Race Card: Steve Harvey

Nadra Kareem Nittle
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Steve Harvey's got a black woman problem. After rising to fame in the '90s on a mediocre sitcom, the comedian held on to the spotlight by trumpeting himself as a relationship expert with advice every lonely black woman needs to hear. His reinvention from comic to dating guru did wonders for his career. Harvey's appeared on shows ranging from Oprah to Nightline advising black women not to end up wart-covered hags by lowering their standards or chucking them completely. Forget about cute, college-educated men. Save them for Katherine Heigl and Kate Hudson. Smart, successful black women need to turn their attention to old, ugly guys who may not even have GEDs because, face it, no one else wants them.

Of course, I'm being snarky here, but the above description pretty much sums up Harvey's words of wisdom to black ladies. Accordingly, I never ran out to my local bookstore to grab his best-selling book Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man or the newly released, Straight Talk No Chaser: How to Find, Keep and Understand a Man. The titles of the books say a lot, but so does Steve Harvey in appearances to promote his works. I still cringe remembering the episode of Oprah where someone asked him to explain why men cheat, and he said that they do so because "they can" and because there are always women out there willing to cheat with them. Okay, so women's moral failings are the issue here, not men's?

Now Steve Harvey's making headlines once again—not because of his underwhelming relationship advice but because his ex-wife Mary has called him out for cheating on her and leaving her with nothing when they divorced in 2005. Who knows if her allegations are true, but they've certainly undermined Harvey's credibility. This is good news for black women, I think. As Dr. Boyce Watkins writes at TheLoop21.com:

Steve Harvey is a comedian, and not necessarily someone who should be positioned as a relationship guru for the African American community. …The break down of the black family in America derives from a series of 400-year old problems…We all need to see real psychologists, not comedians, in order to solve our problems.


In all fairness, Steve Harvey has fielded his fair share of relationship questions on his morning radio show. Given this, he's not totally clueless, but his insistence on pigeonholing men and women into stereotypical roles—chicks are complicated, guys aren't—and his use of the single, black woman as a ploy to gain authority as a relationship expert make him suspect. Successful black women don't need to be told to toss out their standards. They grow up hearing not to expect too much in life and to ask for even less. It's time to kill that noise.

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16 Comments Have Been Posted

Bogus race card pulled on Steve Harvey

I take issue with a couple of points in this post.

First, nothing in the book Act Like A Lady indicated he was only talking to black women. But even if he was, the things he wrote apply to ALL women.

Secondly, in no way did he come even close to saying women should settle for the men with GEDs. In fact, it was clear in the book he meant for women to realize how much they're worth and to raise their standards to make men meet them, not lower them.

Thirdly, he admitted in one of the interviews in which I saw him that he didn't do right by his former wife.

Finally, "because they can" IS a reason why some men cheat; I've heard it from the mouths of a few of the male clients I've counseled.

I felt Mr. Harvey wrote a much needed and well articulated book that spoke to the heart of many women, especially those who've been in abusive and co-dependent relationships. You're taking the ex-wife's side without even knowing details of their split. Perhaps they had a prenup and she's just upset she signed it. Perhaps they didn't have much to fight over when they split. Perhaps she just had a shitty lawyer who didn't do right by her.

But even if everything she said about him is true, that was 6 years ago and people change every day. Maybe somebody could give him the benefit of the doubt and not assume he hasn't changed or grown as a person or owned up to his mistakes.


You're assuming I'm discussing the remarks Harvey made in his book. I pointed out that I did not rush out to buy his books. I take issue with remarks he's made on TV. And in the Nightline program in particular (which I linked to), he pretty much tells black women to settle. Obviously all women can take his advice, but he's appeared on shows specifically talking about the plight of lonely black women.

"Because they can" doesn't

"Because they can" doesn't make it ok.

Well duh. Of course that doesn't excuse adultery.

Steve Harvey didn't say that "because they can" makes cheating okay. He just said it's a <i>reason</i>. That's it. There are other reasons that could explain why men do it, but whichever reason it is, they made the choice to break their marital vows. I'm sure Harvey had his own reasons, but not once did he use it to lay blame on anything other than himself.

Similarly, I'm sure you don't hear anybody excusing Jared Loughner for shooting congresswoman Giffords, simply because he held a grudge for the past two years on an obviously inane question. However, it was Loughner's reason for doing so.

not similarly at all.

A mentally ill individual shooting and killing people with a gun is not similar at all to a public figure cheating on their spouse. Not in scope, not in consequence, not in action.

One of Harvey's problems is that he essentializes gender in relationships. It's ignorant and retroactive to say men "can" cheat, even if that "ability" to cheat doesn't make it acceptable. it creates a gender disparity unnecessarily, and it smacks of a "boys will be boys" mentality.

You're missing the point

Okay, maybe my argument went to straw man territory, so let me reiterate. Both the "Steve Harvey" and "Jared Loughner" examples were used to say that both men's bad actions aren't excused, no matter how perfectly logical their reasons comes off to themselves. Harvey may have had an entire slew of reasons why he could've cheated on his spouse: he was bored of his marriage, he may have been dedicated to his wife but slipped up in a moment of weakness, maybe he cheated for the hell of it, consequences be damned. He may have liked it, but the most important part is that Harvey isn't excusing it. That's what everyone here seems to be misunderstanding.

The same logical threads can be applied to any situation, including Lougher. Yes, I'm aware that his actions are dissimilar to simple adultery, and weigh far heavier in scope because of their violent ramifications, but no matter the situation, people do things for whatever reason seems logical to them, regardless of how good or bad they come off to other people. You know what? Forget Loughner. What did you eat this evening? Why did you pick it? Is it because it tastes great, or is it because it's healthy? Maybe you wanted something cheaper. Or maybe you wanted a $100 steak, even though you can't afford such a meal. Whatever your reason, it basically boils down to doing what you feel like doing, whether good or bad, and your willingness to accept the consequences, short term and long term. But in the end, you had a reason for doing so, whether it's because you want to save money, you needed to eat something that wouldn't spike your cholesterol level, or you wanted to eat that $100 steak because you felt like it, and temptation took over. Not the right reason, but it's a reason, nonetheless.

As for the adultery issue, some men honestly feel that passive about cheating, which isn't that unusual to be honest. Some women may cheat on their spouses/boyfriends for entirely similar reasons. Maybe not. Maybe they want a passionate partner instead of rotting away in a loveless marriage. It would be better to divorce, but we all know not everyone does that, so they cheat. Men and women alike. There seems to be a higher frequency of cheating with men, and the reasons vary between individuals, but even if someone discovers the underlying reason they do, would it even matter? From the previous responses, obviously not, because that doesn't absolve them from ridicule. Hey, here's food for thought. Why do women cheat?

So back to "boys will be boys" eh? It's not like Harvey answered the "why do men cheat?" question with "because I can" to make men victims to their own biological dispositions to be emotionally detached creatures (i.e., the oft used reason). Again, going back to his morning show, there are plenty of people writing in for the Strawberry Letter to complain about a cheating spouse, or even admitted to cheating himself OR herself. And Harvey criticizes both genders if their actions warrant it. Quite often, the female adulterers come off just as selfish and opportunistic as their male counterparts. And many of them do it, because they can.

That's about as clear as I can explain it. If by now you (or anyone else) doesn't get it, I give up.

Just stop

Stop taking up arms to defend people like him. The black community IS quite poisonous to black women because of this attitude. They (and you, too, obviously) are raised from birth to think that they have to do everything for the community, and that men are kings. Well you don't, and they're not.

Stop it, just stop.

When my friend broke out of this hive-mind, she said it was one of the most freeing experiences of her life. I hope you can do the same.

Nice post, Nadra! Touches on

Nice post, Nadra! Touches on a LOT of issues that Harvey gleefully deemed himself king of without any information. For example, this "women are the immoral ones and men need to be protected from their wiles" idea has a muuuuuch more fraught history than Harvey is copping to (i.e. veiling in Muslim Sharia law), and it's just plain ignorant to throw around that idea as a love guru and not acknowledge where it's coming from and how it affects women when blown up and made law.
Ugh. I'm hereby nominating Steve Harvey for a Douchebag Decree FOR SURE.

Nominating him a douchebag for what? Giving an opinion?

For the past few years, I've listened to the Steve Harvey morning show, and to this day, I've never heard him say half of the things you and Nadra claimed he did. "King of relationship advice?" If you listened to Harvey's radio program every now and then, he constantly reiterates that he's not a relationship counselor, never will be, and actually <i>suggests</i> to go see one if someone's marriage/relationship is worth salvaging. So take his advice with a grain of salt.

Secondly, Harvey doesn't so much criticize women for being immoral than settling with men who're obviously not worth their time. Stories of women putting up with cheaters, philanderers, drug addicts, and/or lazy bum describe a pretty big chunk of the Strawberry Letters that come in each morning, along with the occasional domestic abuser. He wants all of them to do better for themselves and get themselves out of their bad situation, even if it was one they clearly got into by their own misbehavior (e.g., a woman pondering whether to claim a house her lover placed on his will before he died...even though she's still married to this day). And while Harvey's own cheating hurts the credibility of his relationship advice some, he still has plenty to say, since he's been through that road before. A second opinion certainly doesn't hurt.

As for Harvey's book, I admit that I haven't read any excerpts, and there has been a backlash because of supposedly misinformation, but that's no better or worse than any self-help book already out in the market. And believe me, Harvey's far from the worst culprit on that subject. On the other hand, the fact that Dr. Boyce Watkins seriously believes that the majority of blacks view "Kings of Comedy" comedian Steve Harvey as the end all, be all voice to relationship woes to our community just saddens me. Harvey has no more clout than Lyfe Jennings's stupid "Statistics" single that's been on the airwaves for the past several months. Actually, Harvey has <i>less</i> clout than Jennings, despite him currently serving a 3-4 year sentence for his antics, and yet I hear black women singing his praises for revealing how low-down 90% of black men are. Now that shit boils my blood.

I have to agree with "Em" on this one. Nadra sounds like she has a bone to pick with Harvey for a while, and is now using this as an opportunity to fire away.

How he treats women....


"A lady called in to ask the guest stylist a hair related question. As part of her question she mentions she is natural and wears her hair twisted and untwisted for the crinkled look. She wanted to know how to keep her hair from breaking and how to keep it moisturized. The guest stylist then proceeds to give her a product recommendation (from the line he was representing, Soft Sheen).
Steve then throws in the following question: Do you have a man? The caller responds by saying "yes", he then goes on to ask, "how does he like your hair?", she then says , "he doesn't like the natural look".... Steve's response: "I knew it! YOU GONNA LOSE YO' MAN!" and then they cut to a commercial."

I have actually heard the recording, I could not find it at the moment but I felt bad and was rather embarrassed for the lady calling in.

Ugh that story just plain

Ugh that story just plain disgusts me!

Uh, ever heard of sarcasm?

While I'm all too aware that Steve Harvey's not exactly a saint at all hours of the day (but who is, honestly?), and even though the mass commercialization during Harvey's morning show often bugs me, I'm pretty sure he was joking when he made that retort. At least, that's how exaggerated it sounded with the way you described the conversation. I'm guessing most of you don't listen to him on a regular basis, so maybe you're not aware that he's goofy for much of the show (minus the first half hour, when he has a spiritual guidance moment).

Harvey might not be a quintessential role model, but misogynistic? Doubtful.

goofy AND misogynistic.

Hi t3hdow,
Thanks for reading. I've heard enough to know that Harvey is both goofy AND misogynistic. He relies way too heavily on sexist humor for it to just be that he's a silly, jokey guy. Even if I didn't think he were a doucher, I would dislike him as a comedian because he falls back onto stereotypes instead of making new things funny. Which is a comedian's job.

I guess we'll have to agree to disagree on that one

Maybe I'm jaded, maybe I'm forgiving, or maybe Harvey hasn't done anything that warranted a huge amount of animosity in my eyes (certainly nothing compared to other people I read when visiting this place). But at the end of the day, nothing he says or does affect me, or in a broader sense, the black community. At the very least, his show helps pass the time at work, and at its best, it opens up dialogue with gender relationships. Besides, even Harvey himself admitted to his limitations. At the end of the day, he's here to entertain, and that if you have serious issues, go to a relationship counselor. And if you don't buy his advice, that's your choice, not his. He's not forcing anyone to do anything, even if the insane commercialization makes that remark ring hollow sometimes.

We've heard of sarcasm. Have you heard of Stockholm Syndrome?

Haha, you are WAY too deep in the "defend everything a black man says or does" mentality. No one can be even slightly bit critial of them, huh? Do you hear yourself? Probably not.

"Once again, every one else is just attacking poor Steve Harvey, and he's defenseless", yada yada yada. Just stop it, okay? You're not helping him, he doesn't need your help. Do you think that guy walks around thinking anything other than "I am a king among men"? Do you think that it's okay for you to snap at, or put down, other women in order to buoy him up?

he's not totally clueless,

he's not totally clueless, but his insistence on pigeonholing men and women into stereotypical roles—chicks are complicated, guys aren't—and his use of the single, black woman as a ploy to gain authority as a relationship expert make him suspect. Successful black women don't need to be told to toss out their standards. <a href="http://www.pullyourexback.me/">pullexback</a>

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