Dear damaged Black men,
I’m sorry that the current limitations placed on you by society force you to become hyper-masculine contenders in a societal game. I know that you are not the perpetrators but rather the victims in this clusterfuck of manipulation and self-hate. I also know that the craziest part of it all is that you unknowingly contribute.
Is it so difficult for Black men to watch other Black man express gender neutrality and heterosexuality simultaneously? I know that the answer is yes. Because society has conditioned you to feel powerless, and your refuge is sought in the overcontrol of the few factors you feel you can control, to be powerful where society makes you feel powerless. In response to the issues and displaced psyches revolving around the Black patriarchy, bell hooks says that “...the image of black men as hypermasculine can become a cultural tool of self-regulation andself-loathing.”
88 degree days spent journeying through Philly streets with my boyfriend call for the most minimal of 1950s inspired turned 2016 fashions—the crop top. Hands linked, crop tops in full force, the general consensus from onlookers was “Huh?” , but as we walked through neighborhoods we found most solace near gentrified vegan cafes erected from the ashes of mom and pop bodegas and 99 cent stores . In the “Black neighborhoods”, to my amazement, was where murmured abhorrent remarks and angry stares were. Black men amongst them, appeared to be bothered by our display.
Societal woes remove Black men from their power. In a society where Black skin is a crime and Black people represent a mere 12.3 percent of the country’s population but a whopping 60 percent of the jail’s population, the response is to adopt hyper-masculine ideologies in order to cope. Little Black boys are taught not to cry or show interest in their sister’s baby dolls. Thus, across margins, Black men are typically more homophobic than their privileged White counterparts. Black men make hypermasculinity the norm because they “subjectively and incorporate aspects of the dominant definitions of masculinity in order to contest the definitions of dependency and powerlessness which racism and racial oppression enforce” (Crichlow, 133-4). Black heteronormativity forsakes all men that can not fall within the counter-hegemonic (as they are not privileged whites) boundaries; including the “macho man”, and this fact draws a chasm between the Black communities both socially and politically. If Black activists disagree with femininity in their men and the gay community they make queer plight obsolete, discouraging Black gay and gender fluid males and from joining their ranks. Those homosexual and feminine Black men who do not stray from their heterosexual counterparts altogether veil that part of them from their peers.
Rather than contribute to our oppression and further strengthen white patriarchal values, we must resist the constructs enforced by our oppressors. Black men must cease in their contributions to the construct of the hypermasculine to not only refrain from the oppression of their own gender neutral brothers but to refrain from aiding their aggressors in their despotic agendas, ultimately further contributing to their own oppression.
So the next time that you see me with my boyfriend and his appearance expresses what you perceive as wrongly feminine, do not look on in bewilderment. Do not assume that he must be gay. Accept that he is freeing himself from the shackles of society. Accept who we are and let us love each other.
In sisterly support and revolution,