I’m A Black Man Who Learned To Stop Crying At 15. After Nipsey Hussle Died, I Gave Up Trying To Suppress My Tears.
This is the time to shed a tear, feel emotions and let it out.
July 01, 2020 at 6:34 pm
I want to start by saying I've always been a sensitive man.
Growing up, I was always considered a “cry baby.” I was very in tune with my emotions and wasn't afraid to let them out. I recall getting kicked out of class in sixth grade because I couldn’t sing Pokémon songs. I cried as if someone died; it was embarrassing, but I couldn’t control my emotions.
As a Black man, showing this type of emotion is shunned upon. Crying is not something that Black men do. It's often considered to be a “little girl’s” way of emoting. But for me, I've always been into my emotions. Quiet as it's kept, at about 15 I stopped crying.
For roughly nine years my tear ducts were clogged by the blockage in my emotions denying me the ability to cry. This may have been due to the fact that I was growing into my manhood and crying was something I got rid of — or it could have been the trauma. The trauma of growing up as a Black man in America, with all of the paraphernalia that surrounds that type of trauma. The pressure of growing up the “golden child” of your family and friends, and working towards that upper mobility and making it out of the hood. There were so many elements that distorted my emotional release in that capacity.
The pain was still there, but I couldn’t cry.
For so long I was emotionally distraught — unable to shed tears, unable to understand my emotions. I was depressed and confused, trying to navigate through a life I didn't love. The confusion and self-hate consumed me and blocked my emotional channels. However, something changed recently that allowed the flood gates to reopen.
It wasn't until about roughly early 2019 that I was able to start crying again, and I’ve been crying ever since. It's an insane flurry of emotional release that has allowed me to explore the hurricane of emotions inside of me. It's a beautiful disaster that has allowed me to explore who I am and who I want to be in life. Through my crying, I’ve faced my demons, anxiety and depression.
I want to explain why I've been crying so much, especially in these times, and why it's important for Black men to cry. I'll start back in 2019.
I remember it started when Nipsey Hussle died. March 31, 2019, I got the news that one of the greatest people of my generation passed away due to gun violence in his own neighborhood. The irony that the very thing he tried to diminish in his neighborhood — self-destruction and hate — was the catalyst to his passing. The sheer fact that we lost someone whose greatness couldn't be matched in this time tore me apart as a Black man.
Nipsey was a Black man assisting his people and helping them grow, and someone took his life. Someone he knew. It was devastating and it tore me apart. For someone with an empathetic heart to watch the video of this Black man being gunned down in the plaza that he built his entire empire on broke my heart. Then, to see the outpouring of fans and people that became fans (including myself) show their love and affection for a man they never knew — it shook me to my core.
I preface the rest of my sentiments with this: I'm also an empathetic man. I feel everything, even if it's not attached to me. When a Black man dies, especially by gun violence, I feel it the most. This is because I have brothers and friends who have been subjugated to the causes of gun violence.
So when I see another Black man fall to the self-destruction that is gun violence, it breaks my heart. You can see why the floodgates came out when I found out that Nipsey passed. His death forced me to reassess everything that I've been doing in my life up until then. I cried for hours for the first time in years. It was the most painful feeling I felt in a long time.
Up until that point, my tear ducts were clogged up by the sheer amount of anxiety and depression that has filled my body for the past several years. Black male depression is a real thing, Black mental health is a real thing, and it's been something that has been avoided in our communities for so long. So, the piling up of depression and anxiety in my own body finally combusted into tears that I could not stop.
My tears represented the centuries of the destruction of my people, the decades of hopelessness, the self-destruction and the hate. Nipsey’s death hurt like someone I loved all my life. It seemed like a revelation or an opening for me to look deeper into loving myself, finally.
The second time I cried was when Kobe Bryant passed.
As a child who grew up watching Kobe Bryant, even though he wasn't my favorite player he was inspirational beyond any account I can recall. Every time Kobe Bryant stepped on the court, you were about to see something spectacular. He was the Michael Jordan of our generation.
One of the most influential Black men of my lifetime passed unexpectedly on January 26, 2020, along with several others in a helicopter crash in California. One of the victims happened to be his daughter, Gianna Bryant, who he was very close with.
That array of emotions are some I don't think I ever want to revisit. To hear of a Black man dying with someone he loved more than anything in the world, to contemplate his final moments of him trying to comfort his daughter and everyone else on that helicopter, was too much.
And then the impact he had made on so many people after his death. The entire world was devastated, much like Nipsey Hussle's death, Kobe Bryant made the world cry. It was these two men who passed that made me see so many grown men shed tears.
Let me rephrase that: So many Black men shed tears, including myself.
It was the first time I saw a Black man crying on TV and it was acceptable. There was not a person I know that would sit there and say, “You shouldn't be crying at this moment.”
There was an acceptance of the fact that we had lost people that were great beyond measure. People that at the ages that they passed — Nipsey at 33, and Kobe at 41 — had conquered everything they set out to achieve without regret in their lives. It was almost as if you could feel proud to cry for their deaths. And for me, I let it out. I let it out privately because it is still hard to cry in front of people, especially as a Black man. But I couldn't stop crying, and to this day, I still can't stop crying.
The tears have become natural to me now, as if every day I'm crying. My recent tears are a consequence of the unjust killings of Breona Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and so many more Black folks who have perished at the hands of police brutality. The amount of anxiety, fear and depression mounting in my soul was crushing my spirit and forcing the floodgates to open wide.
The hopelessness I feel for my people in this seemingly never-ending fight for equity, freedom and to simply not be killed for being Black, ruptures the atoms in my body every day. The pain I feel won't stop, and for some odd reason, I'm crying again. I’m not ashamed to do so. I’m embracing my tears and allowing myself to feel the emotions. And for the first time in almost a decade, I feel accepted in doing so.
For Black men, at this moment if you feel hurt, confused or any type of emotion, it is OK to cry. This is the time to shed a tear, feel emotions and let it out. Uncertainty is all over the place and pain is ever-present. People, let’s allow Black men to embrace these emotions because it may help many of them in the long run.