior or actions?  Is there no accountability?   Who wraps their arms around the ones who were victims to their toxicity?  Who sends words of love, light and encouragement to the ones who suffered through the trauma of trying to love a toxic individual?   As Beyoncé says, “if we are gonna heal…let it be glorious”.  There’s no glory in dishonesty, or half-truths.  The only real healing comes from being completely authentic about “the mess” (all of it, not the parts that still make you likeable) owning it, apologizing for it,  moving on and learning from it...until then it’s just another Fake 4:44. 

Until next time,

Take care of yourself and one another

D. Sanders

Check out Candace Benbow's articles below:

4:43 and

4:45 For Sisters Who Want to Heal In Real Time