«POWER, MONEY, AND SEX(UALITY): THE BLACK MASCULINE PARADIGM A Dissertation Submitted to the Graduate Faculty of the Louisiana State University and ...»
They are the boyz who stand on street corners, doin’ their own vogue—striking that “cool pose” against a pole, a storefront, up against or on a car, laning’, loungin’, and loitering’ with their boyz, just holding court like a king with a “40” to quench the thirst, tryin’ to rap to the females, and daring anyone to stake their territory, to invade their domain. ….They are the boyz who dress to thrill. Their heads—clean, close-cropped, or in a funky fade—are wrapped in bandanas scarves, stocking caps, or sports caps, which are usually worn front, tilted downward, loose, or backwards on the head for full effect. They style and profile in their baggy jeans or pants falling somewhere between their waists and knees, barely holding onto their behinds, their under gear pulled up over their waists. They kick the pavement in sidewalk-stompin’ boots and low-and hightop, high-priced sneakers oftentimes worn loose, unlaced, or open, with their trousers tucked inside. … They are the boyz who, whether they are in motion or standing, are always clutching their crotches. In fact, it seems like their hands are surgically attached to their dicks, as if they are holding it in place and fear it will fall off. They are the boyz who are walking stereotypes, walking statistics for commentators, forecasters, academicians, and politicians to discuss and dissect, to berate and blast, to write about and write off.
According to Hardy, for many black heterosexuals, there is no such thing as a straight acting homosexual, and most would faint at even suggesting that a B-boy could be gay (26).
One finds the consummate performers of masculinity in hip-hop culture. The culture itself sometimes manufacture and promote negative black male behavior. Master P, DMX, Snopp Doggy Dogg, Ice Cube, Canibus, Common, the late Eazy-E, and, interestingly enough, Public Enemy, rap fast and hard about the faggots they want to waste or man-to-man parts that don’t fit. For example the following lyrics from “Plan B” by Master P tries to pull off that he’s referring to his lady
friend as his “nigga”:
Then to solidify the claim, the female rapper Mia X adds the final
touch, which stamps out any indication of homosexuality:
I lays back and chill Why you ills with the hotties I'm numero uno in your eyes honey poppi Yo lady Gotti Thugged out, hooriding ready to kill Yet make me feel like others can't with my sex appeal Be riding ghetto thrills But still the bitch behind the trigger The bitch about her scrilla The bitch to smack her nigga If the tone faintly rises in his voice The choice is mine When it comes to haters living or dying Blueprinted crimes illustrated by your baby The unlady like mistress Be all about illicit business (Master P) According Steven G. Fullwood, “the black heterosexual imagination is as deep as any ocean and often fraught with a schizophrenic mixture of homophobia on the one hand and homoeroticism on the other.” Hip-hop culture also informs other prescriptions like materialism and the sexual objectification of black women that sometimes fuel negative attitudes like these lyrics from the group Cash Money
It's the nigga with tha Lex bubble Candy coated helicopter with tha leather cover If ya suckin' not fuckin' take off the rubber Then toss that bitch nigga cause I don't love her Balla, Manny bought a private plane Then turned around and sold that bitch to Juve and Wayne They put 30 inch lorenzos on that thang man I know you niggaz out there just don't understand
Ole ignorant ass always touchin Big ballin ass nigga you can see him when he comin Booted up, diamond up Golds be shinnin' up Muthafuckas be blindin' up Niggas at the second line be sayin, "I'll be damned" Up in they best fits sayin, "Juve got me damn" I be that nigga with the ice on me If it cost less than twenty it don't look right on me I stay flossed out all through the week My money long if you don't know I'm the B.G.
I be fuckin niggaz bitches all in they home Niggaz be like, "Look at that Benz on all that chrome" Diamonds worn by everybody thats in my click Man I got the price of a mansion 'round my neck and wrist My nigga Baby gettin' a special built machine A Mercedes Benz 700 B-14 I know you niggaz can't believe that I can't wait to see ya haters face when ya see that Man look at that Niggaz wear shades just to stand on side of me Folks say take that chain off boy ya blindin me All day my phone ringin bling bling bling Can see my earring from a mile bling bling The cars, clothes, and jewelry are all part a masculine performance that the novels here speak to. Because of its visual depiction in videos, it’s even given more power, so much power that “Bling” has it own place in the dictionary. And it’s bad enough that black women are treated as just an accessory to be used and abused expressed in the words, but when they too appear in videos, it becomes a divisive critical situation that both black men and women must address.
I also concur with Hardy when he states that “the general rule is that, even if there are homosexuals in the black community, most blacks think there shouldn’t be, and those willing to acknowledge that black gay men do exist feel comfortable with them only as flaming faggots, which returns to the notion of sexual alienation. Therefore, most gay black men who live a “DL” life style perform prescribed masculinity to hold on what little masculinity society and their culture affords them, regardless of how negative and limited it can be. There are further limitations within the black community because of the reluctance and slowness of the leadership of Black churches, and social and cultural organizations to publicly and systematically address homophobia and reduce it to a private matter when indeed it is very much a political and social one” (Byrd 19).
Mitch dreams of finding a B-boy, but only for sexual adventures;
however, he doesn’t anticipate that underneath Raheim’s hard exterior is a man who wants and needs to be loved. Through Mitch’s first Bboy, Royal, however, Hardy show’s how some B-boys maintain a masculine and heterosexual identity while being intimate with other men. According to Hardy, some B-Boyz have very strict rules that must be followed he tells us of Mitch’s encounter with Royal: “Some Bboyz like Royal (and non-B-Boys) definitely see a difference between fucking a man (which for some constitutes “fooling around” or “getting off”) and kissing (which some save for the females or don’t do it at all). For them, you ain’t a real man if you kiss another” (35) Here, Royal, by not participating in kissing, which is deemed a very intimate act, tries to deconstruct the experience into a physical experience that leaves him unconnected to the reality of the experience. This type of surmising allows him to refute an exclusively gay identity and allows room for other signifiers like: straight acting, bisexual, bicurious, and trade (a straight male that sleeps with men). Hoch’s comment brings
clarity to these signifiers:
the male role today is often defined, not so much by its positive attributes as by its non effeteness: a “real man” is one who is least open to the charge of homosexuality.
Since effeteness, like impotence, is seen as a kind of ‘neuterisation’ of the masculinised consciousness (or is understood as its subversion by the feminine elements repressed into the unconscious), the masculinity of noneffeteness is in many ways a special case of masculinity seen as a defense against [homosexuality]” (Hoch 80).
So all the signifiers listed allow Royal the appearance of prescribed masculinity that protects him from social and sexual alienation because in the black community homosexuality is incompatible with Black manhood and Black liberation.
Finally Mitch meets Raheim at a local hangout but they find they are from two different worlds. Raheim grew up without a father in an urban environment very similar to that of Brown and McCall. He also fathers a child during his early teens and quits school to support the child. Unlike McCall, however, Raheim doesn’t have any qualms about raising a black male child.
Only his friends have any idea of his sexual orientation, but they all are B-boys also, so the mask is impenetrable to the naked eye. Mitch, on the other hand, is from a two parent home. He is partially raised by his stepfather because his father dies early in his life. For the most part, Mitch’s community was very calm and peaceful during his teen years. Unlike Raheim, Mitch is not really part of a group that forces a prescribed masculinity on him; therefore, he develops his own distinct masculinity. His mother embraces his sexuality; his stepfather doesn’t understand it but tolerates it. All of Mitch’s friends are similar to him and the exact opposite of B-Boys. One can infer, against the standards of prescribed masculinity, that some of them have touches of feminine accents because of the way they talk and mingle with one another.
A rift in the friendship opens when Mitch asks Raheim to invite his friends over. Raheim is very uncomfortable with this idea because Mitch is not exactly B-boy material, but he goes along. Upon Raheim and his friends D.C. and Angel’s arrival, one can notice all the prescriptions of masculinity: the vulgar street language (“Yo close the do’ nigga!” “Shut up, nigga!” Yo, dis negihbahood betta be cool, cuz if somebody fucks with my shit, I’ma haft clock em), the B-boy clothes (cap, muscle shirt, hightop sneakers and silver hoops in their ears, other bling bling jewlry) and of course the performance of crotch grabbing and high fives. However, Mitch is surprised that Raheim kisses him in front of D.C. and Angel, but he forgets that it is not in public and Raheim’s friends are also B-boyz. However, Raheim never invites Mitch to hang out with them in public. Clearly Mitch feels uncomfortable and in actuality is more like a servant at his own house rather than a participant, as they watch the game and converse. He only makes an appearance to offer them drinks and burgers he prepares while they play the dozens.
Because of his outspokenness and more formal educational background, Mitch makes the mistake of commenting on their use of the word “nigga” and how he did not like to be referred to as one. This is the bonding word for B-boys and most young black male peer groups and to them it means something totally different then “nigger.” To digress briefly, there has been debate over the destructiveness and empowerment of the word “nigger.” Randall Kennedy calls it the nuclear bomb of racial epithets and shows how blacks are losing their ability to censor it because of its assimilation into other cultures. For instance some white urban youths, use the N-word to refer to their friends as being hip and showing coolness. Norman Mailer’s essay, The White Negro explores whites’ fascinations with black culture because their art was the art of the primitive, the exotic. But to Ellis Cose to reduce black culture to primitive “reduces black people to the status of unthinking, violent, primal creatures, with their animal urges unrestrained by civilization” (52) This unrestrained quality supposedly accounts for how blacks supposedly keep it real, but while white youths participate in this so-called phenomenon, they can at any time easily shed their black identity whenever they tire of the charade, some black youth have taken on this essences as their true identity.
(53) James Baldwin, in The Fire Next Time, writes that “you can only be destroyed by believing that you really are what the white world calls a nigger” (32). Baldwin observes how some whites were trapped in a history which they could not understand and be released from;
therefore, they had to believe that white men were superior to black men (27). Cose uses the same analogy to say that the N-word has trapped black males that wallow in the stereotype and call the practice keeping it real when the so-called reality they cling too ( that black men are sex-obsessed, strutting sticks of macho dynamite, brimming with street sense, devoid of intellect, driven only by desire) is nothing but a tragic myth rooted in a time when [some] Americans, in order to feel good about themselves, needed to believe that black men were something vile, something disgusting, something inhumanly strange” (13) Indeed, the strange career of this troublesome word rings clear.