Archive for the ‘Collecting Osiris’ Category

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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. Let the Black Masculinity movement begin.

The Story

I have recently been placing a lot of thought into what some would consider the feminist thoughts of Black women and the implications they held for Black men. I particularly explored 2 interesting videos by Black women that were very provocative but made powerful statements on a number of levels: Erykah Badu’s “Window Seat” and Nicki Minaj’s “Lookin Ass Niggas.” regardless of how anyone felt about either video, it was clear that these visual images along with their lyrical content made powerful statements that elicited a myriad of responses. For Black men, I think, there is a powerful statement being made in regards to Black female sexuality that should be explored.

Isis

Isis

Badu and Minaj

In watching Badu’s walking the street of downtown Dallas, Texas slowly undressing, part of me was just waiting to see if she was going to actually go all the way nude. But by the time she does and is shot down in the video closing the video with a short monologue stating:

They play it safe, are quick to assassinate what they do not understand. They move in packs ingesting more and more fear with every act of hate on one another. They feel most comfortable in groups, less guilt to swallow. They are us. This is what we have become. Afraid to respect the individual. A single person within a circumstance can move one to change. To love herself. To evolve.

-Eyrkah Badu

I found my arousal to be more intellectual than sexual. My first thought was ‘what the fuck does that mean?’ I then jumped on YouTube to watch the video again and take in the lyrics and the images that were being depicted. After the second view I was smiling and nodding because I respected the bold statement. On third view I was throwing my fist in the air because Badu, as only she can, had inspired thought, challenged the status quo, made a poetic and socially conscious stratement boldly and artistically. Badu’s statement – no doubt – incited Dallas officials to take legal action against her because the guerilla filming sought no approval from the city for its filming and her nudity threatened the integrity of the city and its ability to protect its citizens from nudity (lol).

Nicki Minaj who is one of the few female Hip Hop artists with mainstream visibility. I found Nicki’s Lookin Ass Niggas single to be fascinating. Especially when analyzed in conjunction with the video. Here is Nicki, scantily clad, sensually posed, and sexually alluring. However, the content of the song contrasts with what the visual images might normally suggest to a man. Even while Nicki stares coyly at the camera she tells her male onlookers to “stop lookin at my ass ass niggas” while arching her back so her ass is looking at you (whether you look back or not). Nicki let’s it be known that she is not going to forgo her sensuality or shroud her body to not be objectified by a man; she’s just not going to be objectified. Her sensuality/sexuality is not for make consumption.

The Problem

One of the most poignant comments that I have heard made me really ponder my thoughts about Black women and the appeal/sexual desire for Black women. It was when Erykah Badu — in response to the criticism of her Window Seat video said:

People are uncomfortable with sexuality that is not for male consumption

– Erykah Badu

So perhaps the problem was not integrity but some flaw in the patriarchal way that we view the female body and the contexts in which we allow it to occur publicly. Badu’s statement was such a powerful one  because it made me clear that the mainstream of American society is more accepting of nudity/sensuality when it is grounded in lust. One needs to look no further than popular television to see the growing trend of full female frontals and male backsides (that would have been taboo a decade ago) to see that we have become more liberal in our censorship and in what we consider improper. However, the country goes into an uproar when say Janet Jackson’s nipple is accidentally exposed during a performance or when a female music artists don outfits that look like lingerie or when a singer goes nude in a video to make an artistic statement. E. Badu is definitely onto something, especially in considering the Black female body.

The Point

When I truly consider the statement that Badu made, it really opens a window of consciousness of which I had previously been unaware. I had never considered the thought that a woman could wear something sexy and revealing and it not be for the attention of men. In true patriarchal fashion I never thought twice about this. Now that is not to be confused with the thought that some people (make and female) have in believing a woman is asking to be raped, harassed, groped, or grabbed because of what she’s wearing. I’ve never thought that but what makes sexism so sinister is that like other oppressive forms of thinking it situated itself in your consciousness in a way that tells you that it is “normal” and “truthful” and, therefore, okay to think and there’s no need to question it.

The Black female body is not an object to be consumed nor is her sensuality/sexuality a commodity to be possessed. These things are an extension of her identity and are shared at her discretion. No man (or person for that matter) should think themselves entitled to or worthy of that gift. If she wants you to have it, she’ll let you know (“nigga nigga”).

 

I’m not sayin; I’m just sayin,

An Angry Black Man

 

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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. Let the Black Masculinity movement begin.

The Story

In Black Masculinity studies there is a term called cool pose. This term was used by Richard Majors and Janet Mancini Billson in a book called “Cool Pose.” Cool pose is a coping mechanism created by Black Men in order to deal with the oppression of white-supremacy. Majors and Billson define cool pose as “the presentation of self many black males use to establish their male identity.”

The Threat to Survival

As a performance, cool pose is designed to render the black male visible and to empower him

– Majors & Billson, “Cool Pose”

It is the context of making an offense of cool pose that creates a persona and performance that the Black man plays out before the world. In studies concerning cool pose it is often referred to as a “mask” that Black men use. I disagree with that term as I think it implies a willful deception, which cool pose is not. Cool pose is a logical and natural response to environmental conditions. In most cases, I would argue, that cool pose takes place mostly on an instinctive level which has its own frame of consciousness. sharpton9n-4-web

One of the biggest issues with cool pose is that it is constantly being used to diagnose the problems of Black men: drug selling, violence against each other, lack of educational success, etc. In doing so, much of the scholarship is intellectually dishonest. It suggests first the answer and then describes the problem. If cool pose is to be used to study and understand the minds and behavior of Black men, it will have to be honest enough to begin with what is observed and what is known to be fact and from that premise explore the answers to the whys. When approaching cool pose as a phenomenon of Black male behavior, it is easy to see and understand how cool pose is a benign phenomenon and not a malicious attack.

Any creature that is continuously placed in a hostile environment learns to become keenly aware of itself, its environment, and the continuous dynamic occurring between the two. This is because of the survival instinct that all animals have as a biological imperative to survive. A psychological dilemma occurs when, as human brings, who presume ourselves to be the highest evolved creatures on this planet, are reigned to a savage and barbaric level of living that conflicts with our humanity. To be brought to this level of survival is to reduce a person to their base selves. For Black people this psychological dilemma creates other dilemmas and issues. Cool pose is one of those. Cool pose is a psychological coping mechanism meant to protect the mind from the damage of living years under the weight of double consciousness. Cool pose has been called a mask. I submit to you that it is not a mask, it’s a sword and shield.

Cool pose furnishes the black male with a sense of control, inner strength, balance, stability, confidence, and security.

-Majors & Billson, “Cool Pose’

The Sword

Cool Pose as a weapon had serves to repel potential threats. Cool pose as a weapon is the mean mug that Black men wear on their faces: a look that forces people to give them their space and think twice about crossing them. Cool pose as a weapon is the BBoy stance that tells the world that Black men will not moved by the world around them. Cool pose as a weapon is the Black man’s first line of defense. It helps to make sure that “if you don’t start none, there won’t be none.”malcolmx

A man is to carry himself in the face of all opposition as if everything were titular and ephemeral but he.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Self-Reliance”

Cool pose as a weapon gives Black men the power to control themselves and, therefore, have some measure of control in their environment. The dynamic between a person and their environment is a detailed dance that depends upon the tone and cadence of the song that’s played. If a man is to survive a dangerous and oppressive environment, then he must learn to be dangerous and confrontational. The sword of cool pose offers this. Without being physical it allows the Black man to violently oppose his environment and station in life. He is able to redefine what it means to be cool to allow himself the potential of being cool. He is empowered to redefine success so that it more accurately reflects the world in which he lives. I would argue that it is this inner reinforcement and outward aggression that makes cool pose appealing to everyone – to be desired by women and emulated by non-Black men. Power is attractive and cool pose gives Black man a power that radiates from within and makes them seem larger than life.

The Problem

The problem with cool pose as a weapon is that the Black man must be able to accurately determine who and what are threats and who and what are not threats. This is difficult to do if the majority of an individual’s environment – sometimes down to their own mother and father – has been a threat. How then do make this individual believe that there is anyone or anything in this world that might mean him no harm? This individual has been growing through the earliest stages of their psychological development without one of the basic needs of all human beings: a sense of safety. Or even for those that may have had nurturing parents, there usually comes a time when those parents are helpless to protect their sons. Think of the many Black boys we have lost this year to some hateful act of violence. Those mothers could not protect their sons and, while that is not a casting of blame upon the mother, it is evidence that there is a lack of safety for Black men in America. As Black men grow up and begin to have theses experiences (such as being profiled, stop-and-frisk, wrongfully accused) it spells one thing to the Black man: no one can be trusted to save me but myself.jay-z-stylish-and-cool-look-still.

That mentality is what causes the issues with cool pose because if no one can be trusted, then the Black man can let his guard down with no one. In the research on cool pose I saw it written that because cool pose requires a reserve (not repression) for emotional demonstrations, Black men have trouble forming strong bonds. Well, that’s debatable. Certainly being guarded does not lend itself to the development of an intimate relationship; however, I wouldn’t say that Black men are incapable of developing strong bonds. I would say that it is a challenge for them to do so.

The Point

Cool pose is sword and shield for Black men. It has both negative and positive implications and consequences. What cannot be said is that it is a problem or something that Black men should not access for survival. I am always flabbergasted when individuals seek to decide what a person should or shouldn’t do and how far a person should or shouldn’t go when they are faced with imminent danger and an inevitable threat to their lives. Who can dare to judge the inexpressible price one pays for their life without considering what that life has called upon them to do? It is an affront to the humanity of the individual.

For Black men, cool pose has been a survival tactic and, despite this being the 21st century, the Black man is still not safe. So, why then, we would suggest he not use every weapon in his arsenal to ensure his own survival. If we are looking for a change to be made, make it with the society that has created the circumstances that have made it necessary for the Black man to life by any means necessary and survive at all costs.

 

I’m not sayin; I’m just sayin,

An Angry Black Man

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A series, inspired by the CNN special, dedicated to race related identity issues concerning Black people in America.
The Story

I tried not to follow the trial but I would have had to be living under a rock not to hear about the outcome. All I kept thinking is ‘What the fuck?!” I am glad that people are making a big deal out of all these situations: Trayvon, Renisha, Marissa, Jordan, and all the other names that don’t always make the papers (The Root has a post dedicated to sharing some of the stories of Black unarmed men who have been murdered). So I was on the bus recently and I saw this little Black boy talking with his mother. He had these big, bright eyes and he spoke well and with confidence. I could tell he was a smart kid and I looked at him and thought about what he might be when he grows up and then I thought about Jordan Davis and Trayvon Martin. My smile dropped and my heart started pounding imagining the other future that may be waiting for him. And I found my hopes and thoughts of him as a President, a surgeon, a lawyer, or an entrepreneur replaced by the hopes that he lives to see his 25th birthday, that he never gets arrested, or that he never has to swallow his dignity to survive. That little boy’s face haunted me all day. I thought about what I would say to him if he were my son. Then the thought came to me that he is my son. Every little Black boy I meet is my son and I should care for their well being and future as such. So I wrote this letter…

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Jordan Davis

To All My Sons:

I wish that I could raise you as a child, but the fear, the spite, and lovelessness of this world will not wait. I will protect your innocence for as long as I can but I must prepare for a life without my love. I do this selfishly for my own peace of mind and I hope you forgive me for it and, maybe, one day thank me for it. So, little Black man I speak to you as a man in the making.

Kimani Gray

Kimani Gray

This world has lost its heart and it’s mind has followed. So instead of logic you’ll find ignorance; instead of compassion you’ll find cynicism; instead of acceptance you will find adversity; instead of love you will find pain. Look at the faces of your fathers. Notice that tightness in the jaw from hidden clenched teeth. Look at the foggy glaze in their eyes from having seen dreams torn pieces. Listen the aching in their hearts from having known too much heartbreak. But look also to the strength of their stride as it never loses its bounce. Look to the courage of their hands mahogany brown and tough like the base of a tree. They have narrowly survived America…but they have survived it. In that lies your hope. That knowing that you can survive it. Look to the faces of your brothers. Faces not unlike your own: shining with hope and an eagerness to engage the world. In their faces lies your motivation. That knowing that while this world is full of sorrow and joy, yours and your brothers presence in it will make all the difference. There is and can be so much more to this world. Some of it you will find, but a lot of it you will have to create.

Kendric McDade

Kendric McDade

Our existence in this country is an issue for us and our countrymen. This country has never loved us and that’s not our fault. It would seem that we are enemies locked in battle and that one should, inevitably, destroy the other. That won’t happen — not for lack of trying, mind you. It won’t happen because we are bound to each other through blood and history. You have a place here in this country of your birth. You belong here as much as anyone, if not more (except ofcourse for the Native Americans on whose land we all live). The issue of your existence in America is not your belonging, nor is it your equality — these things are only questioned by those who fear the loss of their privilege by your ascension. The issue is what will be your place in this world. That has as much to do with you as it does with the systems that govern this country.

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Ervin Jefferson

You were born innocently and without your own permission. Birthed into whatever social class and economic status fate dictated. That in itself will feel like an affront to your manhood. And as a Black man it will only get worse. Unfortunately America has not considered your place in it. It is unsure of what you are and where you belong. It is afraid of not knowing what you are and where you belong. But that is why you must be completely certain.

Tim Stansbury

Timothy Stansbury Jr.

You are a Black man. Seek inward first for the definition of what that means. There is something inside every Black ma that knows exactly what it means to be a Black man. The instincts and urges that are inside tell you how to be a Black man. That is how we become men even when our father’s are absent. Something inside knows. Study your own instincts. Face your own urges. Be well acquainted with your darkness as much as your light. Then reconcile to love every last piece of what you find. What you hate, change it. What you value, share it. What you love, cultivate it. What weakens you, protect it. Do that first and do it soon. Learn to know and love yourself before you let the world in.

Then look back to your fathers and around you at your brothers and acknowledge the place that has been allotted to you in this world. The world has its own ideas about who you are and where you belong in this world. More often than not it has decided that you are dangerous, inferior, barbaric, and helpless. More often than not the place it has prepared for you is in mediocrity. But I submit to you that even if that is where you find yourself — at any time in your life — no one can hold you there. At best the world can convince you that you belong there and that belief becomes the shackles that keeps you there. But you must never believe that you are meant for anything less than greatness.

Sean Bell

Sean Bell

Greatness is in your heritage.  You are capable of almost anything (in this life you will surely find things that you simply cannot do, but attempt them as if you have no idea that you might fail). Do this because it’s who we all are. I could spend hours naming the Black men before you who have attempted to do what ‘could not be done’ and succeeded, but you will find their stories and learn their names. Just know that they are you and you are them because because their blood courses through your veins. You are your fathers’ son.

You are a man and a man does not allow another man to define him or tell him who he is. A man does this for himself and meets other men on equal ground. On that ground is where a man demands his respect and forces the world to deal with him as he is. That is how you make room for yourself and begin to decide for yourself who you are, what you will be, and where you will go.

Victor Steen

Victor Steen

You have as much potential as any other, though it will be much more opposition to its manifestation. It’s okay if that bothers or angers you, because it’s not right. But don’t let it ever stop you. The future needs your contribution, however big or small. Your sons need to see and know you even if only in legacy. You are the key to our evolution. You are your sons’ father.

Know, remember, and speak your history so that you never forget who you are. Honor and love our people so that they never long for the love and validation of others. Cherish and support our women so that always find comfort in our arms. Be present with and within our children so that they seek and revere our guidance. This world responds to the force of action. Knot that the greatest force of action any man can possess is love: love of himself, love of his people, love of humanity, and the love of justice.

Wendell Allen

Wendell Allen

We have not survived the holocaust of slavery, the inhumanity of Jim Crow, and the trauma if disenfranchisement by being common.We have survived it because we are different. We are Black people. We are Black men. We know the power and strength of love. We were clothed in a skin destined to be loved by the sun and it is our natural blessing that the greatest star would love our flesh enough to bronze it. Never feel shame for that. Love your brown skin. Love your Blackness. That is how we have survived horrors like nothing any other people has experienced: because we are loving people and love is built to endure. And so we have endured. But now is the time that our endurance becomes perseverance and perseverance evolves into victory. We have brought you this far and we will take you as far as we can, but your turn will come. I pray you take yours much further than we are able to bring you. I love you little Black man. My living is for your survival; my life is for your destiny. Your living is for our hope; your life is for our destiny.

Trayvon Martin

Trayvon Martin

I’m not sayin; I’m just sayin,

An Angry Black Man

*For more information about the stories of the young men whose pictures are used in this post click here.

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A series, inspired by the CNN special, dedicated to race related identity issues concerning Black people in America.

The Story

So…suffice it to say I have a new hero: Richard Sherman. I am actually not a football fan. Honestly, I dislike the sport for its aggressive barbaric nature and some other ideological crap most people don’t care about. However, I don’t think anyone could have missed the media storm that was caused by Richard Sherman’s post-game interview on the field after his team’s win against the 49ers.

Richard Sherman

richard-sherman-seahwaks-nfl-adderall-vancouver-sunSo, let’s talk about this amped up dude who was screaming into the microphone after the football game. Let me first revisit my feelings about football. The entire sport is about aggression, physical endurance, and domination. One team is seeking to dominate the other mentally through orchestrated plays and physically through sheer force and body contact. Any man that is successful in such a sport cannot be, at least not at all times, a passive, timid individual. The sport doesn’t require that nor does it have room for it. So Sherman’s aggression and high energy is not unusual. I’m certain that the reporter as well as some of the viewers were not expecting that response from Sherman. I think that expectation is more about the fact that he approached the reporter somewhat calmly and stilled himself to hear what she was saying above the roaring crowd in the background. However, she asked him to take her through the play. That brought Sherman back to the mindset that makes him good at a animalistic sport. Fans and viewers got what they tuned in for…so what’s their problem?

The least of names that Richard Sherman was called was: thug. In response Sherman stated:

It’s like everybody else said the n-word and then they say ‘thug’ and they’re like, ‘Aw, that’s fine,” — It kind of takes me aback.

– Richard Sherman

Now we are getting at why this dude is going in my list of modern day Black heroes. Sherman looks straight through the bullshit and sees the truth. It’s not okay for them to call him a thug. Sherman grew up in Watts and later his family moved to Compton. Everyone knows what these neighborhoods are infamous for: gangs, drugs, violence. Ofcourse, when the media is loving Sherman they emphasize this to create the Cinderella, rags-to-riches story about the poor Black boy who made it out of the ghetto. The undertone of these stories is almost always exotic and dangerous and America lusts for nothing less than the dangerous and the exotic while hating that we lust for it.

Race, ofcourse, is no longer a question of color but a question of zip code: as we cross over from affluent areas to the ghetto, we shift from the realm of citizens to that of criminals. The boundary between these two places is the new color line…What emerges from this is a new vocabulary in which race is recoded as a set of metaphors.

– D. Marvin Jones, Fear of a Hip Hop Planet

Racial coding has painted the ghetto as some dangerous alien jungle in which the natives, called thugs, are all criminalized animals waiting for a chance to exact their violent tendencies on the good citizens of the real world. This is the game they wanted to play with Sherman. But my dude played that shit perfectly.

Richard Sherman makes no apologies for what he did. He states that perhaps is was in poor taste for him to call out his arch nemesis by name (I don’t know why they’re acting like it’s not public knowledge that he and Crabtree don’t like each other a lot) but his only regret is that the media exploited him to the detriment of his team. Listen, that could not have been better stated. I don’t know if that’s the Stanford Communications degree or just his own general savvy but the man played the hand right. And then he wraps it around to the fact that football is a barbaric sport and it is meant to be aggressive and violent and a battle of domination. The other great point that he brings out is that context is key. He asserted that he was interviewed in the aftermath a major winning game in which he played a pivotal part in the win and it was on the field against one of his rivals. Hence, the name dropping, the high energy, and the aggression. Arizona Cardinals v Seattle SeahawksHe then states that what he did can be contextualized but the people who called him out his name did what they did from the peace and quiet of their own homes and, therefore, their responses say more about their barbaric nature and the rapant racism of this country than it does about him. PERFECT.

Not only does Sherman play this whole ordeal perfectly, intelligently and articulately uses his media opportunity to turn the conversation back at the real problems, but he is just an outstanding individual. Richard Sherman is a young Black man that graduated second in his class from high school and he is a graduate of Stanford University and began working on his master’s degree while playing. Sherman He is also a founder of the Richard Sherman foundation which is a charity organization aimed at providing underprivileged children with school supplies and clothes. So, apparently this is what thugs do now. I like it. Let’s all be thugs.

The Problem

In the backlash of Sherman’s interview, he was called an idiot, classless, an ape, a gorilla, a monkey and, ofcourse, he was called a nigger well over a dozen times. Yet, somehow the media conversation continued to be about Sherman’s behavior and whether it was appropriate. Okay, let that really sink in. America basically just had a discussion about whether the use of racial epithets and overt racism and harassment is warranted. Are there really any people in this country left who will say that we are living in a post-race society?!

The biggest problem in this scenario is the fact that there is growing apathy about racism in this country simply because the conversation is redundant and the issue always arises when there is some national attention drawn to a Black person, especially a Black man. This was the same as when the country wanted us to be okay with our president being caricaturized as a monkey. They said it was just humor and satire that every president and public personality endures. But it’s not as funny as it is racist. Even the racially coded term “thug,” which is a word the media could politically correctly embrace and brand Sherman with, is still not okay. Sure he didn’t grow up best neighborhoods, but last I checked growing in the hood/ghetto/projects does not a thug make. So what are they really saying when they use that word?

The word “thug” has been used so many times by the same sort of people about the same sort of thing that it’s no longer even accurate to call it code—it’s really more of a shorthand. It means a black guy who makes white folks a little more uncomfortable than they prefer.

– Kyle Wagner, Regressing.

It’s understandable that not every Black person will be approving of the way Sherman conducted himself during the interview. That’s fine. Not every Black person is a Richard Sherman fan. That’s fine as well. However, we cannot abandon him no when the country has literally brutalizing this man’s character. When I look at pictures of Sherman on the field and listen to his interviews, I see a Black man that is happy with his life. That man has overcome numerous obstacles to be fortunate enough to be getting paid millions of dollars to do something her loves. Shiiiiit, I wish! That is what makes it sinister and egregious for him to be slandered for nothing more than being great at his job and living his dream. We don’t have to like his behavior to support him not being called a nigger and a thug. I would hate to see him become another Michael Vic — what they did to that Black man was a tragedy (but that’s another post).

richard-sherman-800The Point

There’s never been a single thing wrong with black people that the total destruction of white supremacy would not fix.
– Ta-Nahesi Coates, Richard Sherman Is Better At Life Than You.

Stories like Richard Sherman’s always moves me to love and support because in the Black community we have a tendency to lean towards the moral high ground, which is a good thing; however, that is also our greatest weakness in that it is used to divide and conquer us. We would sooner focus on a person’s mistakes and/or poor choices and use that as a basis for condemning them or abandoning them to wolves. My family has a strong family code about loving and supporting one another. Our philosophy is, ‘I got your back when you need me whether you’re right or wrong, but if you’re wrong I’ll tell you about yourself later, at home.’ This was a beautiful and monumental feeling for me: knowing that I was supported unconditionally. I didn’t have to fear being abandoned or ostracized for making mistakes. What I feared instead of abandonment was disappointing all those people supporting me. I would try to do right and be better because I didn’t want to make a fool of those people in my corner who I knew would come to my aid without question. That’s love. That’s the kind of love we need in the Black community. After all, if we continue to abandon and neglect one another in pursuit of some arbitrary moral objective, we will continue achieve the greatest evil: community division and reification of the stereotypes that obstruct our progress. But if Richard Sherman, the Stanford graduate, millionaire, philanthropic, athletic, articulate, aggressive, competitive, driven, level headed Black man is a thug, then, yea, I’m trying to be about that life.

I’m not sayin; I’m just sayin,

An Angry Black Man

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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. 

The Story

One thing I have noticed in the writings on Black masculine identity is that there is a tendency to over-deconstruct the behavior, values, and ideals of Black men. Many of the analyses are far reaching attempts that reduce the Black masculine identity to tattered rags in need of discarding. While some of the initial deconstructive analysis uncovers some truths to be considered, it usually finds its way into the standard imperialist white-supremacist capitalist patriarchal framework which shapes much of our thinking in America. That is when the analysis loses its academic merit and the fire of its intellectualism (if there was any) and sinks into an oppressive propaganda that implies that at the core of the Black man, something is very wrong. I don’t believe that is true.

What is very wrong is the fact that those developing these analyses don’t recognize the flaws in their own critiques. After they have deconstructed the Black male identity down to the core, they rarely offer anything in its place. Instead the Black man is left with shreds of his identity and no clue what should be there instead. I submit to you that, at our core, Black men are not troubled. We are a flawed and evolving group of individuals like any other in this country. Most of our work begins beyond our core in that space where we deal with the world around us: other people and their perspectives and realities and their perceptions of ours. We are willing to put in the work and grow, but we have no intention of sacrificing the core of our being. We are not just Black and not just men; we are Black men, that makes a difference.

Pride, Dignity, and Respect

To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

In a world that is constantly telling you to be something other than what you are; that what you are is inferior; that what you are is dangerous; that what you are is useless; that what you are is powerless, the attainment and protection of pride, dignity, and respect becomes a grave endeavor. Have we forgotten that the drive toward pride, dignity, and respect is what fueled the civil rights movement in which all Black people demanded to be treated as people and complete citizens of this country? Have we forgotten that the drive toward pride, dignity, and respect is what ignited the Black Power Movement in which all Black people were determined to define themselves and find the beauty and power in being who and what they were in spite of society’s opinions? So why, then, does it seem so astoundingly deviant for Black men to desire the space to be who we are in spite of the fact that who we are (naturally) does not always fit within the constraints of expected socially acceptable behavior (remembering that these standards are created from the imperialist white-supremacist capitalist patriarchal framework).

They [Black males] engage in an unyielding drive toward the pursuit of pride. Pride, dignity, and respect hold such high premium for black men that many are willing to risk anything for it, even their lives.

– Majors and Billson, Cool Pose

When we use the word pride in society today, it often comes with a negative connotation that leads us to believe that this is not something someone should possess or desire to possess. That is because of the confusion brought by the church. The religious definition of pride, as one of the seven deadly sins, is something completely different from the one in our dictionary. The deadly sin of pride — created ages ago — must be translated into our language today. In that respect the term would not be pride, but supremacy. The deadly sin of pride speaks to the idea of thinking of ones self and anything one does as superior to

I_am_a_man_protest_marchanyone else. Today’s definition of pride refers to dignity and having a high opinion and satisfaction with ones self-respect and self-esteem. So while I might agree that Black men are prideful creatures, this is not to say that they should not be. Conversely, a Black men had better have some sense of pride to steady him for the blows that his dignity is sure to face.

Even today pride, dignity, and respect are high priorities for Black men. There is a very good reason for that. It is because historically and even unto this very moment there are no specific guarantees in a Black man’s life. He is not guaranteed to live to see 25, he is not guaranteed to obtain a college degree, he is not guaranteed to make the money that he desires or deserves, and he is not guaranteed to escape arrest and/or incarceration (despite whether he abides by all laws or not). His entire life is a gamble. His entire existence is a game of roulette in which he takes some risk that may or may not make him a winner and in the same ratio of chances may bring his very demise. Therefore, he places higher value on the breath he takes in the moments of his life and what he can create in those moments for sure. Pride, dignity, and respect can be attained from any social station in life. Pride, dignity, and respect can be attained no matter how much education one has or does not have. Pride, dignity, and respect can be attained regardless how much money he has. It is internal and attainable. It is better that a man is directed and guided by that which is internal that to entrust his identity to anything outside himself — that cannot possibly know him better than he knows himself. In order for Black men to salvage their self esteem and no whither and die emotionally and spiritually in the face of aversion, we must cultivate and protect our pride, dignity, and respect.

Be A Man Where You Are

Be a man where you are…you must be a man here and force your way into intelligence, wealth, and respectability. If you can’t do it here, you can’t do it there. By changing your place, you don’t change your character.

– Frederick Douglass, Horace Greeley and Colonization

So much emphasis is placed on where Black men should be and what they should be doing; however, much like Frederick Douglass asserts, a man must learn to be a man from right where he is. This vantage point will allow Black men to separate their notions of manhood from white-supremacist patriarchal thinking that suggests that a man is measured by what he has and what he has accomplished. Pride, dignity, and respect can be achieved in spite of those factors and will yield greater gains in terms of standards, values, and integrity that will guide that man even when he manages to change his station in life. What we see most often now are Black men who obtain the materialistic aspects — by any means necessary — and when they come into that space they care nothing about how they got there or what it means to have gained access to that new space. So in effect they only succeed in changing their place within the framework rather than opening the door for greater access to that space by other like them.

blackprideThe Problem

How a Black man chooses to pursue pride, dignity, and respect depends upon where he thinks he will find it and how he thinks he can get it. The direction of his pursuit is influenced by how he grows up, where he grows up, and who he is raised by. All of these factors play a part in the Black man’s journey for pride, dignity, and respect. For example if he grows up in the hood and the code of the street is the value system that he is taught and believes in, then it is only natural that he would see pride, dignity, and respect as something to be obtained from street credibility, hustling on the corner, and aggressively defending his manhood. If, however, he grows up in the suburbs where allegiance to the mainstream opinion is predominant, then he will believe that pride, dignity, and respect are found in education, social status, and obtaining a powerful and profitable position in corporate America.

There is no one thing that can define what all Black men see as an expression of pride, dignity, and respect. There is no one way that Black men go about obtaining pride, dignity, and respect. What I am certain of is that, no matter where they come from or in what way they choose to pursue it, pride, dignity, and respect are important to Black men — and rightly so.

quote-the-basic-tenet-of-black-consciousness-is-that-the-black-man-must-reject-all-value-systems-that-steve-biko-211099

The Point

Black men are often chastised for the drive toward pride, dignity, and respect. Granted depending upon the context in which it is being sought, there can be some major issues in our pursuit of pride, dignity, and respect. But that does not make the pursuit of pride, dignity, and repsect a problem. It means we are going about it the wrong way. We have to realize the truth: that pride, dignity, and respect are things that a man acquires through his character and that actions that guide them, not through an accomplishment. Then we have to take the time to teach our young Black men and little Black boys the that we have learned.  We, as Black men, have to begin to separate ourselves from the values and perspectives of the imperialist white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy that shape our thinking and define ourselves for ourselves. I submit to you that we do have the answers inside us; we just have to trust our own instincts.

Osiris come together.

An Angry Black Man

References

Douglass, Frederick. Horace Greeley and Colonization. Frederick Douglass’ Paper. 1852.

Emerson, Ralph Waldo. Self-Reliance. 1841.

Majors, Richard and Billson, Janet Mancini. Cool Pose. New York: Lexington, 1992.    

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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. Let the Black Masculinity movement begin.

The Story

In Black Masculinity studies there is a term called cool pose. This term was used by Richard Majors and Janet Mancini Billson in a book called “Cool Pose.” Cool pose is a coping mechanism created by Black Men in order to deal with the oppression of white-supremacy. Majors and Billson define cool pose as “the presentation of self many black males use to establish their male identity.”

Miles-Davis-–-Birth-Of-The-Cool-2001-FLAC

Birth of The Cool

It’s no secret that the horrors of slavery created an environment where Black people had to shroud their feelings. Whether to keep their oppressors from seeing their hatred of them, their will to escape, or being able to identify those that they loved (in order to use that love against them), there was not an emotion that could be safely expressed by an enslaved Black person. For Black men this was especially significant because they were often tortured through their loved ones. They degraded and humiliated by having to witness their wives and children battered, raped, and killed. This was done to strip them of what would make them a man in the imperialist white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy of America.

African-American men have defined manhood in terms familiar to white men, however, blacks have not had consistent access to the same means to fulfill their dreams of masculinity and success.
– Majors and Billson, Cool Pose

Through the patriarchal definition of America, a man provides, protects, and cares for his family; a man earns a living that offers him the opportunity to climb the socioeconomic ladder; a man dominates and never submits. Even after the abolishment of slavery, It was ensured that the Black man would never be able to measure up to that definition. In order to survive, Black men created cool.

malcolmxCool Pose

It is no secret that poverty and stress degrade mental health; however, it is very rarely discussed the ways in which our society creates and perpetuates these environmental conditions. On the other side, there are rarely programs and initiatives that have an objective to reach those who are suffering from mental illness such as depression or debilitating psychological stress caused by poverty. Even Black men with less extreme personal situations deal with the psychological pain of being Black and male in America. The systemic disenfranchisement and limitations on opportunity are enough to drive a man crazy.

It is like the myth of Sisyphus, the greek character who is eternally forced to push a boulder uphill and just as he is reaching the top, the boulder falls away and rolls back down the hill. Imagine that as a daily life. To be promised life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness and the moment you get anywhere near achieving it, some law, rule, doctrine, or requirement is used to push your dream back downhill. It is true that there is a stigma related to therapy and mental health issues in the Black community. However, what is just as significant is how the lack of adequate healthcare and/or finances hinders Black people from being able to obtain the clinical health assistance needed to deal with their psychic stress. Without these resources it is only natural that a group of afflicted people will find coping mechanisms and ways to survive without them.LL+Cool+J++1986

Cool pose is about how Black men have learned to deal the stress of the world around them. It is about a psychological framework from which Black men can view and interact with the world safely in spite of the many psychological assaults that they face daily.

The black man’s cultural signature is his cool. It is sometimes the only source of pride, dignity, and worth in the absence of the outward status symbols of materialism and title that mark success in American culture.”

– Majors and Billson, Cool Pose

Black men created cool as a persona by which to interact with the world. It places a space between the external and the internal. For Black men this safe space leaves room for the variety of messages that they encounter. Cool is what makes it possible for a Black man to enter an elevator with a woman, have her clutch her purse, and he not internalize the humiliation of being treated like a criminal by a complete stranger. Cool is what allows a Black man to be stopped repeatedly without cause by police officers, condescended while interrogated, slapped with whatever charges the officers think might stick, and continue to get behind the wheel of his car everyday. Cool is what allows a Black man to step outside his project apartment and witness death and desperation all around him and continue to believe that he can change his circumstance.

19.-Tupac-Shakur-7295328-630x630The Flaws of Cool Pose Theory

Beyond Majors and Billson’s study of cool pose a number of individuals have studied this theory. However there is a flaw in almost all of the theories about cool pose including Majors and Billson’s). In some attempt at diplomacy, these theories have explored the negative affects of cool pose. There is nothing wrong with objective analysis; however, these conclusions are not actual conclusions but over-reaching presumptions.

For example, in Majors and Billson’s descriptions of the negative effects of cool pose they describe aspects such as how “many black males are unable to mainstream or evolve other forms of consciousness” and the “negative interpretation of various cool behaviors by white males who observe blacks being emotionless, fearless, aloof, or macho.”

I have some severe issues with these thoughts. The first is that these factors are not negative aspects of cool, they are negative consequences of being Black, period. Whether expressing cool or not Black men have obstacles to being “mainstream.” That is because in of the mainstream the Black man has never been a factor to consider nor has his identity and values been incorporated. To the other point I am actually disgusted that these intelligent researchers are blind to their own intellectual hubris: colonization. Because Majors and Billson still view “mainstream” (which is a code word for American majority which would be code for White America) as the ultimate goal, they use it as a standard by which to measure Black male behavior. This will never yield truthful, insightful, progressive thoughts regarding Black men. It is these mild flaws in their research which has led to study of cool to be skewed egregiously.9431_method_man

Researchers have sought to use cool pose try to explain Black male violence, Black male drop-out rates and under achievement in education, and any other negative impression they create with their statistics. Most of the work written on cool pose seeks to use it as a way of diagnosing all the ills of Black manhood. What is most despicable is that while they explain cool as a naturally instinctive defense to oppression, they criticize Black men for allowing this defense to keep them from submitting to the oppression.

Unfortunately, many black males are unable to mainstream or evolve other forms of consciousness. The cool front leads the black male to reject mainstream norms, aesthetics, mannerisms, values, etiquette, or information networks that could help him overcome the problems caused by white racism.

– Majors and Billson, Cool Pose

So in essence Majors and Billson see the negative aspects of cool pose to be the fact that it begins a decolonization of the Black male mind. What they are suggesting is that Black men would be better of accepting societal norms (such as racism and discrimination) and submit to the mainstream that is attacking them. I believe they mean well but they cannot see that this is evidence of a major problem in Black Masculinity studies: choosing the wrong gaze.

The Problem

Choosing the wrong gaze from which to observe and research any minority group in inherently problematic. The gaze is a psychoanalytical concept that describes the perspective by which something is viewed. In Black Masculinity studies we often choose the gaze of the mainstream, popular, societal belief. This is exactly the sort of thing that we must not do we analyzing an underprivileged group. Any underprivileged group does not have the same reality as that of the mainstream and, therefore, cannot be measured by the standards of the mainstream.

In Black Masculinity studies, as exemplified in studies of cool pose, it is evident that researchers have chosen the wrong gaze. Instead of viewing cool as a Black male cultural phenomenon specific to the Black male American experience, they measure it against the mainstream experience (that no Black person has ever fully experienced).

In that view cool becomes an issue that needs to be rectified. It implies to Black men that there is something wrong with the way they are. This is much the way in another post I discussed how the label of hypermasculine is placed on Black men because their natural behavior is viewed externally and objectified against the mainstream. The mainstream defines the cool of Black men as hypermasculine and problematic when it is simply natural and culturally specific.

We cannot enter the struggle as objects to later become subjects.

– Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed

If it is Black male behavior that we are seeking to understand, then Black men must be the subject and the behavior the object and not the other way around. And the mainstream cannot be the standard.

cool-obama

The Point

In the study of Black masculinity and the Black male identity, Black men must be the subject What is discovered cannot be measured against the mainstream because the mainstream was not created in consideration of the Black male perspective. It may seem reasonable to suggest that Black men have in many ways turned mainstream values, ethics, and ideologies, but, in fact, they were never included. It is the mainstream that has turned its back on Black men; Black men just found a way to redefine themselves outside of the mainstream. Furthermore, with all the flaws and issues inherent within mainstream culture and ideologies it would behoove us not encourage anyone to assimilate into the dominant culture. If anything mainstream culture needs to be penetrated and expanded to include more perspectives.

The Black man’s creation of cool is one that does not need to be embraced by the mainstream as it is culturally specific to Black men. Cool must be respected and validated before the flaws within can be addressed. Cool must be seen as more than a diagnosis for negative Black male behavior. Cool must be seen as more than just a defense mechanism. Cool is  a part of the Black male identity. The point of creating that identity is not to assimilate into mainstream culture; the point is to survive it.

Osiris Come Together.

An Angry Black Man

References

Friere, Paulo. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Seabury, 1970.

Majors, Richard and Billson, Janet Mancini. Cool Pose. New York: Lexington, 1992.              

20131115-080629.jpg

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.

The Story

I met an African woman at an eating area near my job once. I used to see her there early in the morning smoking. One day she came up to me and asked me if I had a light for the cigarette she held in her hand. I looked into my backpack and handed her a lighter. As she lit her cigarette she smiled and we made small talk. I found out she owned one of the restaurants in the area. She kept looking around her as she smoked and I asked her what was wrong. She laughed and said that her husband and children didn’t know she smoked. I asked her if that’s why I would see her chain smoking in the mornings and she laughed and said yes. She said she couldn’t smoke at home. She said that her husband was African as well and that where she was from women didn’t smoke or do things like that — that it was frowned upon. She said that women are held in high regard but they are expected to be and act a certain way or it is considered shameful to their family. When I heard this I had a mixed reaction. Part of me thought it was nice that Black women were revered but then I thought that if that reverence pressured them into ways of being that didn’t come naturally then maybe that’s not such a good thing. I asked her how she felt about that and her reaction was almost as mixed as mine. She liked that women were treated with reverence but she didn’t like that they were boxed in terms of behavior.

Long after our conversation I kept thinking about the things she’d said and the way she’d said them. And then I thought about my reaction and thoughts about what she’d said. It took a few months for me to really come up with the words to articulate, but when it came down to it, I thought that the whole thing was about desire and possession from the male gaze.

The Systemsblack madonna

In thinking about that meeting with the woman I met, I thought about Black women in America and they suffer a similar dynamic of oppression. America being an imperialist, capitalist, white-supremacist, patriarchy shapes the mainstream opinion through the gaze of men (usually rich White men). That gaze when placed upon women often offers only 2 stations in life: madonnas and whores.

The reason for these polarized options for women lies in the systems of oppression that shape the majority of male thinking. Most specifically imperialism and patriarchy. These two systems impress upon the male thinking and direct the male gaze in such a manner that creates an oppressive presence to women.

Imperialism teaches the male mind to conquer and possess that which is desired. For example, the colonists who fled Britain in search of freedom desired a country of their own and they stumbled upon America and despite finding it populated with people, they sought to conquer those people and possess their land. This is the sentiment that American ideals teach men is manly, masculine, and/or appropriate male behavior.

Patriarchy teaches the male mind that women are objects separate and different from men. Patriarchy objectifies women through the validation of physical differences chosen by natural selection to create male and female. This distinction is further exploited by patriarchy and social conditioning to create a position for women that is separate (as it should be to some extent) but not equal (as it never should be) to men. This objectification makes a dynamic between men and women where women are objects to be desired by men and (through imperialistic teaching) conquered and possessed. This is the American male gaze which mostly offers women two options: madonna or whore.

Madonnas and Whoresisis9

The madonna is desired for her purity and self-sacrifice. She is the archetype of everything good in a woman from the imperialistic patriarchal gaze. She is the madonna: almost a goddess, to be worshiped for her chastity, her devotion to man, and her willingness to sacrifice herself for his cause. Even when she is not sought after to be possessed physically through sex, marriage, or slavery, she is possessed through the males fantastical reverence and worship of her. Don’t be fooled that this is not oppression, it very much is. It is the most insidious form of oppression in that it manifests in the likeness of love — a doppelgänger of affection. The oppression takes place in that it does not allow the woman who is relagated to the Madonna position to be human, flawed, full of contradictions, imperfections, desires, and urges. She is the Madonna meant to sit quietly on eternal captivation of her husband and son (almost never daughter). She is a statue to be attended to and never engaged.

The whore is the other woman. Her station is low and unrespectable. Because of that station she is expected to bear the lowest treatment and to succumb to the males filthiest urges. She is the un-revered object that is meant for possession, use, and disposal. The whore is the antithesis of the Madonna: she is common and  tangible and all of the desire for her possession is related to that which has already possessed her and/or her willingness to subservient to man. There is a freedom to be obtained from the whore in that, unlike the Madonna, the whore requires nothing (whereas the Madonna requires reverence and devotion). The whore shares a similar oppression as the Madonna because she too is not human: she is not allowed to have feelings and she is not worthy of true love.

The Problem

The issue is that women are just as complex (if not more) creatures as men. There is no 1 or 2 archetypes that describe every woman. Nor can any archetypes describe any individual woman who may move through a number of characteristics associated with anyone archetype or stereotype. Her development should not be constrained by a singular period of her development in which she explored any aspect of herself. Often men are afforded the benefit of having a period of exploration in which he can be and act in complete opposition to the man he one day becomes; however, he is not condemned to wearing a scarlet letter for his actions. In many ways women are not expected to uphold the stringent requirements of the madonna position. But they are usually looked down upon if it is ever discovered that they have not. Opening_of_the_Mouth_-_Tutankhamun_and_AjaThat is a problem. Like all human beings, women, should be allowed redemption as much as the next guy. to assert that a man can have a faze of ‘sowing his oates’ and asserting that a woman does not or shoudl not have similar urges is preposterous. Women, like every other human being on this planet, is flawed and is growing and learning within the their own developmental capacity. That should never make her less or more of a respectable woman. It should, in fact, make her human. Just as much human as any man.

The Point

The issue is that these 2 options of madonna or whore leaves no room for women to assert themselves as both sensual and sexual beings without the restriction of the male gaze. They are boxed in, by the male gaze, as 2 polarized extremees for which most women would fall along the spectrum (making them more human and equal to men) rather than one or the other. If we are to interact with women in a contemporary sense and allow them the freedom of personal expression that is offered to men, then we will have to realize that not every madonna is a goddess and not every whore is a disposable object. Women, like men, are capable of a diverse and contradictory arrangement of actions and values that may or may not be aligned with these traditional thoughts.

Women have every right to be a combination of traits that might fit within some of these traditional modes of thinking without their being bound to the extreme of the requirements for either. Women, like men, are human beings capable of a myriad of thoughts and behaviors that do not constitute any one persona. If we are to heal the connection between men and women, the imperialistic, patriarchal standard of the male gaze must be sacrificed to allow women the privilege and opportunity to be completely human: however flawed and imperfect that may be.

I’m not just sayin’; I’m just sayin’,

An Angry Black Man