Black men are some of the most creative and ever evolving minds on this Earth. Black men have invented some of the most important inventions that Americans use today. Black men are some of the most educated and dedicated to learning and spreading knowledge (despite what society wants us to believe there are 59% more black men in postsecondary education than jail) Black men have been on the forefront of our liberation since black liberation began and have been some of the greatest social revolutionaries and innovators to modern society. So when you have these men that contribute so much greatness to society there’s always gonna be a downside, and that downside is how our black men have been hypermasculinized by our own community and others outside of it. We hold black men to a dangerous standard of being overly masculine to the point that they cant even live life, express themselves, or do normal things without being challenged socially about their appearance, sexuality, or validity as a man, while men of other races can freely express themselves and be seen as liberal and artistic.
So what is exactly is hypermasculinity? We see this word in articles across the internet everyday. Its used so freely on social media it has become a norm. Hypermasculinity is described as a psychological term for the exaggeration of male stereotypical behavior, such as an emphasis on physical strength, aggression, and sexuality. Hypermasculinity has been criticized globally by numerous social activist movements as contributing to rape culture, low self esteem and body dysmorphia in men, violence against women and the gay community, and the murders of trans women. We see hypermasculinity everyday in the media, advertisements, and TV commercials. (most notably the widely criticized Summers Eve commercial “Manly Mistake”) Hypermascunlinity has become such an issue to society that men in 2016 are held to outrageous standards in order to “reclaim” masculinity, because men these days feel because of the growing public acceptance of gay men and or men just embracing femininity that there is an attack on masculinity and that they have to defend masculinity, but how does all this affect black men specifically?
Hypermasculinity in black men dates all the way back to slavery. Black males were hypermasculinized by slave owners to be seen as brick walls, good for hard labor and heavy lifting. Slave auctioneers didnt want the male slaves they were selling to appear soft by any means because that would mean buyers wouldn’t have a hard worker on their hands and it would be more difficult to sell a weak looking male slave or they would have to lower prices to come to a deal for him to be a house slave or something of lesser or equal value. A strong black man with no emotions who ready to obey the orders of their master at any minute was a slave owners dream. Horror stories of black male slaves that were seen as “too weak” or “too feminine” were beaten, raped, and or killed unless they found a way to force themselves to adapt to being the hard as stone black male slave owners wanted. After slavery was outlawed this mentality of viewing black men as muscular beasts only useful for their strength morphed into a racist fear of black men that still impacts us today. Black men are seen as inherently dangerous to white and non black POC simply because of these ideals that stem from slavery. Because of this viewpoint of black men they are immediately assumed and mistaken as criminals by police. They are immediately seen as suspicious when they walk into a store. They are immediately presumed to be ready to attack someone just for wearing a hoodie in public and this thought process that a black man has to be hard as steel with no emotions that is perpetuated by black and non black people is getting our boys and men killed (or having them kill themselves) Its making black men appear to be inherently dangerous and up to no good to society and devaluing us down to something who will be nothing but a criminal who fails out of school and ends up in jail.
So what can we do to shift this narrative? Show society that there’s more to black men than being the poster for “masculinity” Its a problem when a man cant even wear certain colors or eat certain foods without being called gay. Its a problem when men seriously think showing a woman affection is feminine and gay and a huge reason why the culture of black men disrespecting black women is so normalized. Its a problem when Michael B. Jordan cant even pose for a picture with Ryan Coogler without all of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram wondering “Is he gay now?” and questioning his manhood. Hypermasculinity affects ALL men, but black men get the shortest end of the stick with it because of how it ties into our oppression, and I challenge us to change this. Let black men have emotions. Let little black boys be soft, let them cry, let them have feelings without criticizing them as being weak or not a real man so they can grow up into a black man who doesnt run away from all of his feelings and responsibilities. Let black men express themselves appearance wise and be something other than the bland watered down norm we are expected to be without calling them gay or telling they are weak and slandering them into toning down their creativity while letting men of other races be crowned as revolutionaries and game changers for doing the same. Let black men be feminine or masculine if they want to (because there is absolutely nothing wrong with a normal, healthy, natrual, amount of masculinity that isn’t forced by outside influence) Let black men dream. Let black men be something other than a statistic you’ve already set them out to be in your head. Let black men LIVE.