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.
Beautifully written... Being a black male in the world. We have to "keep our children from being victimized in a society that does not believe that they can be victims." <3
By Wesley Hall
Man, I’m just glad I had a mom who gave me the realness from a young age. I can remember thinking she was so stuck in the past for telling me that I couldn’t do or say or wear certain things, that I could not stay out as late as my white friends could, that I could not “experiment” with any of the things my white friends did. I struggled so much with her for trying to impress upon me the fact that I was different. Because I’m supposed to be. I lived in a nice house, spoke more than one language, was well educated and well socialized and I did not understand why I needed to constantly act in a manner designed to disarm another person’s suspicions about me.
But wow, I get it now. Every black kid has that moment where he has to decide to accept the armor that his parents present to him to get through life as an American black male, or walk around naked. And the crazy part is, it’s probably something most people outside of the black community never see. I can remember my mom talking to me over and over and over again about what to do and who to call if I was ever picked up by a police officer. She made sure I knew that I needed to declare that I was exercising my Miranda rights rather simply evoke them without notice. If you were in JNJ your mom probably made you take a WHOLE FREAKING CLASS on how to deal with police officers and other people who were perceived to be threatening.
And I say that to say that as scary as people think black males are, black males are conditioned to be ten times more afraid of everyone else. We’re conditioned to be afraid of goin to certain parts of the country, afraid of people with certain political view, afraid of police officers, and sometimes even afraid of other black and latino males. The most sickening thing about this whole trial has been the deliberate campaign to rob Trayvon of his right to be afraid. I know I would have been.
And I owe her the deepest of apologies for all of the times that I accused her of overacting or impressing a vision of a society long since passed on the one that exists today.
It doesn’t matter how well traveled you are or how many languages you speak or who where you went to school. It doesn’t matter how many friends you have or how much good you’ve done in the world. From afar we are all the same.
It used to hurt when my mother would tell me I couldn’t put my hood up or that I couldn’t stay out as late as my white friends. She told me I was a young black male and I couldn’t afford these things and I figured she never knew how much it hurt for be to know that she did not have faith that I could transcend the many stereotypes that swirl around me and be seen as an individual.
But when I think about my own mother having to come down the police station, and Identify my naked body and come home and go in my room that would feel strangely empty. She would have to walk past my favorite custom built aquarium and the framed boards my class in japan made for me on my last day of study abroad, she would have to open my closet and go through all of the clothes I would never wear again and find my favorite suit and then walk out of a room where every object holds a memory.
She would have to go on interviews and meet with lawyers and try to be strong in the face of unimaginable tragedy. While people picked apart my character and found every facebook status where I cursed or every stupid picture I was ever captured in. She would have to sit in court and dignify people who sought to put me in the ground with not a shred of justice with her presence and her silence. And then on top of that, after a year of pain, to hear from 6 other mothers that my life meant nothing……..
And the thought that after 24 hours of labor, thousands of dollars on tuition and extra curriculars and trips and summer activties, and millions of tiny sacrifices that she could be left with the dust of my memory and the guilt of having not prepared me for this thing called America.
I joke about it, but I know how much I mean to her. Before I go parasailing I think about her, and before I jump in the ocean I think about her, and when I had tigers crawling all over me and licking my face I was thinking about her. But I did those things because I knew that even if I got poisoned by a cobra or mauled by a tiger, I know it would have been hard…….but she would have derived comfort from knowing that I died pursuing happiness, adventure, and experiences that are worth their risks.
But I know that she would never ever be able to recover from knowing that I died the way that Trayvon died. And so I understand so well why she taught me to think about the world in the way that I do. To remember how to love life, be open to others, but to always remember who I am and to be so secure in who I am, that I accept that I must constantly think and behave with consideration for that one person who might think they already know.
I have fought with my mom, dad, and stepdad about what it means to be a young black man in 2013. And I have at times been annoyed at all of them for presenting me with my constraints. But I am so lucky to have been armed with the truth at such and early age. The world can be so confusing for us. So much kindness, and so much cruelty. We’ve all accused our parents of over estimating the dangers out there. But they managed to teach us not to allow this country to fill us with fear, while simultaneously not allowing it to rob us of our vigilance. Shout-out to all of the parents out there, giving that extra course on how to keep your children from being victimized in a society that does not believe that they can be victims.
There’s a point where you know. Where your body recognizes the danger. In two nanoseconds, adrenalin is racing through your veins, your heart rate increases and you’re breathing faster. You’re sharp. You’re brain is so sharp that you feel like you’re seeing molecules. You’re thinking at the speed…
Anyone from your past that you wish you had another shot at?
Nope not at all. I live with no regrets. I’ve learned to keep the past in the past and learn from it. Personally I’ve grown so much from the person I was when I was younger, so I can’t see myself dating anyone from back then simply because I still see them as they were back then. If they’ve grown too, that’s great, but that just means we don’t know each other, like we’re strangers now.
What can a guy do to impress you or get your attention?
I honestly don’t have an answer for that. There no list of things that a guy can do, aside from being down to Earth and respectful. I’m attracted to genuine personalities, being yourself and showing me what makes you unique is everything.
I truly try to be a selfless person, I give without expecting. But when it gets to the point where you feel drained, like you’ve given everything with nothing in return, is this the right outcome to giving your all? When I say in return, I don’t mean in the egotistical/materialistic way, as in “An eye for an eye”, but simply appreciation, gratitude, reciprocation when needed. At what point do you save some of yourself for yourself? At what point does being selfless reach its optimum and you go into the spectrum of being used. I always viewed being selfish as a bad trait, but there must be some good, because being selfless without ever receiving appreciation, this eventually become a miserable feeling. I even feel bad for thinking that, but there has to be a limit. Maybe we should just be mindful of those who we give to? A check and balance system that insures that our good deeds will be reciprocated? However, that very act of insuring that your good deeds won’t go unnoticed seems to stain the true meaning of altruism. But something has to give (no pun intended). You have to take yourself back sometimes, and “give without expecting” to yourself…
REALLY LOVED LEARNING ABOUT THIS STORY!!!!! More programs like EduCare is key to the success of our kids and community as a whole! A Harvard research study shows that neglect in the first few years in a child’s life can change a child’s bra
"We need more high quality educational settings, not only so mom can go to work, but really importantly so these young children can gain the language skills, behavioral skills and social skills that will allow them to be successful." - Diana Rauner
The way I distinguish an artist from a bullshitter is their motives. Like those who see rapping as a means to a end of money, women, and drugs instead of truly having a passion for the art of being a lyricist. It’s that very fact that stops me from listening to the majority of this bs out today. They’re just talking nonsense to get a check, with nothing to say or passion for giving something to the listeners. I respect artists who have something to give to the public through their art, whether its music to make us dance, a message to the world about our community, or a story of their own life. They love what they do and rapping is truly a creative art to them.