MADE By Causeraysaid.com
It’s hard being a black man. The world around us doesn’t see our worth at the same time many of us don’t see our own value either. During a time where it seems impossible to love ourselves, it’s important that we never doubt who we are and the value we add to the world. But at the same time, we ‘gotta practice more discernment on what we allow ourselves to be subjected to as well.
Let cultural and societal norms tell it, we can’t smile, we can’t show emotion, we can’t get tired, we can’t laugh, we can’t drive, we can’t seek help after a car accident, we can’t listen to loud music, we can’t give out hugs, and the list goes on and on. This is why lots of people inside and outside the culture see us as inhumane and incapable of being held to the same level as other races. I mean, who’d want to be a black man after hearing all that comes with it? I do.
Don’t get it twisted, I love being a black man, all things considered. However, I’ve made up in my mind that with all that society reminds me I’m not, I have to live my life in a way that reminds them of everything I am; a king. And as a king, we are entitled to the following…
7). You’re allowed to hug your brothers.
No, I’m not talking about the half hug that involves you first gripping hands with your bro, coming close and giving one another a pat on the back before separating. I’m talking about a legitimate, two armed hug. It seems like since birth, we’ve (black men) been conditioned to think that “real” hugs are not manly and that they should only be reserved from mom, grandma and the annoying auntie with the mints and lipstick that insists on giving you a kiss on the cheek. That’s not true, though.
Did you know that hugs are a form of affection that are proven to not only reduce stress, but they can also lower blood pressure and reduce worry and mortality rates? Take a second and think about how you greet your brothers when you see them. Do you give legitimate hugs or half hugs? If you only do half ones, why is that? Is there a specific reason or is it just ‘outta habit? Do you give two armed hugs to elderly black brothers like your grandpa and reserve the “dap-and-pat” hugs for younger, more socially immersed brothers? It’s my belief that answering simple questions like this about self and why we as black men do what we do regarding hugs specifically would be essential in possibly helping to illegitimize ridiculous societal constructs on what constitutes being a black man.
6). You’re allowed to smile.
Somewhere along the lines, most black men were taught early on that smiling is a sign of weakness and vulnerability. But I don’t think this is the case. The way I see it, life is to great of a gift for me not to smile every chance that I get. Sure, sometimes I opt for the more serious, stoic look. But for the most part, I smile when I’m taking pictures and I try to keep a smile on my face in my day-to-day life. There’s more than enough negative images out there already about the black brute that cause many of those outside (and in some cases, inside) the culture to fear us. It’s not my intent to give people yet another reason to fear me. If I had to condense this sentiment into one, clear statement, I’d ask that we as black men cut it out with the hyper masculinity and learn to view a smile as a sign of happiness and not as a physical depiction of the cracks in your self esteem and ability to defend yourself.
5). You’re allowed to cry.
People cry for many different reasons. Some cry when they are exceedingly happy. Others cry when they are angry and some cry when they are sad. Men, however (especially black men), are held to a different societal standard. We are trained from the beginning to either cry in our own privacy and seclusion or don’t cry at all. And why? You guessed it…because it’s a threat to our masculinity of course. It seems that for us, it’s only acceptable to cry in seasons of extreme tragedy. Otherwise, you can keep those tears to yourself. Now, while I agree that we as black men are allowed to cry because it’s a natural human response in most cases, I do see the validity in black men needing to know when to allow their emotions to show.
As black men, we should aspire to be the head of our household. With that comes much responsibility. There may be times where we want to cry, but we can’t because it’ll be counterproductive to what needs to get done. As the head of our families, there will be times where our wives and children will need to lean on us, that’s a given. However, learning to control when to allow your emotions to show is different from making the choice to be emotionless. Black, white, blue or green…a man is still a human.
4). You’re allowed to get tired.
Speaking of black men still being humans, another natural occurrence with the human body is being tired. Despite what you may have heard, it’s ok to be tired. Sometimes, our bodies physically just can’t go any further, regardless of how mentally dedicated we may be to seeing something through. Making a declarative statement that you are tired is not a sign of weakness, it’s an acknowledgement that you are aware of your body and therefore, your actions afterward should follow suit. You can’t be of service to your family or your job if you’re burnt out to the extent that you can no longer properly function, ya know? Just because you are tired doesn’t mean you are lazy, it means you’re tired. There’s a difference between being tired and being lazy. Laziness is a choice.
3). You’re allowed to not be interested in watching sports.
Sports are great. They build comradery amongst brothers and give us a sense of community. Not to mention, some even argue that watching sports help to keep the mind active. But understand this, watching sports is not the only way for black men to build comradery and experience a sense of community. Society has taught us that if we don’t watch sports, we lack testosterone; this mindset is one of the many misconceptions revolving black masculinity. Not to mention, watching sports is a form of spectatorship. Spectatorship doesn’t require testosterone, physically playing the game does. Not being interested in watching sports doesn’t make you less of a man. If it doesn’t interest you, it doesn’t interest you. At the end of the day, your masculinity is not on trial unless you allow it to be.
2). You’re allowed to not know the answer to everything.
Am I the only one who has had someone ask me for directions and I didn’t know the answer but I gave them directions anyway? Maybe I am, oh well. But, at least I don’t do that anymore. Nowadays, if I don’t know the answer, whether that be at work or in my personal life, I am more comfortable with saying that I don’t know. I won’t lie, ignorance can sometimes be associated with weakness. However, it should never be associated with a lack of masculinity.
See, the opposite of masculinity is not weakness. It’s femininity. The misunderstanding between the two comes because society has basically taught us that women are weak, which is another topic for another blog. Therefore, if femininity is synonymous with weakness, the opposite of masculinity is weakness. And that my friends, is not true. Not knowing the answer to something doesn’t make you weak. However, lying about your ignorance because you’re embarrassed by it does arguably make you weak. You can’t change something you refuse to confront. If you don’t know the answer, find it out. Don’t make something up on the fly. That’s the true test of a man, understanding that he’s always a student, even as he teaches. It sounds so simple but believe me, it’s not as easy as it may seem.
1). You’re allowed to compliment a fellow brother.
I’m talking about legitimately complimenting one another, not insulting each other as a way of allegedly building each other up. Often times, phrases like “you think you on”, “you got ya good church clothes on today” or something of the sort replace phrases like, “that’s a nice suit, man”, or “the tie is dope, where’d you get it?” while I’m not saying black men as a whole don’t complement each other, I do think there’s still a underlying thought that paying a compliment to another guy is a form of weakness. ‘Lemme give you an example of what I’m talking about.
If you see a brother with a nice suit, it’s ok to compliment the suit. If you see a brother working hard in his chosen profession to get ahead, it’s ok to acknowledge that brother’s work. Women complement one another all the time and it’s fine. But, if a man does it it’s seen as what? A problem? A lack of masculinity? A sign of weakness? To be honest, I don’t even know how to word what it’s viewed as, but hopefully ya’ll get the picture. Essentially, all I’m trying to say is… A compliment amongst brethren is a form of building one another up, which is especially important in today’s society, which blatantly seeks to break us down.