It took forever and a day to realize that I was once an unintentional member of the FBOI committee. I thought myself to be excluded from toxic behavior towards women because my actions weren’t on the same level as the “F*** Ninjas” many of my homegirls were dating who were either abusive, cheating with best friends, or plain on scum. Nevertheless, after some introspection (that came with a lot of listening), I began not only to understand my role in the mistreatment of women but how my upbringing groomed me to do so.

My block consisted of multiple Black women who can take credit for my childhood development. There’s the Older women (Misses) whose wisdom came from their travels in the great migration from down south to the Midwest. Then, the Younger women(Big sisters) always gave out that around-the-way-girl advice while popping their gum. The neighborhood itself was rough, so while my mother worked multiple jobs, these diverse groups of Black women at different times would feed, clothe, and babysit while teaching me survival by any means. The Misses would alarm other young boys and me of fast girls judging that their physical development was not because of puberty but from “Hoeing around with adult men.” The Big Sisters cautioned me of girls who willingly used men to buy them expensive clothes and cars while occasionally setting up a drug-dealer boyfriend to get robbed and killed. The affirmation of these women’s warnings came almost every other day with stories of men found lying dead in their own home next to an empty safe or getting shot on a block in broad daylight by a jealous boyfriend. My environment was survival of the fittest, so the women passed me their wits as gifts for protection from harm while the men encouraged to build a wall that would shield my emotions.  

My village was never short of men who respectfully all played a father figure growing up. The older men (Misters) were former pimps/hustlers turned auto plant workers who were never short of a biblical scriptures quote. The young men (Big Homies), like my older brother, were a product of their era as they dressed in clean high-priced clothes, drove shiny convertible cars, with a new woman on the passenger side every week. Both men made their presence in my life, whether by doing their share of drop-offs/pick-ups to and from school or giving me money for rainy days. Each man had a different background but agreed with two things 1) My skin color is considered a threat, and 2) Don’t make a hoe a housewife. Their rules were to be followed and not questioned with little to no grey area. The only women who deserved respect were those who were your sister, mother, daughter, or wife/main. The Misters preached that God created woman for man’s service and enjoyment by using Adam & Eve and other bible stories as validation. The Big Homies told tales of men known as Suckas who foolishly fell in love with a woman who cheated multiple times or left and took their kids to live with another man. Both men encouraged me to sleep with as many women as possible before marriage and provided tips on how not to get caught cheating, but nothing about being faithful. Their Only Fools Fall in Love stories felt like an inevitable foreshadowing of heartache and hurt feelings, so I intentionally learned to cover my inner emotions into adulthood as a way to honor those men.

I learned that life’s game as a man operates with minimum emotion, hence how I survived into adulthood. The same cold decisions credited to saving my life growing up fell short when it came to women—only a woman who proves herself trustworthy to deserve my respect for a relationship. My insecurities made it nearly impossible to achieve.  At the same time, in friendship, she would only receive full protection if she listened to me. Romantically, my mindset towards women was absolute, with no middle area viewing the purpose of their existence for little more than consumption. I felt entitled whenever I mistakenly showcased a small dose of vulnerability and felt like the same Sucka that the adults warned me not to become. In friendship, I lacked empathy for any homegirl who continuously dealt with the same negative dude in her life and offered more criticism than counseling. I carried minimum sympathy and understanding for a woman who went back to her physically abusive husband/boyfriend because of past men I’ve known who died or went to jail for coming to their defense only for them to return in the aftermath. I foolishly thought my life was a universal Black experience and cold-heartedly thought that if a full-grown adult lacked these teachings, then it was their fault because God help those who help themselves. Since I was never physically abusive towards women, and every encounter was consensual; consequently, I slept like a baby with no conscience until one day, I woke up. 

Therapy, maturity, and growth were the only way to see my actions toward women as toxic. My various failures in life made me believe that some regrets are useful because they help you see through your bullshit. I began to listen more to close in-depth stories from homegirls who had privately struggled in problematic relationships.  I was hurt to discover that their trauma happened while on my watch and refused to say anything because they were witnessing me behave in the same fashion towards other women. I realized that to be a better friend, brother, and man, I would have to disconnect from the same teachings that helped me survive for years. At first, it was a struggle until I understood that I was no longer in survival mode; what I used to get here was no longer needed to move forward. I also recognized that disconnecting from specific lessons does not mean to be disloyal to the people who taught me. To honor the legacy of those who raised me is to understand their intentions and cherish their love. It is safe to say that my awareness does not mean perfection; it is the definition of progress while intentionally working inward to no longer be an unintentional foe, but a better purposeful friend/supporter of Black women.

J Hall is a Detroit bred Howard Bison multimedia culture critic. An abstract thinker who believes “You ain’t wrong when you’re right,” and that his mother’s cupcakes are legendary. Check out his slight worldwide view here: