Posts Tagged ‘masculinity’

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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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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.              

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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

At this time in our country there is an interconnection of struggles. As a macrocosm, the larger struggles affect those on the smaller levels. For the Black community this means that now alongside our own struggles for justice, equality, developing a national identity, and healing the Black family connection, we also have the struggle of economic survival, the struggle to maintain our cultural heritage, and the struggle to gain greater representation in the public discourse.

In the wake of President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper Initiative, there have been, naturally, waves of criticism. However what I find most troubling is that from many of Black voices seeking to critique the President’s initiative there is a single issue they all seem to have: that the initiative focuses on Black and Latino boys. While no one denies the very specific issues that Black and Latino boys and men face in this country, there seems to be a objection to addressing those specific issues exclusively in one initiative. Most problematic is the criticism of Black people against the initiative. I’m sure the initiative will not be without its flaws or its kinks to be worked out — what initiative or policy has ever started out as great and imperfect? However, most of the criticisms from the Black voices demonstrate divisive thinking that doesn’t serve the greater interest of anyone.

The Problem

The phrasing of the arguments against the exclusivity of the initiative’s focus is the tell tale sign of the petty divisive minds behind the thoughts. These critics are not saying that the problem is that the initiative focuses on Black and Latino boys; they’re saying its a problem that it doesn’t include girls.

The author of one article that I read stated that:

But when black men occupy space at the center of the discourse, black women lose critical ground. I wish these struggles did not feel like zero sum struggles. I wish that black men — Barack Obama included — had the kind of social analysis that saw our struggles as deeply intertwined.

Whoa. That comment is sophomoric in sentiment, realistically ignorant, intellectually stagnant. This particular author cites for paragraphs the specific disparities and struggles that are evidenced in the lives of Black and Latino men and somehow ends with this conclusive thought, which in itself produces the same divisive logic that the author chides the President for.

The fractured relationship between Black men and Black women bears the strain of these other struggles along with the gender specific issues that we face on a daily basis. The weight of these struggles sits on our shoulders like the world on Atlas’ back. We are strained and frustrated and all we really want is for some things to change. Our thirst for this change is the crux of the rift between Black men and Black women. We have allowed our justice to blind us to the singular truth of how we have survived the tragedies that have been inflicted upon us over the last decades: we belong to each other and we are stronger together.phonto-2

Reconciliation

I would never assert that things such as misogyny, male bashing, and racism do not need to be addressed; they do. However, that is not an excuse for us to approach the topic any kind of way. We have become selfish and capricious in our battle against these attacks on us. Where we should be examining the threat and discovering its roots so that we might yank them from their grounding, we go into a blind rage that makes us see anything different from us as an opposition and, ultimately, a threat. This is the only way that I can fathom that Black men and Black women could ever suggest that we are enemies of each other.

I, personally, as a Black man have and always will love Black women. They have always been one of the most beautiful and intriguing beings I have encountered on this planet. I was given life by a Black woman. It was a black woman’s arms that first held me. It was a Black woman’s lips that first kissed me. It was a Black woman’s disappointment that first convicted me. It was a Black woman’s pain that first cut my heart. It was a Black woman’s love that forced me to become a man. It was a Black woman’s support that helped heal my hurt. It was a Black woman’s presence that first made my dreams seem real. In short, I cannot speak for every Black man, nor can I wholly explain the hared and anger some Black men may feel towards Black women but I cannot believe that they are the majority. It is also my love for Black women and my desire to see Black men and Black women, as a whole, reconciled to one another. That love demands that we be critical of one another — but not for the sake of uplifting ourselves at the detriment of the other. That wouldn’t be love at all: not love of one’s self or love of one’s community.

If only one party in the relationship is working to create love, to create the space of emotional connection, the dominator model remains in place and the relationship just becomes a site for continuous power struggle.

– Bell Hooks

The Point

Only a mind that has not yet been decolonized would think that there is room for only one struggle. America is full of struggles happening simultaneously and not every one is in opposition to the others. Mainstream society, the media specifically works from rules that do not have a vested interest in anything outside of itself as an institution (as most institutions do). Often there is only 15 minutes of attention given for any major event that has ties to a deeper struggle. These event s are serv

There is a balance that must be found between loving one’s Black self, loving Black women, and loving other Black men. There is no need to choose one and forsake the other — I have no idea where we have come up with this notion, which is a complete affront the very concept of Love. That would be like asking a parent to pick one child to love and hate the rest: it’s illogical, unnecessary, and it is the sign of an immature soul ignorant of the truth about Love. Love does not use ultimatums, generalities, and extremes. What makes Love such a powerful force worth reverence is that it can be all things at all times to all people. Love would never ask one to sacrifice one’s self in its name — we invented that idea. Love does not have a shallow reservoir for which a person much choose to not love too many things or too many people for fear of running out. There is enough Love to go around. Love is what we most lack right now and it is what we most need.

I’m not sayin’; I’m just sayin’,

An Angry Black Man

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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.