Yesterday at work, while I was assisting with one of the groups of kids with math, some girls in the room were making fun of me, and while the other students in the class weren’t participating in the teasing outright, most of them were laughing with them. People have made fun of me for as long as I could speak, so I’m not (too) bothered about that, but there was a much more powerful and bitter commentary about their taunting: Black Men who choose not to embrace coonery are seen as undesirable, and I would even go as far as to say that they’re disposable.
As I stated earlier, I’ve been made fun of for a while, just because I’ve had academic or atypical interests, or even just because I was skinny or nerdy-looking. In middle school, I was teased because I played the “Yu-Gi-Oh!” Trading Card Game (I don’t play anymore, though, because I think it conflicts with my religion, it’s just too expensive, and I don’t like the way the game has evolved). In high school, people made fun of me because I was skinny and unpopular. When I attended an HBCU (I won’t say which one), the ridicule reached new levels; people sneered at me when I passed, they cursed at me, made fun of me literally behind my back they yelled at me or flipped me off from their car windows (One girl even said to one of the guys I was friends with “Why are you even talking to him? He is so nerdy” while I was within earshot.) all because I kept to myself, studied, played video games, and I was one of the few college kids who didn’t party, smoke, or drink. I wasn’t too fond of Christianity back then, because even that group made disparaging remarks about me. I haven’t had this problem much lately, but every now and then, like it did yesterday, this pillory starts up again.
The irony is: I would consider myself to be one of the few “conscious” or pro-Black people I knew. Even in my teens, I embarked—and am still on—a quest for knowledge of self and erudition, while listening to conscious music, while most of my peers were simply caught up in enjoying their high school and college years partying, and listening to mainstream, corporate, watered down music (no disrespect to them, this is just reality). Some people may have seen me as “too Black” because of the things I exposed myself to, and some others may have seen me as “not Black enough” because I enjoyed things that Black people didn’t like (RPG/Strategy games for example).
The problem is, I know that I’m not the only one who has been made fun of; many Black people who choose to ascend beyond the trappings of the ghetto are seen as sell-outs. I would say Black men are greater targets of this, since it’s always a good thing for Black women to be successful—that’s why we have a lot of women out there who say things like “You go girrrrrrrrrrrrrl,” “Don’t depend on these n***as to do nothin’ for you,” and there are many rappers and singers who proclaim their love for independent women, among other things. Whereas for Black men who seek intelligence, people say things like “Why is he always reading?” or “He think he all that just cause he in school,” or they’ll call him “Uncle Tom” or “Urkel,” and say all types of things.
I believe I can give an explanation for this: the Black community in recent years has been matriarchal, not patriarchal as most people believe. Since most of our children are born to and raised by single mothers, the women hold the leadership roles in our community, and the image of the “strong Black woman” pervades our minds. However, when a Black man starts to educate and empower himself financially, he’s seen as a weak man; not because education and empowerment are a bad thing of themselves, but because most “intelligent” Black men are a minority in the ghettos, it’s mostly the thieves, criminals, and other hypermasculine, detrimental sorts who are in the Black community. Also, with education comes a desire to take the place as a leader. However, most Black people (I would say mostly Black women) don’t like Black men advancing themselves because it upsets the matriarchy they are accustomed to. So that’s why Black men, when they get some success, may not give back to their communities, not because they don’t want to, but because of a mass anti-intellectual, matriarchal mindset the people in their old neighborhoods have.
When we malign the characters of the Black men who try to do good things, we hurt our community as a whole. We can say all we want about Black women being the backbone of the community all, but Black men have to be the leaders, we can’t see them as disposable. A community cannot thrive unless responsiblemen are the ones who are placed in positions of leadership. When we see the men in our community as disposable, that’s when they leave and probably date and marry non-Black, or more recently, foreign women to establish a natural sort of nuclear family. Educated/empowered Black men want to be leaders, and they are sick of the toxic mindset in our community.
Even me. Sometimes, I wonder what the purpose in me going to work is if the kids are going to make fun of me. I might be reaching someone, but it’s troubling when I, and even the other productive kids in the room are teased for trying to do the right thing. I know that they are trying to subconsciously destroy any non-supplicating, productive Black men to uphold the Black female matriarchy and they shouldn’t be held responsible for something they are programmed to do, but it is difficult to find the motivation to do help them when I’m being disrespected. I felt the same way when I was in the toxic schools I was in—that was one of the reasons why I didn’t do very well in middle school, high school, and some parts of college.
We need to make a change. All of us need to stop ostracizing and throwing shade at our erudite/nerdy Black people—especially the Black boys who choose to follow this path—because more likely than not, they are the ones who are going to become successful, productive citizens, and they are going to remember how they were treated before they made it, and usually, that’s going to affect their mindset as an adult.