On an early bus ride to work one cold morning, I had a conversation with an old drunkard. The conversation began when he had made a remark of the book I was reading, which happened to be the “Souls of Black folk” by W.E.B Dubois. He remarked how I was reading a very important book, to paraphrase him
“ The black man is lost…..the black man isn’t the gangsta…..the white man is the real gangsta….the black man is weak…you see how they emasculate the black by having him wear dresses and these kids think it’s cool…. The black woman doesn’t respect the black man(as he was saying this he pointed to two black female passengers who were in front of us)” He spoke on until his stop.
This brief conversation left an impression on me. Everything this drunkard old man said wasn’t nothing I haven’t particularly heard before spurted out particularly by older black men. I must say some aspects of his brief speech I actually agree on.
Chiefly that the black man is emasculated. But his emasculation has nothing to do with black men being depicted as being gay or wearing a dress but is because the black man in this country holds no power. A brief definition of masculinity states “possession of the qualities traditionally associated with men”. This is, of course, a very broad definition leaving one to have many interpretations of this. But generally, masculinity is associated with power. Now let’s define power( in the noun sense). In a quick google search, I have came upon two definitions. First, “the ability to do something or act in a particular way, especially as a faculty or quality”, second, “the capacity or ability to direct or influence the behavior of others or the course of events”.
Is the black man in this country in possession of either definition. I am in particular interest of the second definition as it is potent to my argument. When asking yourself who are the most powerful people in the world what comes to mind. For most people, it might be a political leader or a business magnet, two groups that exempt the second definition to the fullest. Now consider your typical political or business leader, what else comes to mind? Generally men, who wear suits, that are well spoken, and who possess great intelligence. Men of these positions are not your general ideals of urban masculinity. They are generally not physically imposing or brash in their speech, but yet they hold considerable power in any modern society.
Now when you began to think of the race associated with these types of men it generally tends to be white (i.e Bill Gates, Donald Trump, Elon Musk) of course there are notable exceptions(Barack Obama, Jay-Z), but in general we see the men with all the real power in our society as white men.
In Urban culture masculinity is heavily associated with gangsterism( the exhibition of gangsta behavior, promiscuity with many women, and the ability to murder other men with little remorse), This is something I have encountered many times myself as a black man who grew up in South Jamaica, Queens, NY. Your entire identity is based on not being deemed soft and earning the respect of your peers through the acts of violence. OF course, this isn’t exclusive among inner city blacks( I can think of Machismoism in Latin America as an outward example), but this is dangerously pervasive in the black community among black males.
I believe the contemporary understanding of what it mean to be a man in the black community leads to violence in the inner city, the sexual objectification of black women, and the pervasiveness of homophobia in the black community. I believe that as black men we need to question what it really means to be a man, and if that definition is holding us back from achieving true masculinity i.e power.