Whos Using Who?

In The Black Male/Female Connection, Maulana Karenga (1989a) examines three dominant ideologies underlying the U.S. social structure that have destructive effects on African Americans and their relationships. These include:

Capitalism–which “turns relationships… into commodities and utilitarian arrangements”

Racism–which bases humanity on the concept of race and racial hierarchies and “engenders self-hate, self-doubt and pathological fixation on the White paradigm” and

Sexism–which “imposes unequal, oppressive and exploitive relationships based on gender or sex” and “encourages artificial personal power over women as a substitute for real social power over one’s destiny and daily life” (pp. 47–48).


These structural values transform African American relationships into what Karenga calls “connections … a short-term or tentative association which is utilitarian and alienated and is designed primarily for the mutual misuse of each other’s body” (p. 48). These connections include the:

Cash Connection – money and material become the basis of relationship formation. It is evident when women expect men to spend money for their time and when men expect a woman’s body in exchange for spending money. It is also in operation when women sell themselves to men looking for them to “take care of them, “exchanging sex for economic security and calling it marriage.”

Flesh connection –“grows out of the pornographic character of society and is an association based purely or predominantly on the pursuit of sex. It focuses on the perverse things that can be done with the body [and] is an outgrowth of pornography …which expresses itself in five basic ways”: (1) alienation, men and women alienated from their “species half,” (2) the objectification, “turning a natural partner into an object of use,” (3) fragmenting of the body, “hacking it into usable pieces, rejecting the wholeness of the human personality,” (4) brutalization, and (5) “a sexually commodity form,” “the packing and peddling of the body.”

Force connection – arising “out of the violent and oppressive character of society, with conquest being a central theme, permits men to use their greater physical strength to subdue women” and

Dependency connection – emerges when a woman after “being transformed into a commodity” and “reduced to parts of her body, becomes dependent” (pp. 48a–48c).

The force connection, undergirded by a sense of ownership, leads men to think they can dominate women through mere force, and the dependency connection renders women vulnerable to domination. All of these connections inhibit the development of quality relationships.

How are you connecting? If you are not sure, the key is to slow it down so you can get to know the person and know what their intentions are.

Sources: African American Male-Female Relationships: A Reader–Dr. Patricia Dixon (for the entire article)
African American Relationships, Marriages and Families, Dr. Patricia Dixon