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Defining Black Masculinity (series intro)

Collecting Osiris

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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

References

The Myth of Osiris

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.

7 Comments on Defining Black Masculinity (series intro)

  1. I totally agree with this idea…the challenges that black males go through on the daily is crazy…black masculinity should be discussed in it’s whole entirety…but can you relate it to the black family, the black woman, the passing of knowledge to the future generation? Because black masculinity influences all those areas…Within black masculinity there should also be a dialog of those items…To me sometimes as a black race or people we divide the genders…and at times it is totally appropriate…but when are we going to work together…black man and black woman…redefining masculinity and femininity according to our own historical and cultural context? How about the idea that within one body includes aspects of the feminine and masculine…however we are forced to choose one…Wow…this was awesome! I learned so much from your posts…Keep up the socially conscious work!

    • Preciate the love and support. And you are right on point in the fact that this subject will definitely talk about the Black woman and the Black family as well. I’m definitely not going down the road of just describing the “plight of the Black man” we have mastered that impotent conversation. I just feel Black men are behind in critically examining ourselves. What I want to do here is prepare brothas for that dialogue with Black women and the rest of the world so that we will be able to do whatever work is required to rebuild the relationship between Black men and Black women. And I definitely want Black women to read and comment as well as people who are not Black. I don’t want the dialogue to be exclusive to Black men, I just want them to lead the discussion and speak out loud.

      • Cool…it is definitely needed…putting the “lead” back into the black male leaders…living in America will make you become a forced introvert, not able to talk…so that’s great…thanks for clarifying…speak on! I look forward to reading the rest of your post on black masculinity…

  2. Reblogged this on Chronicles of Osage Dior and commented:
    Black Masculinity consciously explored in present…@NEEMA

  3. Greetings,

    I am currently writing a paper that will discuss black masculinity and my own definition of it as a black female. It will also compare or contrast the popular belief of black masculinity and often definitions we see in scholarly articles or posted on social networks. I love what you wrote because it goes into a concept that I am trying to discuss. Black masculinity has the ability to transcend and remove itself from this patriarchal and sexual institution. So the purpose of this essay is to discuss someone who we feel embodies our own definitions of black masculinity. Ironically, I argue that bell hooks embodies my “recreated” definition of bell hooks and I love to hear that there are finally some more talk about black masculinity in general. I look to forward to this series. My ideas are only now developing out of a recent thought so I am interested in hearing what you have to offer.

    Thanks

    • That’s what’s up. I appreciate you reading and responding.

      I don’t know that I fully understand the assignment you’re working on. I would love for you to expound on that for me.

  4. This is a freebie from my old blog, right after a Starbuck’s in France announced it would begin using mother’s milk…

    Julie was playing in the sandbox with little Carla, when the faint sounds of “Turkey In The Straw” began to play in the air. “Ice Cream Man!” they yelled simultaneously. Their mothers looked up together. Yes, it was Pedro, the ice cream man, pedaling his cart slowly down the street. But there was something different about his cart today.

    “Mommy, his cart is pink,” little Carla said.

    “It’s usually yellow, “Ms. Johnson replied.

    “Maybe he painted it,” Julie answered. She pointed. “Look, there’s a baby on the side! It’s cute”

    “What’s that he’s got written on it?” Mrs. Breaux asked. “Baby…Ga-ga? What the heck is that?”

    “I don’t know…let’s go see, okay, girls?” Ms. Johnson asked.

    “Yaay!” the girls responded in unison.
    They dusted themselves off, and trooped down to the roadside, listening to Pedro sing out as he pedaled: “Ice cream! Sweet, creamy Iiiiiice cream, straight from the jug! Five new flavors! Ice cream! Iiiiiiiceeeee cream!”

    “Pedro, what happened to your cart? Why is it pink?” Mrs. Breaux asked.

    “Ah, senorita, we have been, as you say, bought out! We have new owners, and…” he lowered his voice, “new flavors.”

    “New flavors, What kind?” Carla asked.

    Pedro looked at the two little girls, then made a little head-shaking motion at their mothers. “Uh, senora, maybe eet is not the best…idea to, er, um…. give the little ones…”

    “Ice cream! We want ice cream!” The girls were insistent.

    “My goodness!” Mrs. Breaux said, pointing at a picture of a rather buxom brunette holding a breast pump with a wink. “What flavor is that?”

    “That ees the special of the day, senora,” Pedro replied. “Betty Boop Butterscotch, fifty cent.”

    “You mean, fifty cents?”

    “No, fifty cent,” Pedro said, “It comes with a free CD.”

    The girls jumped with excitement. “Bet-ty BOOP! Bet-ty BOOP!”

    “No..NO!” Ms. Johnson said quickly. “G-give us…that!” She pointed.

    “Secretia Johnson’s Triple Chocolate Rocky Road?” Pedro said. He whipped out a piece of paper. “You have to sign a…how you say…waiver?”

    “A waiver? For what?” Mrs. Breaux asked, incredulously.

    “There ees no guarantee… Secretia’s drug test is…how you say…spic-and-span?” Pedro was apologetic.

    “Vanilla? How about vanilla?”

    “Hmmm…” Pedro dug around in the back of his cart. “Ah! Yes! French Vanilla!” He beamed.

    “Come on girls,” Ms. Breaux said, “I’ve got some popsicles in the freezer….”

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