WILL SMITH: Does he Represent the Dichotomous Black American Male Image Issue?
This is a LONG ARTICLE and probably the BEST or MOST SIGNIFICANT ONE that I will have WRITTEN in my LIFETIME, not only because I am a BLACK MAN, and it is about Black man, but also it is a topic that is a core part of my ministries, thus one that I have had so much time to reflect on... i.e., what does it mean to be a Black American man? PLEASE DO YOURSELF and YOUR SOCIETY AT LARGE A FAVOR. Read it in its ENTIRETY. And like good bitter medicine, may GOD allow it to EDIFY US ALL.
Clearly many other groups on Earth have been more VIOLENT than Black American men… however, what started out as myths became self-fulfilling prophecies when they got compounded with White-induced disenfranchisements, lack of self-respect/love, and non-testosterone boosting opportunities in his neighborhood, upbringing and schooling, inducing a young Black man (especially between 17 and 25) to more often than not feel like he has to resort to stereotypes by which he is expected to live both by the mainstream and his peers and society in order to identify as a REAL BLACK MAN (whatever that is supposed to mean). TO me, it means "carrying one's race on one's shoulder"... and not only SELF-LIMITING but also SELF-DESTROYING. There is nothing wrong about being PROUD of one's race, but it is certainly wrong to DESTROY another person with whom one shares resemblance with self-equity or self-worth as the underlying cause, to the point that NO LEVEL OF ACHIEVEMENT can render another's opinion about one's life pointless and insignificant. The latter is both a SELF-ESTEEM and SELF-CONCEPT problem or flaw.
The late rapper known as “2PAC” famously uttered why he found himself hanging out with thugs, criminals, and violent dudes:
“… even though they sold drugs, they showed a young brother LOVE!”
Clearly, “LOVE” is a missing link in the lives of far too many who cling to drugs, criminal behavior, and VIOLENCE.
However, I am not writing this article to discuss the “LOVE” that far too many young Black males never get to feel either because of “father absenteeism” or simply not feeling loved by loved ones or even society at large UNLESS they fall in certain categories based on their PHYSICALITY/MASCULINITY or NET-WORTH or SWAGGER or OTHER ENTERTAINMENT-DRIVEN ENDEAVORS and those attributes often go together. Since RESPECT is rarely given based on a young Black man’s race, it is typically earned physically (rather than mentally) through other means, including VIOLENCE by showing who is the “BADDEST” (i.e., more ruthlessly VIOLENT enough to create more heartaches in their communities, particularly between the ages of 15 and 25.) How about who is better equipped to lead the community? How about whose ideas will revolutionize antidotes to disenfranchisement and motivate young Black man to compete in science, engineering, entrepreneurship etc. But NO, NO, NO... those things are too WHITE-LIKE, but VIOLENCE isn't? (Laughing Out loud! -- a brief review of history would prove otherwise.)
The Dichotomous Black Male Fall issue falls into two categories:
(1) He is or is viewed as PHYSICALLY GIFTED and STRONG and OFTEN VIEWED AS A SEXUAL IMAGE and the focus is rarely on his mental attributes or aspirations especially since culturally he has been often CONDITIONED to view mental focuses as “non-physical” (i.e., non-masculine, sissy-like or even White-like). Therefore, he relies to VIOLENT BEHAVIOR to gain his masculinity as opposed to choosing to outmaneuvering his foes or adversities mentally or psychologically, OR
(2) He is MENTALLY or INTELLECTUALLY GIFTED, yet he hides it to focus on other things that appear to be more MASCULINE to please his peers (i.e., peer pressure) and might even resort to secretly practicing his intellectual gifts outside of his own community in order not to be categorized as “ACTING WHITE” among other things. He understands that being Black is viewed as being MASCULINE and is willing to (PHYSICALLY and often VIOLENTLY) DEFEND himself and his loved ones as opposed to doing so mentally or legally. The latter is how he is viewed to gain respect, by showing lack of fear and upping whatever violent behavior that the other guy previously displayed… a potentially never-ending cycle. With the victim being the Black community at large because WITHOUT solid BLACK MEN we cannot have SOLID BLACK FAMILIES.
This dichotomy never seems to leave most Black American men (especially those who were born and raised in America.) They feel DISRESPECTED easily and far too often resort to VIOLENCE to gain respect. And it takes a BLACK MAN who has gone through spiritual and mental paradigm shifts to desire to let things go, and not feel compelled to go for revenge and often do so violently because it is just the way it’s supposed to be done. I have seen grown Black American men resort to discarding the very people that they had initially intended to edify because of one disagreement or one difference of opinion. I’m referring to men that could have teamed up to help their communities, yet they rather allowed that same dichotomy to work toward disfavoring potential collaborative efforts in their communities to often focus on legalism and religious (rather than spiritual) principles that will not attrack young Black men into spirituality or the church.
As a strict disciplinarian, my father used to PHYSICALLY PUNISH children until they bled, and often did so VIOLENTLY and he had my late Brother and I and many children in his orphanages on which to use his violent approach to discipline. He applied the latter once on me and I know he did it for the wrong reasons, and thus I confronted him and he apologized even though I was much smaller, and as a youngster to me he was a PHYSICALLY STRONG, DARK, and IMPOSING. I understood that I could only counter his physicality and violence MENTALLY or INTELLECTUALLY by appealing to his conscience and that was my first MENTAL EXERCISE victory. I realized that I was able to control my ruthlessly strict father’s behavior with tact, mental strategies rather than counter him physically and through screaming back at him or blocking his blows like my brother did. I fared better than my late brother did, only got disciplined once was my father’s favorite as a result.
WHEN an average Black MAN FAILS TO GET HIS WAY MENTALLY OR INTELLECTUALLY, and becomes FRUSRATED, he tends to be expected to resort to VIOLENCE to impose his will to get as to get HIS WAY as to gain the RESPECT that was not earned mentally or intellectually. This is one of the reasons why in 1980 100,000 Black American males were involved in the penal system; and it has been getting worse with more than 1.3 million in 2006 (i.e., 33% of Blacks American males) and it was expected to reach 66.6% by 2021 (i.e., 2 in every 3 Black males.) This is a culture that has been glorified by HIP HOP which turns an unfortunate situation into a positive with Young Black males comparing their prison records as if they were comparing academic and business credentials to prove the level of ruthlessness that they can reach in their violence (i.e., “how HARD” they are.)
It is the battle between MISLED/TOXIC MASCULINITY and VIOLENCE… and the battle that a seemingly POLISHED BLACK MEN who had transcended hip-hop and acting and was even about to get the best honor that one can get in his career, namely WILL SMITH, could not overcome because it is so imbedded in his psychology that he was subjected to automaticity when he felt like his MISLED MASCULINITY was questioned.
Undoubtedly, slavery plays a role with Black American men. But it can happen to ANY MAN who fails to approach things intellectually (e.g., Vladimir Putin and the Ukraine crisis). When one starts feeling disrespected and fails to approach things in a reasonable way mentally, he will often resort to VIOLENT or PHYSICAL measure often to his own detriment to achieve his MISLED version of STRENGTH or MASCULINITY (i.e., Toxic Masculinity).
== SOLUTIONS ANYONE???? ==
A different form of Black male strength is needed… a more INTELLECTUAL, NON-VIOLENT, EMPATHETIC, LOVE-CENTRIC, and SPIRITUAL type of MASCULINITY is needed. And there is still a good percentage of Black men that seem to be practicing the latter. However, the latter has been shrinking generationally.
There needs to be a paradigm SHIFT… there must be SWAG linked to INTELLECTUAL DIALOGUES as opposed to GUN and FIST FIGHTS. It has to happen at the vulnerable ages with LOVE being shared by the people that should share them so that our BOYS would not have to resort to hanging around THUGS in order to FEEL LIKE MEN via a MISLED TESTOSTERONE RUSH just to feel MASCULINE.
We need young Black men who are believers in GOD, who understand the meaning of “FAITH” so that they can reach any goals in life including that of LOVING, NURTURING and PROTETING their LOVED ONES.
How many young Black men that could have become lawyers, doctors, engineers, and legitimate businessmen did we lose because they did not want to be perceived as “White Like”, “Sissy boys” etc.?
How many young Black men got stuck in the routine of hiding their true aspirations behind a FAKE MASCULINITY (“being HARD”) façade because in their minds it is the only way of being a REAL MAN?
How many young Black men got stuck in the “HEAD NEGRO IN CHIEF(“HNIC”) syndrome (that their parents inherited from the slavery days) and lost their lives and ended up wasting many years in the penal system only because they wanted to “OUTHARD” other young Black men?
How many Black men failed to work with or respect their elders and predecessors in their professions and fell prey to toxic masculinity only to lose it all?
The latter is the same reason why WILL SMITH felt comfortable enough to walk on stage on national television, on perhaps his most glorious night to punch another equally successful BLACK MAN because, in his head, at that moment his MISLED MASCULINTY was more important to him than his “WHITE-LIKE ACHIEVEMENTS”. His true reasons behind his achievements came out… he wanted to be the “HNIC” of the show and prove to his JADA, himself and the World that he would not accept disrespect and the only way he felt like he could deal with it was not through his acceptance speech or a post-Oscar communication to Rock, but through the only thing that FEELS super good to his soul – namely VIOLENCE as his community and culture (as expected by mainstream stereotypes as well) taught him that it is the best way to prove a Black man’s MASCULINITY.
Forget about Rock’s heroic NON-VIOLENT REACTION under the circumstances which would have made matters really worse. Forget about Dr. King’s NON-VIOLENCE MOVEMENT… simply TRASH IT ALL on the biggest highlighting stage possible, then cry like a “SISSY” which IRONICALLY was the very thing that the culture taught him to avoid.
CLEARLY men like Will Smith need GOD… and the best time to introduce them to GOD is at their most young and vulnerable age. The CHURCH can help, but it cannot be so boring to young Black men… it must appeal to their sense of manhood and desire to feel important and special and guide their “king driven” mentality to having empathy for their communities instead of creating havoc in them… it cannot be about outshining or outshooting each other or discarding each other when disagreements take place or violently disrespecting or even killing each other when we feel disrespected.
Without truly mature Black men whose masculinities are not misled and skewed we’ll never have SOLID BLACK COMMUNITIES. We need Black men that love other Black men and support them as role models… not slapping them in public when they would not have slapped a White person who made the same or worse comment.
We need LOVE… and RESPECT for each other… we can’t glorify disrespect in our music, belittle our community leaders, glorify entertainment over community organization or structure and expect to raise BLACK MEN that will be FAMILY DRIVEN. Even after SLAVERY, Black men were focused on their families, so it cannot be blamed on slavery.
VIOLENCE has been glorified and those that live it fantasize about it so that it becomes normal even for those that are perceived to be the highest achieving ones of us.
It is UNACCEPTABLE, EMBARASSING and quite frankly STUPID! We need to change it… we need properly guided love in our families… we need more fun activities in our neighborhoods and churches. We need to give our young boys so much LOVE that they won’t have to hang out with thugs or listen to only VIOLENCE-filled and WOMEN-demeaning music created by thugs to feel their MASCULINITY... after all such music is mostly created by thugs that were trying to deal with their own TOXIC MASCULINITY. There may be a time for any time of music, but an excessive use of a genre of music that demean every aspect of a community will normalize certain behaviors as well. In a nutshell, we need MASCULINITY (the Testosterone Rush) to help men LOVE and PROTECT, however we we want that to happen in a NON-TOXIC (or Non-Self-defeating) WAY!
After all, America did remove a great deal of MENTAL and INTELLECTUAL MASCULINITY from the Black man so that he felt like the only way he could feel express HIS MASCULINITY was in clearly DEFINED AREAS in which the White man either could not or would not or did not want to DOMINATE (e.g., SPORTS, MUSIC, ENTERTAINMENT and VIOLENCE in his own neighborhood, and of course even VIOLENCE at the OSCARS, which was a SLAP on the face of the Black community at large, but particularly Black men (with a grown Black man slapping another grown Black men in front of the whole wide World).
The disrespect needs to be stopped and replaced with understanding, forgiveness, love, and respect. WOMEN should not tolerate men that call them derogatory names and should not call themselves such names either. I certainly could never call a woman "MY BITCH" because I could not stand having anyone call MY MOTHER or DAUGHTER by such a term. Every woman is somebody's MOTHER or DAUGHTER. Right?
LASTLY, we need to LOVE and FORGIVE and I will start by personally FORGIVING Brother Smith and hope that someone will share this article with him. However this much be a TEACHABLE or TEACHING MOMENT FOR BLACK MEN or even MEN AT LARGE.
We already have an image that has been tarnished and to a great extent misrepresented by Stereotypes that were either the results of past hatred or induced by the latter. Here is a man who was REPRESENTING A BLACK MAN who fought for this daughters in conditions that NO HUMAN BEING SHOULD HAVE BEEN LIVING IN and found a way to MENTALLY train them to overcome all obstacles and stereotypes to become the BEST OF THEIR FIELDS, yet, he himself represented the Worst of us on the day of accepting the honor to represent one of the BEST ONES OF US (i.e.. PAPA RICHARD WILLIAMS, an inspiration not only for Black fathers but for fathers at large.)
We don't need to add to such stereotypes especially through those that should at least be representative of the cream of our crops. I know I am usually personally rooting for every Black man to succeed in worthwhile endeavors and when a seemingly DECENT BLACK MAN commits a BLUNDER (especially unnecessarily) I feel it as if I had done it myself. There are MANY RICHARD WILLIAMSs out there who fight for their families' or their children's glory and honor. I AM ONE OF THEM. I have sacrificed a lot for my Children and would have probably left this country a long time ago had it not been for the love I have for them because of circumstances that I had found myself into at a young age. I am known to have called many fellow Black men who screwed up in one way or another to show them love and encourage them. They are part of my MINISTRIES that have focused on helping Black men (especially young Black men) for the past 8 years. I have helped many Black men that became homeless or disillusioned. I understand how it can easily happen because of TOXIC MASCULINITY or MISGUIDED EGOES. I was also a victim of those in my younger years despite being a "GOOD DUDE" who was raised by ANGELS (i.e., my amazing parents , Aunty Marie, Uncle Toto and Ms. Paulina, people that I respected and loved who taught me the meaning of life and love). I still have never called a WOMAN a BITCH. I just cannot. I have too much respect for WOMEN.
Anyhow, since I don't know Brother Smith, I have to talk to him and the large Black male population through this article using my own diluted language and style as an intellectual. Brother Smith needs to understand how many young Black boys look up to successful Black men when they become extremely successful in their crafts. He and others cannot state that "they are not paid to be role models after they screw up." In the spirit of this article and using the spirit of God, I will find it in me to FORGIVE and LOVE BROTHER SMITH again. However, he must truly REPENT and understand the SOURCE OF THE DEMONS that induced him to act so irrationally as succinctly explained in this article. He felt to face his own DEMONS and find help to eradicate them and thus felt PREY to them on potentially his own best glorious night. It is God's way of HIGHLIGHTING his BLUNDER and is representative of the BLUNDERS that far too many of us have made as BLACK MEN (including me). But we must learn from them and change our ways else we'll be our worst enemies by self-defeating and falling prey to them like he did.
Had Brother Will Smith forgiven Chris Rock for presumably offending his feelings or striking a nerve, he would not have reacted the way he did (i.e., VIOLENTLY and through the use of his DEFAULT CULTURALLY- induced use of language around people that would probably not use such language even in private not only at the Oscars but also Word Wide). Moreover, he would not have reacted that way had he had more subconscious respect for himself and Chris Rock or any other Black men. I highly doubt he would have done it had Rock been White or even Latino or Asian. We must incorporate such attributes (i.e., love and forgiveness) in our young Black men at a VERY YOUNG AGE or else we (or our communities) are doomed!
I am not going to say that "WE NEED JESUS" because a great percentage of us are not Christians... but we DO NEED GOD or SPIRITUTALITY back in Black communities... we need to see each other as LOVED and BELOVED ONES as opposed to just mere "niggas"... I am not against the use of the term if it is used to display love and dilute its past use. I have personally used it affectionately and see it as positive aspect of that culture, which took a negative and turned into a positive. However, no one can get me to call women "BITCHES"... I immediately think of MY MOTHER and DAUGHTERS and other women that I love and respect.
ONE LAST NOTE ABOUT BLACK MEN and to BLACKS and NON-BLACKS:
I love Black men not just because I am Black. But, I simply love their SWAG, DEEP VOICE, SKIN TONE, MANLINESS, and KING MENTALITY whether they are rich or poor. However, I don't like the stereotypes that have been attached to Black men by those who did not want them to occupy their space as the other ALPHA MALE. What society at large must realize is that a BLACK MAN without money still has more SWAG than most other men with MONEY. So, he can eventually end up with ANY WOMAN of ANY RACE on any given day. Therefore, if this BLACK MAN ends up with your daughter, no matter what her race is, you want him to be able to take care of his family. You should not disenfranchise him (i.e., yet secretly adore his physicality, poetry, music and swag in private) either because of your own insecurities in your own masculinity or your inherited bigotry. You should not promote behaviors that only attach negative stereotypes to him.
IN A NUTSHELL, we (society at large) need to stop promoting TOXIC BLACK MALE MASCULINITY because there is NOTHING MORE MASCULINE, LOVING, SENSUAL, and PROTECTIVE ON EARTH than NON-TOXIC and MATURE BLACK MALE MASCULINITY. Society at large can benefit it from it. I saw it in my own amazing late FATHER... the way he carried me on his shoulders on rainy days, cleaned my face, washed me, kept his promises to me, and simply respected me to the point that he called me "HIS HERO" when I was 30 years of age... the LOVE I felt from him is still the most remarkable experience of my life... and it is the SAME LOVE that I share with my children today -- minus the STRICT DISCIPLINARIAN APPROACH. I can only wish the same for ALL MEN and especially BLACK MEN AT LARGE!
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