As I dripped away from the Odunde Festival this past Sunday, trying to avoid the heat (unsuccessfully) and the “everything must go” street vendors, I heard sandals clapping urgently across the sidewalk. A beautiful woman, all dressed up in her natural hair and a red linen sundress, was running in my direction. I wouldn’t have paid her any mind had it not been for the pregnant-looking, Sunni-bearded men behind me yelling to her, “Hey, Red. Red! You should be running over here to me.” After ignoring the two for as long as she could, she responded to them saying that she was looking for one of her girlfriends and had to return to her venue, to which one of the expectant men replied, “You should be looking for your boyfriend…cause I can be that for you.” Now, despite the fact that Mr. Nine Months thought his more than corny line would be easy to swallow, “Red” wasn’t looking to slake her thirst. In an unexpected turn of events however, she continued to feed the hungry men her unenthusiastic conversation. This baffled me. With a city full of Reds and Browns running around minding their business, have black men become Big Bad Wolves?
Many of us are familiar with the story of Little Red Riding Hood. The Big Bad Wolf (BBW) leads her astray and gives her a false sense of security before he eventually attacks her. What most people tend to forget is that a Hunter ultimately rescues Little Red and puts stones in the Wolf’s belly so that he cannot cause further harm. Here’s the truth, however; the Wolf’s damage is permanent. Not only did he gobble her up, he also left her with some emotional and mental scabs. She can no longer look at a Wolf in the same light and she has to be suspicious about any stranger, even if he brings the promise of something good to come. These days, Reds all over are suffering from wounds that they’ve received from their BBWs, yet, they are still giving them their undivided attention. Why? That, my friends, is the mystery. This is why Hunters cannot win, no mater how many bellies they fill with stones.
The real victim of this fable is the Hunter. His part in the story frequently goes unnoticed. I mean, for all of his hard work, he only received a small “thank you” and Little Red goes home having learned a supposed lesson about talking to strangers? What gives? In my life, I’ve known tons black men who actually are hunters who are often mistaken for BBWs. Women treat these men as strangers, choosing to ignore them or either reluctantly relinquishing their numbers, silently knowing that they’ll never respond to his calls. Or (and this is the worst) a woman will make the Hunter a mere friend, either because she has been hurt by too many BBWs or because (in her confused mind) she would rather resign herself to a BBW since he’s what familiar to her. Does the idea of a Hunter not seem heroic enough or does a Hunter have to be Big and Bad to make a difference?
“We want the opposite of what’s good for us,” my friend Brittany says.” We want the guy in the video: 50 Cent types. For some reason he appeals to us. Hunters are lame.” I’m quite sure that she isn’t the only girl who’s come to this diluted conclusion, but among the younger women, it’s what I’ve observed. Good guys may not only finish last, but they may not even be allowed to race. His competition has him beat even before he steps onto the field. His efforts to prove Red wrong and to show that he can be more than just a friend have exhausted him. So in a race to save Little Reds everywhere, will the Black Hunter ever find his Little Red love or is he doomed to hunt forever?