Kevin Samuels’ death raises a simmering debate between Black men and women

Kevin Samuels' death raises a simmering debate between Black men and women

Wearing his signature glasses, suit and tie, Kevin Samuels casually sat in his chair talking to a single 35-year-old Black mother who called in to his popular YouTube show to ask for dating advice. The woman, who said she has a teenage son and makes six figures through her pet grooming business, explained that she wants to meet a man on her level who also makes six figures.

Suggesting that she lowers her standards, Samuels repeatedly insulted her appearance, her business, her age and the fact that she’s a mother.

“Thirty-five, 13-year-old son, with a sketchy father, why would a man who is in the top 10 percent of earners, who women across the country want, want that?” he said in the December 2020 YouTube video that has since garnered 2.8 million views. After calling her “average looking at best,” he then told her to lower her expectations. “Women like you die alone, straight up. Because you think you’re better than the men you qualify for.”

Samuels rose to social media fame for videos like this, with controversial relationship and dating advice, offering highly critical remarks about women — many of whom were Black — determining their “value” based on their appearance, age, income and number of children.

So when news circulated about his death did 53 last week, it sparked mixed reactions from those familiar with his channel. On one hand, there were those who saw his viral comments as sexist toward women, stereotypical of men and perpetuating a long-held divide between Black men and Black women. On the other hand, his many supporters saw Samuels as a relatable truth-teller — and the critical reaction to his death as disrespectful.

From fans to hate-watchers, though, Samuels’ appeal was his willingness to say what he wanted, however he wanted to say it, said Julie Wadley, founder and CEO of Eli Simone LLC, a personal matchmaking and coaching firm in North Carolina.

Wadley said many Black men feel they were always blamed for why Black men and Black women can’t have healthy relationships. Instead, she said, Samuels became known for laying this perceived blame on women, too.

While some Black men saw Samuels as a hero because he “said things to women that most men weren’t saying,” she said, his videos also further stoked long-held divisions in a manner that many found demeaning to Black women.

Popular culture started embracing Black women and celebrating Black love, “and then here comes Kevin Samuels, who blew that to smithereens,” Wadley said. “So now we’re back to being on two sides of the room, staring at each other like, ‘OK, we can’t come to an agreement because we just can’t see eye to eye.’”

“I get a rep of hating Black women,” Samuels said in a February interview with rapper Nicki Minaj, “and it’s far from that. There are over 50 Black women who report that they’ve gotten married as a result from watching my content.” Yet, they were still at the center of criticism from Samuels, who once said Black women exist at the “opposite end of the spectrum on all ranks.”

Samuels, an image consultant, started his YouTube channel in 2015 and gave advice to men, with one 2017 video explaining 15 things men should have, which included a tailored suit and a sense of humor. Eventually he shifted his target audience to women — which proved successful, growing his online presence to nearly 1.5 million YouTube subscribers, 299 million video views and 1.2 million followers on Instagram.

But much of his content took aim at the same Black women who grew his brand. Some of his recent videos are titled, “Women Should Let Men Use Them,” “Narcissistic Modern Women Are Driving Men In-sane?” and “Are Modern Women Proud to be Selfish?”

Among his millions of followers is Leonardo Jacobschild of Houston, who said he was drawn to Samuels’ content because his directness “seemed like a breath of fresh air people needed to hear.”

Jacobschild, 38, said he has watched Samuels’ videos for years. While he was drawn to Samuels’ advice on men working, investing and saving before getting into a relationship, Jacobschild said it was similar to what he had learned on his own through experience. He said he was drawn to Samuels’ videos because they gave a voice to Black men. He also said he sometimes watched the content with his wife of 11 years, who often agreed with Samuels.

Jacobschild said he was shocked when he learned of Samuels’ death, and he promptly tried to verify whether it was true. Once it was confirmed, he noticed the deluge of posts celebrating Samuels’ death, prompting him to tweet about him himself.

“I mean, it was disgusting,” Jacobschild said. “Whether you agree with him or not … you don’t have to follow him.”

“I mean, this man has a family. He’s got a mother. Like, you don’t care about how they feel?” he added.

Tamura Lomax, associate professor of African American and African studies at Michigan State University, said while she’s not celebrating Samuels’ death, it evoked feelings of “stillness.”

“It was relief, not that he was dead,” Lomax, 48, said, “but it was relief in that those that he terrorized would not be terrorized by him anymore — but that was even short-lived.”

Lomax, who disagreed with Samuels’ views, said he created an army of people influenced by his opinions. She surmised that someone else will continue his work, which she described as “aspirational Black capitalizing patriarchy.”

She also said many Black women found Samuels’ patriarchal statements attractive and that his content promotes Black women “contorting themselves to be in this ideal so that Black men would love them.”

“Some of us are so burdened by all the ways that white supremacy harms Black men, that we actually trick ourselves into believing that Black men accessing some part of the patriarchy will somehow restore them, and thus aid them in loving us,” Lomax said .

At the heart of the matter, she said, is that both Black men and women want to be loved.

“I’ve seen Black folks find love,” Lomax said. “Love is about where the heart falls. So what Kevin was spewing was not very helpful to Black people.”

While his views were controversial, Wadley said it was his delivery, not the content of his message, that was the problem.

“What he’s actually saying is, ‘Take personal responsibility for what it is that you want,’” she said. “If you want a certain type of man, if you want a certain type of woman, you have to be a certain type of person.”

As for Samuels’ millions of followers, his unforeseen death remains shocking.

“It’s pretty sad to see him go,” Jacobschild said.

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