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‘Would you date a bus driver?’ debate roils social media, and Eboni K. Williams fires back

Motivational spirit and talk-show host Iyanla Vanzant is telling women to recalibrate their standards for men after she recently asked a “Real Housewife” whether she would go out with a bus driver.

In a viral clip, Vanzant last week asked “The Grio” host Eboni K. Wiliams, the first Black cast member of Bravo’s “Real Housewives of New York City” franchise, if she would date a bus driver after Williams shared that she felt it necessary to exude “masculine energy.”

“If he owns the bus. If he owns it. If he owns the bus, Iyanla,” Williams replied after a moment of hesitation.

Vanzant, who was discussing modern women and femininity with the lawyer-turned-reality star, immediately stopped Williams and said that therein lay the problem, which catalyzed a backlash to Williams’ remarks and the debate in general. (The Bravo star responded Tuesday, but we’ll get to that later.)

“Because the standards and requisites — and I’m not talking about him laying on the sofa playing video games all day — but the standards and the criteria that we use to measure men is off for who we are as women and who they are in this society,” Vanzant said.

“I would date a bus driver if he loved driving the bus. If he was a man of integrity. If he was good to his mama. If he treated me well, I would date a bus driver. But we think that it’s another human being’s responsibility to give us what we need, instead of us building together.”

Vanzant had previously said that women were being trained to be men in skirts and told Williams that she “could build with a bus driver.”

“I’d have a little stash over on the side and my prenup but I can build with a bus driver,” she added.

She also said that the criteria women look for in today’s reality keeps them “unhappy,” “angry” and “imbalanced.”

“And then when the men show up, we want to beat ‘em up because they’re not living up to our standards and criteria. And it’s not working, beloved,” she said, reasoning that it’s not bad or wrong to have those standards but that it was “obsolete” and “we have to come up with a new way of being.”

“I don’t believe in carrying a man. A man has to do for himself,” she concluded in the clip.

While many agreed with Vanzant that a person’s character should be the priority, some also sided with Williams, who was torn apart on social media for putting down Black men and blue-collar work. According to Essence, the conversation highlighted the protracted debate about Black women being expected to settle or date below their educational status or income, while women of other races are often encouraged to seek higher-earning partners who can provide for them. Williams’ “Grio” co-host Marc Lamont Hill also said that “we shouldn’t define people by their labor” but argued both sides.

The self-proclaimed professional disruptor issued a response Tuesday on “The Grio.” She fired back at the so-called backlash and criticism she received on social media over her remarks and said that she was “completely unfazed.” She added that she had been commenting on “ownership,” Black enterprise and entrepreneurship and that her critics who focused on monetary matters “made up” the rest.

“So out of the 50,000-plus comments posted on social, I only saw a handful that even considered the possibility of a bus owner being a more aspirational position and recognizing that I am actually speaking and pouring into the ascension of Black men when I said what I said,” the “Bet on Black” and “Pretty Powerful” author said. “But no, some of y’all were too busy naming and shaming me personally — and Black women in general — as undesirable, gold-diggers and much worse.”

The former “View” guest host said she suspected that those were likely “the same men bringing home Cs and Ds on your report cards only to be coddled by parents that said, ‘Well, that’s OK, as long as you’re doing your best.’”

“Well, listen, I love and believe in the excellence of Black men, so no, my dear, Cs and Ds or any other form of mediocrity is not OK,” she argued. “No, I will not create a soft place for you or anybody that I love to fall comfortably into the bigotry of low expectations.”

She reiterated that “there’s absolutely nothing wrong with driving a bus,” adding that her mother drove one for years, but pushed back on the perception that being average is being good enough for embattled Black Americans.

“But could it be that Black America has been sold a narrative of average, regular and typical being good enough for us? Hmm, well, see, that’s called white supremacy, and in this case, it takes the form of conditioning Black Americans to happily accept being a permanent American underclass,” she continued. “But see, because I know the truth about Black folk in America, average will not or ever be good enough for me. And the gag is, I don’t think it’s good enough for you either.”

But Williams’ response wasn’t convincing for some observers. The comments section of her Instagram post featuring her response quickly filled up with new detractors, many of whom were “vexed” anew.

“My daddy drove a bus but my daddy was far from average. And he certainly didn’t drive a bus because he wasn’t ambitious enough to want to do better or bought into the ‘soft bigotry of low expectations’ and he’d certainly never quite George Bush to talk down in Black working-class people. This is so disappointing. Date who you want. Keep Black folks trying to make it out of it,” commented New York Times columnist and “1619 Project” creator Nikole Hannah-Jones. “Oh, wow. Just no. No.”

“Listen if you are a lawyer went to college and is extremely educated it’s highly unlikely you would be interested in someone who drives a bus and isn’t educated,” wrote Bravo’s “Millionaire Matchmaker” alum Patti Stanger. “Maybe if he were driving to further his career like he’s in med school. But at this time in your life as you get older women want to date up not down! Nothing wrong with saying What you want. No one should be shamed for that! Chemistry is one thing but if compatibility/lifestyle isn’t similar it usually doesn’t work long term!”

Meanwhile, Vanzant addressed the debate more lightheartedly on Instagram Stories.

“would a bus driver date me with this big ole white gray hair hanging off my chin,” Vanzant quipped in a Wednesday clip. “I’m talking about dating a bus driver, [I can’t] date anybody with this!”

And yes, she proceeded to find tweezers to pluck the hair.

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