By- DeoVonte “Deo” Means
Erroneously, urban black men are often raised with the mindset that masculinity is defined by aggressive and territorial behavior. Sexual exploitation of the female gender and substandard dressing & grooming are additional aside. Education, culture, social/community involvement and adherence to real world standards are most times nonexistent and at best, very low in priority. The most popular songs and lyrics of the day glorify the merits of the ghetto which tends to be rampant crime, irresponsible sex and an open disregard of laws and cultural norms. “Real men” in these communities are expected to speak with broken English, while dressed in poorly fitted attire and glorifying how many kids they have which are being taken care of by the state. “Real men” are further misled to believe the world begins and ends at the borders of their 10 block radius neighborhoods; and if those lines of demarcation are encroached upon, then guns, weapons and animalistic violence should be utilized to squash the smallest of misunderstandings or indifferences. Anyone who does not comply with and embrace this mindset is viewed as being “soft” or effeminate. As one blogger recently wrote in anger and disgust; damn; there is no rational defense of this!! No basis for the working notion of a psychology wherein the individual attempts to make themselves appear less threatening to their “enemy”. There is nothing, within reason, capable of defining the spectrum of insanity, this picture (the effeminate black man) depicts and evokes. They are eliminating us before our eyes.
ef·fem·i·nate- [adj. ih-fem-uh-nit; v. ih-fem-uh-neyt]
1. (of a man or boy) having traits, tastes, habits, etc., traditionally considered feminine, as softness or delicacy.
Well, perhaps the writer is correct. Considering the definition centers around traits, habits and taste that are TRADITIONALLY considered female; perhaps based on urban -ghetto customs and nomenclature; in the modern-day black community, many of us ARE becoming traditionally effeminate. Our responsible decisions make us look “soft”…delicate…perhaps, even feminine; but I would argue, this change in characteristic is not eliminating us as a race; in fact it’s sustaining us.
The United States is a democracy, but it’s operated and managed as an oligarchy. This is why wealth and opportunity appears to be restricted to a selected few and passed down through those singular generations. Many of us black men are growing to realize that the traditional sense of masculinity in the black community leads to a dead end wall called poverty, incarceration or death. The “traditional masculine” customs of the black community do not open doors of opportunity and success. Case in point, I am fortunate to work for a Fortune 500 company. This is my third company in the last 8 years. I did a quick check with HR and discovered that as an international firm which has a footprint in every major US state, the Chicago office boast a staff of over 700 employees. Yet we are only 20% black (140), and 70% of those (98) work in hospitality (catering and kitchen) and office services (janitorial and office setup). Economically, this could be viewed as modern day slavery, but this is purely self-indentured servitituted. As I bump into these black men employed by the firm, I can see why they are limited. They most definitely would be labeled “real men” of the hood, VERY “masculine.” Although once you get to know them they are nice, respectable young men; to the rest of the world their appearance, culture and demeanor would be categorized as poorly polished hoodlums. Corporate America is not interested in hiring black men that are poorly educated, speak with broken English, unkempt and are naturally aggressive and intimidating. Perhaps cornrows, saggy pants and grills make you a REAL MAN in the hood, but in corporate America, it’s a red flag to shorten the interview and shred your resume after you leave the building. If a man is unable to become gainfully employed and well compensated, it’s impossible for him to provide opportunity for himself, his wife and his kids. So once again, we as a race are left with cornrows and saggy pants- “hood masculine men” relying on public aid to feed and provide for us…how masculine. ..
Opportunity is a major component of any successful man’s journey. Many of us (gay and straight) that are being labeled effeminate are growing to realize there is a world of opportunity and money to be made out there. But in order to take advantage of these opportunities, you have to remove yourself from the norms and customs of your traditional geographical neighborhoods. We are in a day where diversity is the key to success. Your sexuality, skin color, gender or religion does not make much of a difference. What defines you is your ability to mitigate risk; conflict resolution and ability to problem solve and coexist with others. Perhaps these are traditionally labeled more feminine characteristics but then again, as a society, we have evolved from the “spear and shield” culture. Perhaps our masculine card was pulled because we’ve outgrown beating and bashing each other over petty disputes, but then again who has time to be laid up in jail over an issue that could’ve been avoided if self-control was utilized. Personally, I don’t want to risk future opportunities due to a sword fight of egos between two adult men. It’s difficult, if not impossible transitioning to other means of employment with current background issues.
The ability to properly speak correct English and enunciate our words probably hasn’t helped in ur plight to be viewed as masculine men either. Drafting corporate documents and business correspondences was once work done by secretary’s right? Knowing the difference between their, there and they’re has to be “women’s work.” Well in 2014, level 1 Admins with no degree are coming thru the door at 36-39K a year. I would argue, you could raise a family off that. Yes, our clothes may fit a bit more snug; our pants are belted and sit on our hips. Our shoes maybe of a more traditional black leather and we may even wear blazers to evening events. But this is what’s viewed as the proper fit for ANY modern gentleman of society. This is a necessity, if you want to be taken seriously and granted additional opportunities and networking experiences. I will agree, Within the last few years, as the LGBT equality movement continues to experience increased momentum, we have seen a steady flow of athletes, politicians, entertainers, clergy, business leaders and social barons publicly reveal their sexuality. Same-sex marriage equality is sweeping across the nation at a rate no one ever expected and corporate America is now offering benefits and outlets for same sex couples! Pop culture television, radio and TV have incorporated the black gay nomenclature as a rubric of success. But this isn’t a gay v/s straight issue. This is growing into a classist issue in which those who wish to be taken serious by society and granted opportunity are castrated by certain entities within our own race.
I will agree. There are extremes to each argument. I too have witnessed men in heels, skirts and makeup, but these are mere extensions of their creative and artistic expression which is a free endowment under our modern conventions. Many of these same men that are in heels and makeup are more than providing for themselves and the responsibilities they carry. They are vested stakeholders within their communities, and are taken seriously when they sit at the table to negotiate and barter. If we are saying that we are a race that’s trying to sustain itself in the modern world with a mentality that we are not real men if we do not “grab our balls” and set it off. This, in itself is the mindset of a race that’s eliminating itself. I see no other race in which the men are awarded prestige for barbarianism, sloth, vulgarity and deplorable mannerisms.
For many of us, yes, our skin is getting softer. Our nails are becoming cleaner and our clothes are becoming fitted, but these are the necessities to live among civilized people. Clean nails do not define a man’s masculinity. I would argue a man in a nice cut suit, soft skin and steady paycheck is a lot more desirable than the street thug that lacks the ability to even spell Resume’. LeBron James and Kobe Bryant are examples of black heterosexual men that are attacked because their attire no longer represents the customs of the hood dude. These men have transitioned to a more European style of dress that many in the hood do not understand. This strategy in itself is genius. These men are no longer content being hood rich because of sales of their tennis shoes and NBA contract. These men are now diversifying assets, gaining multiple sources of income and placing their sites on real wealth. They’re marketing themselves on a global level to international business magnates. When they walk into a board room or seen in public, it’s imperative that they are representative to and understand the customs of men on a global level. No one is setting their standards by what the men on 103rd St. are doing. These men are looking to sign multi-million dollar deals and coexist with the real world.
I applaud my gay and straight brothers that have grown tired of dwelling in the lowest pits of economic and cultural destitude and challenged themselves to growth. They’ve begun to embrace modern and conventional methods of how to present themselves and transition through society. They now see beyond the grunts and rumbling of the downtrodden yet content, amongst us. They are diversifying themselves and enabling opportunity and wealth to gravitate towards them. Perhaps these are traditionally feminine characteristics, but a man to me is someone who can provide and take care of his responsibilities while maintaining an upwardly mobile grasp on society. That’s called evolution. These are the men that will be able to comfortably retire and open doors for their children, nieces and nephews to be the next generation doctors, lawyers, politicians, and artist. We are no longer content being “the help” or working as low level housekeeping staff. We want the same opportunity as our white peers, therefore we’ve changed our mentality…Remember, the game was never played to stay in the hood and become hood “fab”, the game was played to transition out of the hood, establish yourself in the real world while pulling others up…Now that’s a real man to me…Deo