By: Virgil Hayes
In addition to the onslaught of Facebook posts concerning the Dark Overlord (aka not my f***ing president), celebrity gossip, and Sean Spicer's complete disregard for facts, that are not alternative in nature, a few stories involving toxic/fragile masculinity have found their way onto my news feed these past couple of weeks. I have to say they definitely got me thinking that it's time for Black men to take a long hard look at the way in which our masculinity is constructed before asking ourselves; "bruh…what the hell are we doing and why?”
Don't get me wrong, I understand that not every Black man is running around taking innocent lives due to a bad breakup, but if I've learned anything from the actions of Steve Stephens and Cedric Anderson it's this; Black men (speaking to black cis-hetero men because I have privilege and don’t want to make assumptions that are problematic for my brotha’s in the LGBT community, because ain’t nobody got time for that) need to have open and honest conversations about the way in which our masculinity is constructed and the belief that seeking help for issues related to our mental health somehow makes us weak.
If we are being honest, then we would admit that toxic masculinity has gotten us nowhere and the fact that black women too often find themselves assigned to the role of a victim/survivor inside our twisted narratives, should be more than enough evidence to convince us that the way in which we go about defining and acting out our gender roles is very problematic for Black men/boys and deadly for the women and girls who we claim to love.
So, let’s be crystal clear. If your masculinity prevents you from:
• Seeing women as equals in relationships or society in general
• Showing any type of concern or interest in the oppression of women, specifically Black women because you think that their issues are somehow not Black issues
• Listening to Lemonade because you feel that the messages being sent on the album were for Black women/girls only and you think that bumping Beyoncé is somehow a threat to your manhood (Beyoncé is a damn GOAT, Jay-z knows this, Kendrick knows this, Adele knows this, get on the winning team and stop hating.)
• Crying or showing any emotion other than anger
• Understanding that the title of girlfriend/wife DOES NOT mean that you own the rights to a woman's body
• Employing empathy rather than shame when discussing stories that involve sexual assault or domestic violence
• Educating yourself on sexual assault/abuse and its impact on the Black community because you see innocent Black men who are accused of rape as the biggest issue concerning the topic. (Turn them damn Umar Johnson videos OFF, he’s not a doctor and go check out my post on rape culture.)
• Admitting that you need help in regards to mental health issues or unpacking trauma related to physical/sexual abuse
• Speaking with a therapist (While I understand that not all POC have access to a mental health professional, as someone who has a therapist let me be the first to say that they are clutch AF! Shout out to my counseling center.)
GET RID OF IT! Because in addition to freeing yourself from fragile/toxic masculinity, you should do it for your mother, aunt, grandmother, sister, and the Black women who make up 22% of homicide deaths as a result of DM/IPV (domestic violence/intimate partner violence), making it the LEADING CAUSE OF DEATH for Black women between the ages of 15-35.
Do it for the young black boys who are not given the opportunity to construct their gender roles in a way that is not limiting, problematic, basic and/or deadly. Yes, I know that society puts us in a place where we are pressured to be "the hard-exterior black man". But when our need to be tough outweighs our humanity that informs us that we are not immune to mental/emotional health issues and IT'S OK TO CRY, then something has got to give. While I don’t know if the Black men in the above pictures were in fact diagnosed with a mental illness, I do know that the time for these discussions to take place is now.