After having several recent discussions regarding Black Masculinity, I was impassioned to take up the subject for rigorous research and intellectual thought. I was dismayed by what I found to be a severe lack of Black male voices speaking new ideas on the subject. Most often Black men were responding to that which was already stated, whether true or untrue. A perfect example is a seminar I attended that was given by a local activist group led by Black men. In the group discussion several of the Black men brought up concerns about the way Black men are portrayed in the media and how often those images are derived from and covertly reinforce historical stereotypes. One brotha said he wanted to discuss why Black men are frequently displayed as hypermasculine savages and brutes when there are other forms of Black masculinity. The first thing that came to my mind was the fact that he was using language and adjectives that we, Black men, never created or dictated as being relative to us. This is where I discovered the problem that has birthed this series and will in effect support a movement for Black men.
Black males who resist categorization are rare, for the price of visibility in the contemporary world of white supremacy is that black male identity be defined in relation to the stereotype either by embodying it or seeking to to be other than it.
– Bell Hooks, We Real Cool
One major problem is that as Black men we don’t often offer the world alternative thoughts, interpretations for those notions that exist that do relate to us as Black men and we do not create original images, archetypes, and terms that accurately describe us as Black men. Like the brotha in the group, we take those terms, stereotypes and adjectives that have been created from outside the Black male populace and we either approve or reject them. This is called being reactive. It will only get us so far. We have to redefine those existing notions, stereotypes, and adjectives as well as create new ones of our own. In short, we have to lead the discussion on the subject of Black masculinity and the Black masculine identity. We cannot allow others to define us for us or we will forever be relegated to a backseat in a discussion about ourselves and will always be reacting rather than creating.
I have often pondered why no body of resistance literature has emerged from black males even though they actually own magazines and publishing houses. They have control over mass media, however relative. The failure lies with the lack of collective radicalization on the part of black men (most powerful black men in media are conservatives who support patriarchal thinking). Individual charismatic black male leaders with a radical consciousness often become so enamored with their unique status as the black man who is different that they fail to share the good news with other black men. Or they allow themselves to be co-opted — seduced by the promise of greater monetary rewards and access to mainstream power that are the payoffs for pushing a less radical message.
– Bell Hooks, We Real Cool
This series seeks to help create a body of resistance literature that will chronicle the collective radicalization of a Black Masculinity movement that seeks to decolonize our minds and invent identities, in resistance, that transcend stereotypes.
All you are ever told about being black is that it is a terrible, terrible thing to be. Now, in order to survive this, you have to really dig down into yourself and re-create yourself, really, according to no image that yet exists in America. You have to impose, in fact — this may sound very strange — you have to decide who you are, and force the world to deal with you, not with it’s idea of you.
– James Baldwin, Studs Terkel Interview
Brothas assemble. We are not going quietly into a future that has reserved no space for us in a world that has feared and never loved us. We will speak up and force the world to deal with us. Let the Black Masculinity movement begin.
I’m not sayin; I’m just sayin,
An Angry Black Man
Pratt, Louis H. & Standley, Fred L. An Interview with James Baldwin Studs Terkel. Conversations with James Baldwin. University Press of Mississippi. 1989
Hooks, Bell. We Real Cool: Black Men and Masculinity. Rutledge Publishing. 2004.