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. We will speak up and force the world to deal with us. The first step is to come back to ourselves.
I came across an article on New Black Man about what straight black men can learn from gay black men. The article was written by two gay black men and in it they discussed their experiences, most of which consisted of them being “terrorized” by straight black men. These personal experiences mixed with a inaccurate premise that straight Black men have a wrong idea of masculinity creates a bittersweet elegy that has the straight Black man sung as the hopeless victim or the misguided villain.
I took a bit of an issue with a number of statements and conclusions that were made in the article. These statements are polarized and their conclusions are broad generalizations from a specific set of misconceptions.
Part of the reason the article finds the conclusions that it does is because the premise on which its foundation is built is layers into the conversation on Black masculinity. A conversation which has previously been superficial and objectifying to the population that it seeks to understand. The article states:
Black men are taught to subscribe to oppressive boxes of masculinity. Subsequently, anything that threatens this box becomes an enemy and a target.
I do agree that anything that threatens a Black man’s masculinity is seen as an enemy and a target. However, I don’t think this is because Black men are taught to subscribe to oppressive boxes of masculinity. I think that Black men willingly subscribe to certain notions of masculinity because, historically, the only model of masculinity we have had to use as a standard and a gauge is that of White men who exist in a reality that Black men will never know with gains Black men can never attain and obstacles White men have never known. Not to mention the years of emasculation that were experienced during slavery where a Black man was denied the power to do what any man of that era or before had done for his family.
The fact that Black men protect their masculinity against notions that challenge it is because, in a world with billions of people and almost as many ideals about masculinity and identity, one can never self sustain their individuality without being protective against anything that threatens it and resistant to anything that speaks the opposite of what the individual has ascribed to. This is natural and all people do it. It’s what one must do in a world where not every touch is loving and very suggestion is not aimed at the benefit of those to whom it is suggested. So there is some truth in the statement but the most accurate analysis leans a little more to the left.
Another statement that stood out to me is:
We understand that most of our straight Black counterparts don’t actively practice the sort of platonic love we share as friends. So this is our offering to our straight Black counterparts: unconditional love requires much more than dabs and pats on the back. We can no longer allow straight Black men to deny themselves of intimacy with each other. Our straight Black brothers are stuck in a matrix of suppressed emotions.
Again, I agree with a portion of the statement but it goes too far right to be accurate. I believe that Black men do not , for the most part, actively practice the sort of platonic love of which gay Black men are capable. But I do not think that it has anything at all to do with daps and pats on the back. In truth, daps and pats on the back are an important part of the few ways that straight Black men and do show platonic love. To ignore that is to miss the small efforts that straight Black men do make towards being affectionate with one another. And the statement jumps off an extreme cliff by saying that Black men deny themselves intimacy with one another and are stuck in a matrix of suppressed emotions.
I do not believe that Black men deny themselves intimacy with each other. I believe that straight Black men are guarded against any sign of weakness – which is a survival tactic turned instinct that has allowed Black men to sustain their sense of self, agency, and identity. What straight Black men lack is a choice of other personally acceptable ways to express their intimacy towards one another. So instead that intimacy is expressed in actions such as one man taking the fall for his brother’s wrongs or the kind of soul deep allegiances seen by Black men in gang culture where one man is willing to lay down his life for his brother. The context is politically incorrect but the sentiment is pure intimacy. This leads me to believe that Black men are not suppressing their emotions; they are expressing them differently from what the mainstream public opinion can decipher. Public opinion is so caught up in appearances and ideologies that they are unable to recognize an act of intimacy that does not fit the contexts that they find acceptable.
That I think is what most offended me about these kinds of statements that were made. They neglect to see deeper into the reality of Black men in America and acknowledge that, while different from mainstream opinion that is built on the reality of White men, Black men have their own language, actions, and methods that achieve the same goals.
I think that from the friendships and relationships of gay Black men straight Black men can see a more expansive range of potential interactions that do not have to pose a threat to their masculinity. I believe that the relationships and interactions of gay Black men legitimize the notion of affection and intimacy between Black men. What gets confusing, I think, for most Black men is the fact that this intimacy and affection is not relegated to the gay community. Black men of any orientation can show intimacy and affection without that corresponding to their sexuality or sexual preference in any way. That understanding is what straight Black men may need to work on.
But that is not to say that straight Black men do not already have their own ways of expressing affection and intimacy. To presume that is to objectify straight Black men to the extent that they become the other. And what we know of the other is that their lack of legitimacy and agency are their biggest social obstacles more so than any of the presumed issues that public opinion may suggest that they have.
I’m not sayin; I’m just sayin,
An Angry Black Man