Tag Archives: black men

The Weight Of Being A (Young And Successful) Black Male

by Guest Contributor Edward Williams, originally published at Policylink

It was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., that most notably stated, “all progress is precarious and the solution of one problem brings us face to face with another problem.” I had never contemplated my personal success as precarious progress or that my success to this point could bring any non-materialistic problems, but I now find myself–like many of my fellow successful, young, black men–in a moment of crisis.

Before I dive into what exactly this 21st-century identity crisis is, what it is caused by, and what it ultimately means, I need to get some preliminaries out of the way to open some critical minds. First, this article is not intended to be braggadocious: I will discuss some of my personal success as I explicate this issue, but I will also share the success of several other young black men that I am close with. Neither their stories of success nor mine are expressed from a place of haughtiness but instead from a place of humility. I fear that it is out of concern for being perceived as arrogant or out-of-touch that this side of the young black male’s story is so rarely told.

Next, this article is not intended to complain about success. I recognize that success is usually not a word associated with black men, and I spend most of my article writing time trying to shed light on the crisis in our inner-city schools. It is not lost on me that most young black men will never be in a position to engage in the dialogue that I am about to embark on, because their potential success has been stifled.

Finally, I recognize that much of what I will discuss at length not only applies to successful young black men, but also to successful young black women and young successful minorities generally. I have consciously chosen to focus on the young black male success crisis because I understand it best first hand. It would be disingenuous of me to attempt to articulate the myriad of different pressures that other minorities or women experience as they climb the ladder of success. Therefore, for risk of speaking on that which I know little about, I have chosen not to explore those topics, but I hope that my fellow successful young minority colleagues and female colleagues will soon treat us with their own version of this crisis.

Now that preliminaries are out of the way, let’s get down to the issue; what exactly is the young successful black male’s 21st century identity crisis? Continue reading

Quoted: Ashley Judd’s Feminism and Hip-Hop

Aside from the fact that Ashley Judd has no clue about Hip-Hop as an art form and a culture, her comment shows an underlying prejudice towards black men. She says that Snoop and Diddy’s participation in YouthAIDS raised a red flag for her. If she knew anything about Hip-Hop or maybe even had a conversation with either one of these men, she’d know that neither condone rape or create violent music (at least not in the last decade), both are intelligent and savvy media moguls, and both are fathers (each has a least one daughter). So why wouldn’t they use their star power and influence to spread the message to young people, and especially the Hip-Hop community, about the importance of HIV/AIDS prevention? Shouldn’t they be lauded? If their music is so sexually irresponsible, isn’t it a good thing that they are talking about safe sex considering that HIV/AIDS transmission rates are so much higher among African-Americans?
What’s particularly dangerous is the use of the phrase “rape culture” in this context. In the wake of the Cleveland, Texas rape case, we have seen how stereotypes of sexually aggressive black men spin out of control and dredge up historical beliefs of black men being rapists. This is the latest incarnation with Ashley Judd, a well-respected advocate for maternal health and women and girls, attacking Hip-Hop. Commercial Hip-Hop is misogynous. So is underground shit. Rock, metal, house, R&B, techno, etc. all have misogynous and violent content. But none is as popular, commercially viable, or controversial. There’s a difference between talking about the music as being misogynous and honestly deconstructing what’s behind that, and saying Hip-Hop as a whole promotes “rape culture.” It shows a lack of understanding of the diversity of Hip-Hop and the commercial decisions that shape how it is sold and capitalized upon (and who makes those decisions).
I know that she is promoting a book and people think it’s a publicity stunt. I don’t know…maybe it is, generally speaking we as listeners and consumers of Hip-Hop (at least her definition of it) aren’t her main audience. As a publicist and communications strategist, I think that’s idiotic and shortsighted but I’m also not a big supporter of the idea that all publicity, even bad, is good publicity. If that’s the case then mission accomplished…now people who didn’t know or care about her memoir think she is a racist dumbass. Or some people think she is speaking out about negative imagery of women in Hip-Hop and pop culture. That depends on your point of view. What I do believe is that Ms. Judd wants to advance the discussion of attitudes that lead to sexual assault and rape since she experienced sexual abuse. Yet this is hardly a constructive way to do it.
I have looked closely at the feedback I have received about those two paragraphs, and absolutely see your points, and I fully capitulate to your rightness, and again humbly offer my heartfelt amends for not having been able to see the fault in my writing, and not having anticipated it would be painful for so many. Crucial words are missing that could have made a giant difference. It should have read: “Some hip-hop, and some rap, is abusive. Some of it is part of the contemporary soundtrack misogyny (which, of course, is multi-sonic). Some of it promotes the rape culture so pervasive in our world…..” Also, I, ideally, would have anticipated that some folks would see only representations of those two paragraphs, and not be familiar with the whole book, my work, and my message. I should have been clear in them that I include hip-hop and rap as part of a much larger problem. It is beyond unfortunate that I am talking about some, for example, of Snoop Dogs’ lyrics, an assumption has been spread I was talking about every single artist in both genres. That is false and distorted. Here, I am again aware that it would be impossible for me to get this “exactly right.” Some will find fault, no matter how careful I am, no matter what my intentions.

Easily the most ludicrous thing about the Twitter wars has been the perpetuation of the ridiculous accusation I am blaming two musical genres for poverty, AIDS, and the whole of rape culture. Please, people. Seriously? It’s beneath all of us that this even merits a comment. Gender inequality and rape culture were here a long before the birth of the genres and rage everywhere. Someone pointed out American history includes extensive white patriarchal rape. I’d add genocide, too, but that is another essay.

Regarding what is happening on Twitter:

Thumbs Up: In those 2 paragraphs, I was addressing gender and gender only. However, the outcry focused so much on race (and at times class) that it was naive of me to assume that everyone knew I was discussing only gender. My favorite feminist teachers, such as bell hooks and Gloria Steinem, would probably have admonished me, as they write that gender, class, and race are inextricably bound in the conversation about gender equality. My amends for thinking you could read my mind and know I was only talking about gender. I understand why you were offended.

“Why don’t we [help] end rape culture instead of getting mad that we’re getting called out on it?”
Photo Credit: huffingtonpost.com

Fashion Discussion: Black Men as Props

by Guest Contributor Claire, originally published at The Fashion Bomb

I was cruising on one of my favorite fashion editorial sites, Fashion Gone Rogue, when I happened upon this February/March 2011 cover of Russh Magazine featuring Delfine Bafort:

Delfine Cover

The Belgian model is surrounded by a group of adoring black men, who all seem to be looking at her lustfully. Her white dress, blonde tresses, and aloof stare contrasts markedly with their dark naked skin and enraptured looks.

Interesting.

The shoot seemed very reminiscent of other editorials I’ve seen in the past few years:

Mode Matthias

Vriends 2
Continue reading

Quoted: The RZA on Metaphors for the Black Man in America

In this culture, some of the deepest wisdom comes from horror movies. A perfect example is Night of the Living Dead. That movie and its sequels teach you about life.

For one thing, Night of the Living Dead predicted the dawn of crack. If you lived in the hood in the ’80s, you saw that movie come to life on the street. There’s a reason Public Enemy titled that song “Night of the Living Baseheads.”

Secondly, Dawn of the Dead was the great metaphor for American society.  The zombies were Americans, just walking through the mall, lost, trying to find excitement outside of themselves.  They forgot that excitement is not buying a new TV; it’s taking your shoes off and walking in the grass in your backyard  All those movies were really showing us ourselves.

When I first saw Night of the Living Dead, I was scared to death.  But when I watched it again at age sixteen (when they were up to Day of the Dead), I’d gotten knowledge of myself, and could relate to what it was saying about America.  The dead were alive, but they were blind, deaf, and dumb.  So to me, they were symbolic of black men in America. Continue reading

The F word: On feminism, being an ally & social justice

by Guest Contributor Dumi Lewis, originally published at Uptown Notes


I am an African-American man. I am a heterosexual man. I am a middle-class man. These three statements are the basis for my social justice work and advocacy, but each carries its own hazard for working on social justice. While many will assume my position as a Black man in America makes me sensitive to “minority statuses”, in reality, over the past 10 years I’ve learned nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, in many ways, my status as Black man in America has the potential to undercut my work of engaging the pursuit of equality of opportunity, equality of outcome and the right to self-determination for all people. I am both privileged and disadvantaged. I have identities that I celebrate, identities I conceal, and all these decisions matter for my view on the world and what I choose to fight for and against.

I didn’t really begin to grapple with my privilege as a Black man until I was a student in Beverly Guy-Sheftall’s class on Black Feminism at Spelman College. I can remember rebutting each point she made about the Million Man March (MMM) as an extension of patriarchy, heteronormativity, and an attempt to further embed misogyny. Besides being a slew of words I didn’t fully understand, I could not understand why she fixated on all the “negatives” of the March. In the class, she essentially argued the MMM because of the patriarchy, etc. she could not support it and thus thought it held little value. By the time I landed in her class I was a senior at Morehouse and certainly had come to believe the MMM was one of the most transformative events I’d ever personally experienced and I refused to have the event mischaracterized.

I paraphrase, but I told her, “Yes, it does ask men to come back into the family, but it doesn’t always mean that have to be at the head. I know some talked about being at the head of the household, but not everyone believed that. We didn’t invite sisters because it was our time as Black men to redefine our commitment to the Black family and Black community.” I wanted to her to see the value of the event beyond her points. She let me finish and sagely replied, “It must be a nice privilege to tell someone to overlook the oppressive elements of a program, because it was helpful to you.” My face fell, my mouth shut, and I  sat sheepishly quiet. My head spun between realization, frustration, and confusion. For the next few classes, I sat quietly and tried to figure out how I had not “seen it coming.” I realized that the lesson I had learned on the athletic field so many times applied to social justice work, “sometimes you got to get the wind knocked out of you to bring you back to earth.”Guy-Sheftall had pointed out what I’d seen done some many times but by those who came from outside of a community to do social justice work in my community. Someone(s) coming from the outside, declaring themselves an ally and expert and overlooking the view of those who were subject to the oppression in favor of their own perspective. Continue reading