Saturday, March 3, 2012

African-American Masculinity in the 21st Century

              Black masculinity is an interesting topic and very much worth discussing.  It has not always been clear what black masculinity was because it is always changing.  While it has changed over time there are some things that have been constant in the practice of black masculinity. 
       The black man’s masculinity was stripped from him during the time of slavery.  It was the duty of slave masters to make male slaves feel like they were not men.  Often times, the strongest of the slaves would be beaten in front of the rest of the slaves to be made an example out of to show the rest of the slaves that they were inferior.  This severely damaged what the black man’s masculinity since their pride and understanding of what it meant to be a man was destroyed by the institution of slavery.
       After slaves were freed black men started to do things to redefine black masculinity and prove that they were really men.  This is how prominent figures in the black community such as W.E.B. DuBois, Booker T. Washington, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Malcolm X started to emerge. Although each figure was different in his own unique way, but each a figure that represented the black masculinity of their time.  During the times where blacks were trying to achieve equality these figures were the leaders in the forefront and got the most credit.  Although there were women and homosexual leaders during these times their work was often overshadowed due to the fact that they were either women or homosexual and this would threaten not only the back agenda, but threatened black masculinity as well.  A prime example of this was Rustin Bayard.  Bayard did a lot of work during the Civil Rights Movement, but a lot of people do not even know who he is due to the fact he was homosexual and therefore not a leader that was brought to the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement. 
       The black community has since then struggled with issues of homophobia as well as misogyny in an effort to define black masculinity.  While the concept of black masculinity has grown over time, these are issues that are somehow embedded in black masculinity in the twenty first century.  We see the problem in the black community, specifically the black male community of misogynistic views in a lot of media from the music we listen to to the television programs that we watch.  We have coined such terms as “no homo” out of fear of being perceived as homosexual and threatening black masculinity.  Although these are issues we see that some progress is being made and changes to black masculinity are still occurring in the twenty-first century.  More black men are starting to speak out about the issues that once were a threat to black community but only further damage it.  Such voices as the one of Mark Anthony Neal have started to emerge to combat misogyny and homophobia in the black community.  In his book The New Black Male he speaks about being a black male feminist and how it does not make him any less of a man.  He admits to once upholding the issues of misogyny and homophobia, but only once he overcomes these issues does he feel liberated.  In my opinion such ideas will only enhance the concept of black masculinity.

Written By: Greg O. Huey