Steve Harvey with now ex-wife Mary Harvey
There has always been something peculiar about the fact that black men have been viewed as the primary authorities on the alleged “marriage crisis” among Black women. Last year, Melissa Harris-Perry’s take in Nightline Asks Why Black Women Can’t Get A Man cautioned America about some of the men in the Black Marriage Brigade:
Steve Harvey, Hill Harper and Jimi Izrael have all written books on the black marriage/partnership crisis. To varying levels, all of these texts frame the issue as a black female problem rather than a community issue, offering advice that encourages women to mold themselves into a more sanitized definition of femininity that doesn’t compete with socially sanctioned definitions of masculinity. [In the special] Each of these male participants was allowed to pontificate about the ways that black women should behave without being challenged as to their own relationship history and status. None of these men can boast a lifetime marriage to one black woman.
With the recent release of three Youtube videos by Mary Harvey, Steve Harvey’s ex-wife, it seems that at least one of these men is finally being challenged. The allegations are disheartening. This sister has said that she slept in a car, lived on a jar of coins, and engaged in theft all to support Steve Harvey’s comedy career. What followed, she explained, is that Harvey cheated on her, had her evicted from her house, turned her son against her, and is suing her alleging that she is responsible for the fact that Oprah didn’t give him a show on her new network OWN.
When I saw those videos and read Gina’s coverage over at WAOD, I understood for the first time how all those second wave women felt on the eve of New Hampshire’s primary when Hillary Clinton shed tears. This is not to say that I am nominating Mary Harvey for public office. I just empathized with this grieving woman in a it’s-her-now-but-it-could-be-me-someday kind of way. And while feminists should watch this case and see if her statements are corroborated with evidence before completely boycotting Steve Harvey, everything in my gut is telling me that we should support this woman in her time of need.
So what does that look like? From media institutions, moguls, feminist lawyers, and all the way down to everyday people, all of us can help. For the time being, Essence should hold off on any additional covers they may have in the queue of Harvey and his new wife, allegedly his former mistress. Oprah should submit documentation to the Texas court explaining the reasons Steve Harvey wasn’t hired. In a system where money buys better legal outcomes, top feminist lawyers in search of a pro-bono case should come to this woman’s aid. Finally, we should all critically examine the advice of these so-called marriage experts that rely on anecdotes alone.