News of the GAP’s new 90’s inspired capsule collection left me and many other 90’s aficionados gagging for a chance to relive perhaps the most iconic style generation.
The campaign featured several celebs, including the legendary Naomi Campbell. But the shine of clothes has been dulled by social media’s reaction to Evan Ross.
People are dragging actor Evan Ross for his pose, which some are calling out as too feminine for a black man.
There’s nothing off about Ross’s photos. He’s rocking a badass sleeveless sweatshirt with black skinny jeans, far from the gender-bending antics of Young Thug. His facial expression and posture are just like any other stoic model, yet he’s the target for a slew of homophobic hate in the comment section.
Both black men and women are denied their full humanity because of racist systems of oppression that still require a greater sense of resiliency for people of color. Essentially, if you are to survive in a society that inherently holds you back then you must be strong. For black queer people, the stakes are even higher, we must contend with racism and homophobia.
The gag is Ross isn’t gay. In fact, he’s a father of one and married to Ashlee Simpson. But even if he was gay, why would that matter? Unfortunately, black men are rarely allowed to just be without the burden of all of black manhood placed on their shoulders. This is yet another case of Internet trolls throwing shade to any black man who could be perceived as queer—the worst part is that it's coming from within the black community.
Black manhood has been terrorized in this country for centuries, going as far back as slavery to more recent killings of black men (and women) by police and vigilantes. The narrative of the “strong black man,” combined with a patriarchal culture of toxic masculinity creates a performative manliness that does little to actually empower black men.
The idea that black men cannot exhibit any form of weakness is informed by cultural attitudes on race, gender and religion. All three of these factors meet within the black church, where homophobic rhetoric preached from the pulpit reinforces gender binary and heteronormativity. From the Civil Rights Movement to pre-Civil War abolitionists, the black church has played an important role in advocating for the lives of black men and women.
In terms of representation in pop-culture, there are very few examples of black men who have been able to transgress the boundaries of performative masculinity. Prince and Jaden Smith are just a handful of black men who have rejected one-dimensional roles that society ascribes to black men. Also, out celebrities such as Frank Ocean and, more recently, ILoveMakonnen and Taylor Bennett, have shown the diversity of masculinity of queer black men.
Which brings me back to the photo of Ross. Rather than promote discrimination within our community, we need to affirm that all black lives matter regardless of gender expression, sexuality or any intersectional identity.