This ain’t that/I’m not them/these ain’t those rhymes/I’m not him
“What it is” Pharaohe Monch
It’s October 13th 2010 and I’ve got a question for you; what defines black manhood?
The answer to this query, like any other query, depends on who you ask. I’ve been a brother for thirty-one years, four months, fourteen days, and to be honest the correct answer is still lost on me. What I have figured out is that black manhood falls under a pretty big umbrella, much like any kind of manhood in this country or the world for that matter.
Here’s what I do know:
Just like our brethren who aren’t members of the Legion of Those Who Are Darker-Hued we are fathers, criminals, policemen, preachers, doctors, soldiers, garbage men, straight, gay, enlightened, ignorant, productive, shiftless, and to the dismay of a small thick-headed segment of the population presidents. Like I said, we’re under a big umbrella. More often than not we find ourselves marginalized by how we are viewed by others and how we view ourselves.
Yesterday morning while I was having my coffee and preparing to embrace the suck, I read a post at Very Smart Brothas dealing with The Champ’s thoughts on a Vibe Magazine article entitled “The Mean Girls of Morehouse”. (Yes, you read that correctly. Not the “Mean Girls of Morehouse” part but the fact that people still read Vibe.) The Mean Girls that are referenced in the title of Vibe article aren’t girls at all—they are a group called the “Plastics” who attend Morehouse an all male, private HBCU in Atlanta. The “Plastics” dress in women’s clothing and I guess this would make them either transvestites or transgendered. (Honestly, the difference confuses me. I’m a country boy from Fairfax, SC who likes Ms. Moneypenny, football, comic books, good coffee, and explosions so give me a little slack.) Due to the fact that they attend Morehouse the “Plastics” have to follow Morehouse’s rules. A year or so ago Morehouse issued a set of rules and guidelines that basically said all students must dress in a respectable manner. This basically meant no sagging pants, women’s clothing, or any other attire that would besmirch Morehouse’s name and image. The folks who run Morehouse definitely think that the Plastics are an image problem that changes how “Morehouse Men” and \ black men of a the non- Morehouse variety are viewed.
I didn’t think about the last sentence until I heard Jeff Johnson speaking about the Morehouse situation on the Tom Joyner Morning Show. Johnson made the point that the view of black masculinity always been tricky. Frankly, brothers don’t have much wiggle room when it comes to how we carry ourselves at work, in our communities, and in our own homes. This has in turn effect of this is that generations of little black boys have grown into grown black men who over and under compensate on some of the wrong aspects of manhood.
The point of this whole post isn’t about school boys and their Jimmy Choos but it’s about the image of black manhood point-blank, period. (If that does include school boys and their Jimmy Choos then so be it.) There will come a time that we [black men] will have to decide what the hell we are and what makes us, well us. We are so many things, whether we can come to a consensus to agree on all of them is a silly question but sooner or later we will have to acknowledge everything that we are.
As of today what makes a black man, a black man, has been tempered by multiple outside forces as well as ourselves, and frankly it’s made us a bit of a mess. (Not that our non-black brethren aren’t, but I will not and cannot speak for them.) A combination of static gender roles, hyper-sexualized/hyper-violent stereotypes, socialization, emotional deficiency, and lack of opportunity has put us into an interesting space. To be blunt we’re mad effed up between our ears and we don’t know what to do about it.
So if you can briefly define what it your idea of black manhood is or isn’t? Can you define it or do you just know it when you see it? Should we even have to define what makes us men?
Help a brother out.
Vaya con Dios