Monday, July 27, 2009

The Fact Is I Need You…Teach Me How to Love [Guest Post]

This evening Charles J., a long time reader and frequent commenter, will act as guest host. In fact, he was such a frequent and fervent commenter that challenged him to have his own say in 750 words or less, and he responded.

Charles describes himself simply as a young, black male from Baltimore, Maryland, who is, above all else, enthusiastic, persistent and authentic .

Recently Charles was certified as a diversity practitioner, and he splits his time between consulting and facilitating discussions on diversity/inclusion issues and investing in real estate in the Baltimore metro area.

“I Wish I Could Love Every Girl in the World” are the eponymous lyrics from the new Lil Wayne song that is playing somewhere on the radio right now, and I can’t get it out of my head. I’m a 25 year old young black male and that pretty much sums up my group.

Marginalized for being born Black yet privileged for being born male, we young Black men have a huge inner conflict going on. Hmm, let’s see. Hyper-masculine, non-emotional, violent and useless baby making machines are the primary charges hurled at us daily. So what is our relationship to women? Two words: messed up!

I have a few thoughts…

Men but Not White Men… Black but Not Women

So, we’re men, and stereotypically we are supposed to be big, strong and not very good at expressing ourselves other than through sports, sometimes music, and sexual prowess. White dudes don’t get us fully but neither do Black women.

We are conditioned by society to get all the women we can and not allow ourselves to be hurt mentally or physically just like white guys, but we are talked about and downed by society for doing it. My question is what are Black men supposed to do with our emotions?

I've come up with a theory after listening to woman participating in a diversity training program. They explained that the roughhousing of men and young boys is actually just another form of aggression.

After listening to those statements, I thought as a man what can I do in public with ease and still be looked upon as a man—cry or fight? After easily picking fight, I came up with a theory that men are really allowed one emotion and that is aggression. And only being allowed one emotions can lead to women being abused (mentally and physcially) by their husbands/lovers etc. Okay, I know that may be a reach, but follow me for a few minutes.

My theory is that men abuse woman because the system (our society) deems that aggression is the only emotion that men, especially black men, can display so when we get upset/angry we can't discuss it because that's too girly. Men are told to let out your frustration in a few ways—fighting it out (fighting another man/ hitting a wall), smoking/drinking your hurt away, or taking it out on a woman (having sex to your frustration goes away).

So when a man gets frustrated or feels less than a man how can he feel in control or have some type of power? Can he talk about his feelings? Probably not or he will be called a punk or a sissy. Hmm, so that just leaves aggression. So...

  1. The wall gets punched,
  2. the E&J gets drank,
  3. the woman on the side gets slept with, or the strip club gets visited, and
  4. the wife that he loves who wants him to talk about his problem gets slapped for asking too many questions.

This leaves women, especially Black women, used and abused. Young black men are trying hard to find a way to relate and truly love the women in our lives, but we need to be taught correctly. If we start teaching our sons it is okay to express themselves in other ways, the will lessen the chances of our daughters becoming victims of assault by those she loves. This “boys will be boys” bull is old; let's try to think outside of the box.

Adjectives like caring/sensitve/thoughtful should be able to be applied to any gender, period. I guarantee if we start thinking outside of the box, we will have more fulfilled men and more secure women.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

hmm, I think this assessment is too simple and one-sided. Granted, I'm 39 ... but I've never had any male friends that met those characteristics.

Even when I was twenty-something, the men I encountered were never agressive. Most were focused on school, and some wanted to play around.

These days we really can't lump all black men into one group. It doesn't work.

Charles J said...

@Anon
, hmm, I think this assessment is too simple and one-sided.

You are correct I try to take be clear and simple when I make assesments and also I prefer to look at historic group level behavior.

I am unsure what you mean by one-sided. Please expand on that thought.

, but I've never had any male friends that met those characteristics.,

Are you stating that you never had male friends who were...

caring/sensitve/thoughtful or

Hyper-masculine, non-emotional, violent and useless baby making machines???

, These days we really can't lump all black men into one group. It doesn't work. ,

Well in some cases you can. As a Black male born in the US my group has been bombarded with the same projections from mainstream society. Unless one is living under a rock or in closed quarters Black men have been perceived as Hyper-masculine, non-emotional, violent for hundreds of years. Even the first US movie "Birth of a Nation" depicts this type of Black male. I am not saying that all young Black men fall into those catagories, as I do not fall into them, but I am saying that these stereotypes definitely do exist no matter if you are 39, 59, or a 109.

Anonymous said...

Our differences, on a large scale, are irreconcilable.

Lyn Marie said...

Sorry Charles J, I don't agree with your perception of Black men or rather how Black women see Black men. I do agree there are forces at work that put brothers at a disadvantage. I'm just having a hard time with this notion that Black men aren't allowed to show any emotion other than aggression. I know many Black men that are loving, caring and thoughtful. In fact they are often more eloquent at describing their emotions than I am at mine.

I think trying to label Black me with the title of aggression is the same thing as say all Black women are bitter or overly independent, it's just not true. Is there historical evidence that shows how Black women have had to be fiercely independent, absolutely but we are more than the sub-total of our parts. How we perceive the world has a great impact on who we are and how we make it through our trials and tribulations.

Charles J said...

@ Lyn Marie,

I'm just having a hard time with this notion that Black men aren't allowed to show any emotion other than aggression..

I came up with that notion after
(1) my own personal experiences as a man and (2)surveying over 30 young Black boys from the age of 14-18 at a local Baltimore high school, which is a large percentage of the Black students at a predominately White school.

I asked the boys describe men stereotypically and this was there list not mine:

Butch
Aggressive
Athletic
Muscular/Strong
Tough
Dominant
Provider
Brave

and describe women

Caring
Gentle
Sexy
Caregiver
Freaky
Nasty
Sexual Object
Sensitive
Whining
B*tchy

I asked them the same question I suggest you ask those same male friends and family members you are talking about.

Ask this question:
What can you do in public with ease and without being called a punk or a sissy? Cry or Fight?


I'm very intrigued at what answer you will get. I'm pretty sure the answer will be to fight. If there are any other men that are viewing this blog answer this question for me please.

After going to an all male high school for all 4 years please believe I saw more guys fight, rough house,push, shove and throw each other more times than I saw guys cry or hug.

Hmm, I also find it very intrigueing that two women of color (I assume of color for Anon) are doubting my life experience as a young Black male. I, might dare to say this is also an issue with the Black community that when young Black men speak there experiences are belittled and disregarded.

Kim said...

when it comes to black men, the black community has adopted the "protect black men at all cost" because they are under attack and that mentality has allowed them to do whatever it is they wish and I don't want to do that anymore because they really haven't returned the favor.

Anonymous said...

@Kim

How arrogant, myopic and pretentious. Protect a Black man? Who? Given the state of things in the Black community,these "protectors" have been doing a horrendous job.

Kim said...

@ Anonymous

Because you are Anonymous I don't wish to have any exchange with you.

Lyn Marie said...

@ Charles J
I came up with that notion after
(1) my own personal experiences as a man and (2)surveying over 30 young Black boys from the age of 14-18 at a local Baltimore high school, which is a large percentage of the Black students at a predominately White school.

(1)I am not doubting your experience, perhaps you are doubting mine.

(2) Perhaps the age and limited number of your survey has something to do with your answers. The life experience of those young men may have something to do with their responses. Things are very black and white when you're a teenager. I can say this with some confidence because I teach the age group and often their answer do not reflect critical thinking or using a comparison to others. Just like at 14 you have a difficult planning the future or fully understanding consequences to your actions. Teenagers brains have not developed all of their connects. I am sure their personal backgrounds have some influence on their answers. Do they have fathers in the home? Have their mothers ever been involved in an abusive relationship?( etc.)

I have to agree with Kim,
the black community has adopted the "protect black men at all cost" because they are under attack and that mentality has allowed them to do whatever it is they wish.

It is almost like we are making up excuses for Black men, walking away from their children because "it's hard to be a Black man" or "I can't get ahead because all people keep holding me down, they're racist". Meanwhile I don't hear the same level of support for Black women. Isn't it possible to support each other and be honest about who we are? You can't change what you don't recognize.

Charles J said...

@Lyn Marie and Kim

I agree 110%. Sexism exists within the Black community. Black Women being marginailized twice: once for being black and twice for being women. Too often has my group not been supportive of your groups as much as you have supported us.

For me this is not either or this is an AND comment.

Black men have been very SEXIST AND your comments have a since of AGEISM. I have acknowledged you and your group on sexism, but you have totally disregarded not only my experience, but my students experiences too. That to me screams AGEISM.

Because we are younger than you we do not have the capacity to know what's going in our lives is the sentiment that I am getting from your post.

If we are going to have a conversation about Young Black Men and their relationship to Women, both sides are going to have to recognize and acknowledge the other's experiences, especially those in a dominant position. Dominant being men recognizing women and those who are older recognizing those who are younger.

ggSpiritWrites said...

I commend your attempt to examine this issue and find it hopeful that a young brother is willing to take a look in the mirror. I think you are speaking from the voice of a generation that unfortunately has been overly influenced by media values such as hip-hop music (though to blame it solely on media would be a cop-out). My husband is a DJ and that keeps me up-to-date with the music scene (the song you referenced is actually by Drake/Young Money featuring Lil Wayne). Unfortunately young folks model their behavior on these images, which are typically exaggerated behavior not reflective of a full experience. This leads to the larger discussion of the family influence, absenteeism and all. I wait for the day that the crotch-grabbing bravado will be recognized as the infantile behavior it truly is. Hopefully you can help your peers to but down the blunts and i-pods, stop blaming it on the alcohol, pick up a book, examine historical influences and recognize the strength in vulnerability, education and self-reflection.

Lyn Marie said...

@Charles J
It's not ageism it's perspective. When you gain age, often you gain wisdom and greater experience, that experience allows you to see the world in more than one perspective. That's just a fact.

As I said earlier I do not deny your experience or that of your students. Basically I'm saying if you're going to form a theory you need a bigger sample population and you need to account for the family situations that influence your students limited perspective. Also it is a fact that the adolescent brain is still developing physically. This is the reason why you are more likely to put yourself in dangerous situation or make choice that have long term effects that are not realized when you are young.

Their perspective is limited because of age. I had very different beliefs when I was 16 or 23 than my belief system today at 41. That's the way it's supposed to be, the more you grow, the more you know. That is not a slight. You don't have to believe me but I would love to have this same conversation when you're 35 or 40. With life experience I'm betting that you may have different opinions.

ggSpiritWrites said...

People, please let us nurture rather than eat our young. I remember being a highly opinionated 20-something-year old and resented people being dismissive of my ideas based on age. Yes, as we mature we see things differently but asking a 25-year-old to see through 40-year-old lenses is asking him to see the future. We should appreciate him offering awareness on a growing trend of thinking in our community, validating the differences of our experiences. In our day, bullying led to a fight in the schoolyard at 3 0'clock, not social networking wars and growing suicide rates. Times do change. Let's try to offer guidance in a way that doesn't cause our young to refrain from sharing in the future.

Charles J said...

@ggspirit

Thank you for acknowledging my experience as a young, black male and also highlighting that young black culture is often seen through the lense of the mainstream that project horrible stereotypes that many in my group end up emulating.

You are truly an ally. I appreciate you.


@Lyn

"It's not ageism it's perspective. When you gain age, often you gain wisdom and greater experience.."

I understand with age you gain greater experience, but a rose by any other name is still a rose. Ageism at 25 is ageism at 65, 85,or 95.

Lyn the next time a white person tells you to stop complaining about racism I want you to use your own statement and state

It's not RACISM it's perspective.

or when a man tells you that women who are beaten or raped brought it on themselves please state

It's not SEXISM it's perspective.

You are using your privelege as an older person to totally dismiss me and my group as Whites and Men dismiss you and your group all the time.

But hey it's not AGEISM it's only perspective

Lyn Marie said...

@ Charles J.
You can twist my words any way you want. I did not diss your opinion I just don't agree with it. But if you want to take it to the negative, you're going to have to go on that journey alone. I'm not joining you.

I clearly said that the more you grow the more you know.

And believe it or not sometimes White people don't understand racism completely. Many think it's just the extremes presented in the media and don't understand how event like the one Dr. Gates went through is racism. Why, because no one has explain it to them. Often they live their lives never considering race.

But perhaps I should just tell you want you wan to hear so you don't have to see someone else's perspective. So, Charles you are right. I hope that makes it better for you.

ggSpiritWrites said...

Charles J.

Glad to see your voice wasn't silenced. Now I'd like to share an experience with you. Years ago I met author Gloria Watkins, though I still haven't decided if the experience was fortunate or unfortunate. In any event, she was quite taken with me and focused on me as the voice of my generation. Amused by my answers to her unsolicited interrogation, she mocked she wanted to see me in 10 years to see how much of my ideals held true. In that exchange, I stopped listening because I felt she was dismissive of me based on my age. Natural human instinct is to defend when we feel attacked, and that holds true at any age. Keep in mind along your journey that when we offer our opinions, people may disagree. It is especially difficult when we generalize our experience to a larger group. Though we may share a commonality, such as race, we all bring our personal experiences to the table, which may be varied by many factors. Now that I'm in my mid-30s, I often reflect on the differences of opinions I experienced in my 20s and, whether I fully agree or not, can appreciate the mature prospective. To be honest, some words of wisdom haunt me and, in retrospect, I wish I took heed. A supervisor of an internship once asked me in a friendly debate, "Can you consider the possibility you might be wrong?" Key word being friendly, I was able to hear her and consider her question objectively. I concluded that an inability to consider the possibility would be the definition of ignorance. Point being, when we (young and old) personalize our differences of opinion we go on the defensive and ultimately everyone loses when a healthy debate becomes unhealthy and the dialogue closes. We may all be saying the same thing, just using different vernacular. Seek out the commonality and build from there. Good luck to you.

Charles J said...

@ggspirit

Thank you for the well wishes. I will continue to listen with an open mind and I am open to criticism, especially when it comes to how I use my dominance and privelege as a man, heterosexual, christian, able bodied US citizen. I understand that being in those groups gives me the unearned right to deny opportunities, goods and services to those who do not fall into those categories. I want to be called out for being sexist, hetereosexist etc and I will continue to hold others to the same standard that I hold myself.

md20737 said...

If I ever met a man that fits this description I distance myself immediately. If you are not stable and mature enough to openly discuss emotions you are not the one for me. I am an emotional person who loves to communicate. If I can not indulge in both in the presence in a man, he must go.

ggSpiritWrites said...

I processed this issue long and hard before deciding to include a chapter on interracial relationships in my second book, a non-fiction social commentary, because the topic hits very close to home. In college, I made the decision not to be involved with a white man romantically as my personal protest of slavery and the raping of female slaves. Raised by Jamaican immigrant parents, I didn’t discover racial differences and effect of slavery in America until I went to college. Once educated, I was appalled. I knew I could not go back in time and sought control and retribution. My initial stance was quite militant but as I evolved I became more tolerant of others’ personal choices while maintaining my personal position.

My sister is married to a white man and my opinion has caused great difficulties in our relationship. While engaged, we traveled to Jamaica and she informed my paternal grandmother, a product herself of an interracial relationship, of her pending union. My grandmother asked my opinion and I told her I was not in favor of interracial relationships. She replied, “Me neither. Da children dem come out confused.” My sister was devastated by the matriarchal disapproval.

When my system became pregnant with the twins, my niece and nephew, she informed me that based on my personal views I would not allowed to be around them “unsupervised”. I was floored! Me, the person who loves children; me, the social worker who conducted supervised visitation professionally; me, her sister who always had her back was considered a danger to her children? My father dropped to his knees distraught and in tears (I had never before seen that man cry) and pleaded with her not to make that decision. He asked, “You’re grandmother, a mixed child herself, held the same view. Would you do the same to her if she were still alive?” My sister affirmed she would.

Our children, born fourteen days apart are very close. My sister and I, not so much. This is how I conclude my chapter on interracial relationships: What I think my sister failed to take away from my perspective is just that, it is mine and mine alone. I do not judge others for their personal decisions because I have not lived their experiences which formulate their choices along their journey of life. I can only bear my cross and trust, it is heavy enough without any extra added burden. Do I hope my son marries a beautiful, intelligent and self-aware black woman? Yes. I suppose my reason for wanting this is that I view who he chooses as a counterpart as a reflection of himself and in that, I am perhaps looking for the validation that he loves himself as a beautiful, intelligent and self-aware black man, the man I am helping to raise him to be. Will I still love him if he finds these qualities in another spectrum of the rainbow? Always. I will just have to trust that his choice is based in love and not the byproduct of the invisible, yet ubiquitous, colorline.

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