ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes


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 African Americans . . . "settle" for leaders who cannot, in their private

and public behavior, meet or expectations. Settling, then, is hazardous to

the political well-being of African Americans. We would be better off

without such leaders. African Americans are working overtime . . . .

Are those who are critical of settling correct?



The Problem of "Settling"

By Edward P. Wimberly


Among African-American women there is a popular concept called "settling." Settling occurs when a woman lowers her expectations of a man in order to secure male companionship. The objective is to find intimate companionship. Many African-American women indicate that settling is one of the most self-destructive behaviors in which women can engage. Some conclude that women are better off remaining alone than settling for less than they deserve.

One of the bets explanations of settling comes from the work of Renita Weems, an African-American biblical scholar at Vanderbilt University, in her book I Asked for Intimacy. Her work on the Leah Syndrome seems to capture what I have learned from African-American women counselees about the impact on them of a lack of integrity. Leah, described in the twenty-ninth chapter of the book of Genesis, is a woman who waited around for a man who did not want her. For Weems, the Leah Syndrome is about women who love too much, who conspire against themselves, who use their sexuality to snare men they would be better off without, who get into relationships that destroy them, and who "settle" when they could do better.

She does not see these women as victims; she sees them as relationship addicts. Relationship addicts are those who tie their self-esteem to others rather than find it within themselves and in their relationship with God. Such women, she says, settle for any kind of relationship when no relationship at all might be better for their self-esteem.

There is an analogy between the Leah Syndrome and the political behavior of many African Americans. This analogy fits the problems we see with our president and the African Americans who "settle" for leaders who cannot, in their private and public behavior, meet or expectations. Settling, then, is hazardous to the political well-being of African Americans. We would be better off without such leaders. African Americans are working overtime . . . . Are those who are critical of settling correct?

As African Americans, and certainly as voters, we are being taken for granted. Settling reinforces our low self-esteem and drives us deeper into dependency upon others for our survival. our future should be based on integrity and the pursuit of wholeness in every facet of life, not on the results of a political election. we should not be reduced to being political junkies looking for a fix in the promises of those who seek to manipulate and misuse our votes.

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Theologically, African-American Christians have always trusted in the righteousness of God -- a God who always keeps promises even when God's timing of fulfillment differs from our own. We  also see Jesus as a righteous man, a person of integrity whom we should emulate. Would it be too much to expect that the preacher/politician who constantly appeals to religious values would not only espouse these values but also attempt to live them out in private and in public? Those of us who comprise the church in the African-American experience need to upgrade our standards and expectations for those who seek our vote. God wants more for us than empty promises.

Source: "African-American Pastoral Theology as Public Theology: The Crisis of Private and Public in the White House." in Judgment Day at the White House: A Critical Declaration Exploring Moral Issues and the political Use and Abuse of Religion (p. 91-98;1999), edited by Gabriel Fackre.

*   *   *   *   *'s 25 Best Selling Books



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Sex at the Margins

Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry

By Laura María Agustín

This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label 'trafficked' does not accurately describe migrants' lives and that the 'rescue industry' serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice.

"Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality."Lisa Adkins, University of London

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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel.  The selfless Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.     

Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.

As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

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Home  Marvin X Table   Problem of Settling

Related file:  The Image of the Black Criminal   The White Anti-Racist is an Oxymoron  Bought Colored Kids  To White Women Who Think  Black Immigrants Deported 

The State of Black-Asian Relations  Paul Robeson's Greetings to Bandung  How To Love A Thinking Man   Status and Standard Language   How to Love a Thinking Woman   

WHAT IF    Wish I Could Tell You the Truth     Land of My Daughters   

Toward a Feminist T heology