Black women have arguably been the most oppressed and marginalized group globally and have experienced this oppression from white men, white women, black men and other black women in gross amounts, but have risen above these challenges and have taught the entire world about what it really means to have #BlackGirlMagic and how to embrace self. A lot of attention and dialogue goes into the black woman's self-worth and self-love (as it should); now, I think it's time to start healing the black man and people should know, we too, are not fetishes, sexual objects, your thug fantasy, your idea, your secrets, your fears, your slaves, your stallions, your token, your property or your target practice. Below, I've listed a few things black men don't need to be great.
1. Clear skin
While black women are teaching everyone through example how to love themselves and embrace the skin they're in, many black men haven't caught on to that freedom. They say "black don't crack" however, black men haven't been a significant part of that conversation and many struggle with the positive stereotype that black skin is smooth, velvety, low in wrinkles and blemish-free. In the past, I've struggled with pretty bad acne and as a black guy with clearer skin now, I don't think I could bear that angst again. Having unclear skin isn't fun for anyone, especially when you feel the pressure of being the good-looking clear-skinned chocolate boy.
2. Big muscles
Black men and women have been exploited in many forms and one of the first ways, since the beginning of the slave trade, was through the exploitation of their bodies by determining their ability to labor in harsh conditions for long periods of time or not. Many have argued that this same mentality has been carried out to the black male body in the world of professional and college sports. Many young black boys look up to black professional athletes as their heroes and want to emulate them but which professional athlete is talking about loving yourself just the way you are as a black man? Once again, black women have been progressive in promoting positive body-conscious dialogue and self-love while black men have been stuck. The black male body has been equated to gorilla builds and stallions and my concern is that young black boys will view the need for big muscles as a necessity for manhood; black manhood, and that just isn't true or fair.
3. "Cool" or "Swag"...#BlackNerdsMatter
Being a gamer, an avid reader, science-lover or ant farm enthusiast doesn't make you lame, wack or weak and black men shouldn't feel like they have to be interested in superficial things to be accepted. Having "swag" is great, having all the Pokemon cards ever made and wearing a Dragonball-Z button-up is great too! Let's all be black, unique and great together.
4. A big penis
It's no secret that being well-endowed can have its perks in the bedroom but the idea that a black man should have an insanely large member is just degrading. Black men have felt unreasonable pressures to prove masculinity and unfortunately have used their penises to do it. Additionally, since slavery white women and white male slave owners have not only participated in the rape of black women, but also black men and there hasn't been much healing when it comes to the way the black male penis is perceived. Black men are more than fetishes and more than a big penis and you don't need a large penis to be great, black and worthy of love.
5. The most prestigious degree
Education and black men have been like oil and water a few times in American history with the increasing rate of incarcerated black men and plummeting college enrollment. I added this to my list after I overheard a young black man arguing with a young black woman about which group had higher college enrollment. For the record, black women do, but listening to the argument annoyed me. Why is this a competition? Is that what getting an education is all about, competing with black women? The truth is, we should celebrate anyone who makes the decision to enroll into college because it's an amazing step, especially as a black person because education was deprived of us for so long in the United States. The next thing to consider is getting an education is a personal and meaningful decision and it shouldn't be about having the highest degree or honor but about following your aspirations and using education as a tool to make that happen. So, black men, you don't need the highest degree to be worthy of being a black man and your degree doesn't make you less than or more than a black woman. You should get the highest degree if you want it and if it leads you to the "you" that you want to be.
6. "Street cred"
You don't have to be feared to be a black man. I say this also insuring you that you don't have to be docile either, however, dropping bodies and being shot a few times isn't necessary for the list of qualifications to be great and black. I also would like to include that you don't have to be "hard" or emotionless. Being kind, vulnerable, helpful and innocent are not exclusive from black manhood and having these qualities does not excuse people from respecting you and treating you humanely. Although, many black men may feel the pressure of being inanimate and stoic but I'm here to tell you that you don't have to be those things to be honored for the human being you are and "street cred" or not; you matter.
7. A rap career
Sigh...Do I really need to explain this one?
8. A white woman
When Kanye West's infamous lyrics stated, "and when he gets on, he'll leave your ass for a white girl" first blasted through the radio airwaves, everyone's heart stopped because well, he made a bold statement about a very real social phenomena. First, let's clear up that authentic interracial intimacy is not what we're talking about here. What we are talking about is the very complex socio-economic reaction to white supremacy. Some black men feel the pressure to be breadwinners as men and/or worthy of whiteness and white access as a black person, thus, economically and/or relationally betraying their communities and promoting a platform for some white women to exploit themselves in relationships or interactions with wealthy black men and/or black men who see white women as socially, physically, and/or economically more superior to black women. (Some of you may have missed that. Reread that last sentence.) Either way you look at it, it directly relates back to socio-economics and money and later breeds a slew of other issues like behavior stereotypes of black women compared to white women and unreasonable and contrived beauty standards. Black men, white women are not an upgrade from coach to first class and black women are not your burdens. Black women, white women and women, in general, deserve respect and genuine intimacy and you deserve a woman who sees you as more than a big penis or big bank account.
9. A bunch of women
I'm not judging anyone who participates in polyamorous relationships but if you think having more women somehow makes you more of man...then you already aren't half the man you need to be. Being a player, pimp or unfaithful toward one or multiple women has always been something that has been heavily promoted to black men even by other black men as a badge of manhood. We hear this in music and see it in movies and media everywhere and it's wrong. Can we all agree that hurting women and betraying their trust isn't what manhood is all about?
10. Society's idea of masculinity
I've pretty much covered that but to elaborate; being gentle, soft spoken, or even effeminate does not exclude you from the community of black manhood. You deserve to be accepted as a black man and it shouldn't be based on the condition of someone else's stereotypical definition of black masculinity.
11. Society's mockery of black femininity
I love to laugh, but can we stop using black men as the platform for mocking our grandmothers and women who are pillars in our community as if this form of comedy honors them? Black men in our grandmothers' dresses for comedic relief, in my most humble opinion, severely damages the important messages that these amazing women carry. Black femininity is not something that should be mocked. It is sacred and worthy of honor and defense.
12. Anyone's opinion
You really don't need it. Heck, even my unsolicited opinion on being a black man doesn't mean it necessarily has to be seen relevant to every black man. That's the beauty of being a free black man.
Did I miss anything on this list? Do you fervently disagree? Do you enthusiastically agree? Let me know! Would love to hear your thoughts on this.