«POWER, MONEY, AND SEX(UALITY): THE BLACK MASCULINE PARADIGM A Dissertation Submitted to the Graduate Faculty of the Louisiana State University and ...»
Of course, the N-word is not discussed in this context, but needless to say this confrontation ends the party and Mitch realizes that he can never be a B-boy because his experience has socialized him in a different way. Mitch shares with his co-worker how Raheim speaks and boasts the way he does around his friends. Raheim never behaves this way when he’s alone with Mitch. However, Mitch fails to realize the Raheim has nothing to prove to him because for one he is more masculine than he is and is only with him at all gay events. D.C. and Angel are his homies and each of them must perform the masculine script to perfection if they are going to pass as masculine men in their world. Because they are gay, this performance takes places in most all male institutions such taverns, poolrooms, stadiums or any where large groups of males hang out. According to Hoch, the high level of violence that characterizes most of these all-male institutions is attributable to the vicious circular aspects of the struggle against effeminacy; the more one retreats to an all-male environment, presumably the greater the homosexual temptation, and hence the continued need to “up the ante” in the way of violence to prove one’s manhood (85). So it is not surprising that Wright fight on his first day of school, that Brown and his friend must beat each other or that McCall must shoot another black male for disrespecting his girl friend.
Critic Rudolph Byrd sums up the reality and consequences of
prescribe masculinity in the black community:
The uncritical acceptance of orthodox conceptions of gender and sexuality and the attending practice of emasculating forms of masculinity are our new traps. They are, to conjure another familiar image in African American folklore, the new tar baby to which we have been stuck for far too long. Many African American men have been uncritical in our acceptance of certain male and heterosexual privileges. This lack of a deeper political consciousness, this failure to critique and contest apparently widely held assumptions that foster the growth of traps of sexism and homophobia have produced injuries, both psychic and physical, among those of us who are not only excluded from the attainment of these privileges, but who also recognize that privileges are potential traps (20).
Byrd is calling for a new sexual revolution that disrupts the ideologies of sexism and homophobia in order to reclaim a more empowering masculinity. However, this project demonstrates that this reconstructing of masculinity is a difficult task because it is woven so deeply into the very fabric of black masculinity; one only needs to look at music, television, clothing and the politics and expression of masculinity that these produce to see its power. For many of today’s black males, the creation of a masculine physical image is much more powerful than the spiritual one, which is desperately needed.
Chapter 5: Toward a Conclusion: Masculinity Unleashed Indeed, power, money, and sex(uality) is the essence of this new, and sometimes, destructive masculinity that some urban black males use to gain access to the masculine design.
Gwendolyn Brooks’ poem “We Real Cool” echoes this destructiveness:
destructiveness, sin, and certainly these young men make it clear that they have the ability to hold their own or “strike straight” if a fight breaks out. And of course the sexual implication of “jazz june” demonstrates that heterosexuality is always near. But harshly, despite the alluring power of coolness, death lingers and writhes into the notion of coolness, even from the very beginning as the “shovel” lingers and waits for its next victim to “die soon.” The aloofness of the “we” at the end of each line forces the reader, and the speaker
Brooks’ poem as the title of her ground breaking book on masculinity to demonstrate how “when race and class enter [the world of black men], along with patriarchy, [they] endure the worst impositions of masculine patriarchal identity [while being cool: power, money, and sex(uality)] (xii).
mechanisms that disrupt black male mobility. The politicization of black men’s place and space impairs their ability to enter hegemonic institutions, limiting mobility. Linking textual representations and performance, I have explored the convergence of this process. The criticism examined and my project has exposed an interstitial web of social, psychologically, and literary commentary concerning black masculinity. How others see some black males and how some black males see themselves leads me to conclude with a consideration of the power of image and some realities that have occurred because of this image while writing this project.
First, a number of black males were abused or unjustly died at the hands of policemen: Amadou Diallo, who was gunned downed by fortyone bullets; Patrick Dorismond was approached on the street by a stranger seeking drugs; his objections were met by bullets from an undercover New York Police Officer; Rodney King who was beaten like a slave; John Adams, a sixty four year old retiree of Lebanon, Tennessee, who was shot for defending himself when police drug busters smashed in the door of the wrong house; and sixteen-year old Dononvan Jackson of Inglewood, California and fifty-year old Donald Pete were shown being beaten by policemen while they were subdued.
It seems there is still a horrid fascination with the black male body and the image he performs.
There are even more disturbing things occurring in the black community: the dramatic increase in the rate of black on black crime by inner city males, and arrests and convictions of successful black male athletes and celebrities, specifically rappers. Recent examples include athlete Rae Carruth who was convicted of hiring a friend to assault his pregnant girlfriend so she could lose the baby; instead, she lost her life. Rapper C-Murder, a.k.a Corey Miller, was indicted on a second degree murder charge for shooting a sixteen year-old by and arrested for trying to shoot the owner of a local club; Rapper Mystikal, a.k.a Michael Tyler, who was accused of aggravated rape, some of it caught on tape. These are black men who make more money than I every will with ten years of college under my belt. It is evident that poverty is not the only instigator of crime and violence.
Also, in El Reno, Oklahoma a ten-year-old boy was arrested in the death of his ten-year-old friend who he shot once in the head. Tremain Rickey, the victim, is described as a talented athlete who loved football and excelled in school. As an African-American aware of our culture, I picture a boasting scene that ended in death. Add to this a four year old in Houston, Texas who shot his little brother for throwing a toy at him. All of these incidents were national stories and in various ways their themes involve the everyday lives of some black males.
The cause of these crimes and the current condition of the black male is embedded within the complex social and psychological web of masculinity. Most of the black men or victims are killed or abused because of senseless issues by other black men: love gone bad, disagreements and drugs. Like many, the perpetrators were not in life threatening situations in which they had to defend themselves. These incidents speak to the problems black masculinity and the black male image. Aspects of Richard Wright, Claude Brown, and Nathan McCall’s novel will be retold in the decades to come if the mechanism that is fueling corrupt black male performance is not tackled. Through the black masculine paradigm, I have dissected and rebuilt some of the most influencing components of black male performance. How can we save black males from themselves and society, and teach them how to navigate life with a more empowering and endearing image?
The black male quest for masculinity is indeed a very complex journey. There are attempts to achieve this journey through feminism, Afro-centric socialization programs, and other manhood training programs. Though some success has been achieved with these programs and the quest in general, nothing has produced the revolutionary approach needed to bring about a massive change, except for Hip-Hop culture. But the potential that lies in this culture is also becoming one of the main culprits of the disruption of the quest.
It drives prescribed masculinity into the minds of young black males and indeed a man’s mind is his castle, according to Majors and Billson.
bell hooks dissects the reality of hip-hop culture when she posits that it “ushered in a world where black males could declare that they were “keeping it real” when what they were really doing was taking the
rearticulating it in forms that, though entertaining, had for the most part no transformative power, no ability to intervene on politics of domination, and turn the real lives of black men around” (150). If this turning or reclaiming is to take place, black males must shatter
themselves to feel and love freely, without retaliation from one another.
The reclaiming of masculinity must take place during early adolescence, when black males are most impressionable, by teaching them their heritage and what has already been discovered about the complexity of masculinity. African American men need a pedagogy centered on masculinity. The culture in general must demand that Eurocentric hegemonic educational institutions incorporate the black male’s experiences, especially in primary education. Most black males hear about Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, Martin Luther King, and Malcom X but in a very limited context. So much of what black males are experiencing today has already been written about, but the texts sit on shelves, only to be used by academics, while many black males are left feeling that they are encountering the world and its obstacles for first time. This cultural education must also take place
acceptance starts at home. Mari Evans in How We Speak makes this
…raising (children) is “providing for,” while rearing is “responding to.” Raising can be satisfied by providing the essentials: food, shelter, clothing and reasonable care.
“Rearing” is a carefully thought out process. Rearing begins with a goal and is supported by a clear view of what are facts and what is truth (and the two are no necessarily synonymous). Rearing is complex and requires sacrifice and dedication. It is an ongoing process of “preparation.” Joe Kennedy reared presidents; the British Royal Family rears heirs to the English throne; and when a young African doctor, born in the continent and presently in selfexile in a neighboring country because of her ANC (African National Congress) commitment as interviewed on the news recently and was asked if she was not afraid for her four-year-old son, given her political activism, said, “He has a duty to lay down his life for his people. He is my son, but he is also the son of an oppressed people,” she announced the rearing of a “race man.” ….Obviously something different, some carefully thought out process, some long-range political view is present when one has a clear sense of one’s own reality and therefore intends to rear presidents, rulers, or free men and women.
Evans is speaking to the self-awareness one must have about his/her identity. If black males can establish such an identity, they will be able to view the negative images and behaviors they encounter in their environments and various medias as pure fantasy that can lead to destruction, rather than reality or a code to live by. How cool is it to own your own mind? Completing this project, I now know the answer to this question.
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