Number Crunching with Lyfe Jennings: The Problem with Statistics


I’ve never been good at math. Perhaps that is why I find Lyfe Jenning’s “Statistics” so troubling.   Several months ago I addressed the issue of the “lonely black girl” narrative and how it is pervading the cultural zeitgeist.   Since then this narrative has become even more familiar, as the subject of Black radio broadcasts, editorial pages, and  general water cooler conversation.  With Helena Andrew’s Bitch is the New Black on bookstore shelves and the sequel to Terry McMillan’s Waiting to Exhale—Getting to Happy—due in stores this fall, I have no doubt the BGBHS (Black Girl By Herself) onslaught will continue. Into this cultural mĂŞlĂ©e, enters Lyfe Jennings, a R&B artist well-known for his gritty urban  story lines, with his new song Statistics. While it purports to be an education to help prepare women to find Mr. Right, I  suggest that it is a further contributor to the widespread miseducation of Black women in the lessons of life and love.

For the sake of the overall polemic, we will leave aside Jenning’s fitness as a teacher on such matters, given his history.  But the basic premise of the song suggests that there is only a certain percentage of black men available due to a series of maladies, personal shortcomings, character flaws, and other characteristics—sexual preference—that makes them unavailable.   The song opens:

25% of all men are unstable
25% of all men can’t be faithful
30% of them don’t mean what they say
and 10% of the remainin’ 20 is gay

That leaves you a 10% chance of ever findin’ your man
That means you better pay attention to these words that I say
I’m gonna teach you how expose the 90%
and show you what to do to keep the other 10.

It goes on in similar fashion setting forth rules for the women folk, which include among others “Don’t be a booty call”, “Tell him that your celibate”, and “Be the person you wanna find”.  On their face, I don’t have a problem with any of these propositions.  However, if Statistics if at all prescriptive, it is a merely chicken soup for what has really become a relational cancer in the Black community.

I have heard people suggests how deep this song is and how Jennings really hits the nail on the head with this one.  Yet to me its more like he is tightening  an already well-driven screw.  Suggesting that only %10 of men are quality/available within the dating pool will only make the situation between men and women more tenuous.  Right now what Black women and men need to hear is a message of self-love.  One that demonstrates how to live a life of experiences and joy, how to leverage their personal power to make a difference in the Black community and society-at large, and how to the heal the historical wounds and mend the discords between them.

The extent to which Jennings algorithm is valid is debatable.  So many of the women in my life—self-included—are so consumed with meeting societal norms of having the loving boyfriend, big white wedding, children, and the white picket fence that we fail to acknowledge if this convention is even aligned to what will really make us happy.  What would it look like to be beautiful, intelligent, educated, financially successful and completely self-possessed to point that  having or not having a partner did not define our happiness?

The blogosphere has been rumbling for months now on the role of the Black church in keeping Black women single.  Columnist Deborah Cooper really sparked the conversation, which has since been picked up on by the likes of CNN.com, with her article The Black Church: How Black Churches Keep African American Women Single and Lonely. The article basically blames the Black church as an institution for a sort of magical thinking within its Black women parishioners that has left them single and alone.  It goes on to make the argument that Black women should abandon the Black church en masse and focus on themselves and their families.  Essentially, I disagree with this premise because it suggests that Black women and the Black church are a monolith.  However, I do think a refocusing on what it means to be a fearless Black woman is in order.

Many of us our not living our lives to the fullest because we are afraid.  We are afraid of being alone.  We are afraid not reaching our full potential.  We are afraid of tapping the most divine part of ourselves. Many of us are deathly afraid of loving ourselves fully.  We are afraid of loving the God within us.  We are afraid of sacrifice.  We are afraid of failing.  We are afraid of getting outside of our comfort zone.  We are afraid of forgiving.  We are afraid of putting down our bags (baggage).  We are afraid of our creativity.  We are afraid of our dreams.

Yet I am convinced that if we sat aside these fears and tapped into our greatness we would not care about statistics—daunting or otherwise.  We would be convinced that providence has us precisely where we need to be and “with” who we need to be at any given moment.   I am tired of seeing the women in my life unhappy in relationships and unhappy alone.  I am tired of seeing this in myself.  As I grow and learn each day, what has become manifest to me is that life is truly an opportunity to love and be loved.  This love will emerge in all manners, romantic and otherwise; it is our responsibility to be available to it in all its forms.  This responsibility requires us to learn to accept ourselves as whole, perfect, loving, harmonious and happy—even if we do not always feel this way.  My hope is that in the “knowing” and “accepting” of our greatness will bring love in to our lives in such abundance that the numbers will not even matter.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Marianne Williamson
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