Carefree Black Boys: The Reconstruction of Black Masculinity

Tremaine Nate
Apr 14, 2016 · 5 min read

The work of black feminist thought seeks to create spaces where the most marginalized voices are raised and validated. Black feminism seeks to break down systems that actively oppress black women, and the work that she does. White supremacy has worked against the black community for far too long and has caused a stigma to be attached to black women that has made black men seek to move away from identifying with and creating citation for the cultural productions black women produce. Toxic masculinity can no longer be a characteristic black men occupy and align themselves with as to be pro-black means to participate in a fight for everyone that is black, not just those you deem to be worthy or fit the mold of what you’re trying to portray. The time in which oppressive masculinity has been allowed to live has come to an end, and we can no longer allow cis-gender, heterosexual, able black men to be the speakers for a race if they cannot properly cite the work they learned from. Black women, and quare people have been left out of the academy for too long at the expense of Black men’s work and reputation being tarnished. In order to move away from a masculinity that allows for the erasure of black women and quare people to continue, black people must start deconstructing their past and presenting possibilities for a future that includes citation and inclusion of everyone who they work and produce with.

In 1973, Donald Bogle wrote Toms, Coons, Mullatoes, Mammies and Bucks: An Interpretive History of Blacks in American Film, which discusses the ways black people have been historically portrayed by white American audiences. Each cite he describes is gendered and three of those representations are linked to the male or masculine presenting black body. “All were character types used for the same effect: to entertain by stressing American inferiority.” These caricatures have followed black men into their private and public lives. Due to the ways these exaggerations of the black male have carried themselves into society’s mainstream understanding and treatment of black men, it has been nearly impossible to move away from these stereotypes; therefore, making black men into what they were never originally meant to be, but were rather forced to become. Due to a lack of men standing up to begin creating a masculine culture that is not rooted in American ideals, this misogynistic, oppressive, toxic masculinity has been able to live on. The lack of action to construct a new black manhood has aided in the creation and perpetuation of the hotep, “black men who are only concerned about matters of social justice when it comes to black men and have little or no regard for the health and well-being of other members of the black race unless those people can serve to uphold their misogynistic societal ideas.” The hotep is dangerous as “these men are typically misogynists who display a particularly high level of disrespect for the thoughts, bodies and experiences of black women, black homosexuals and black children. These men regularly espouse anti-intellectual and anti-scientific beliefs about nutrition, women’s menstrual cycles and child development on social media.” Hoteps really take after the idea that bell hooks coined after analyzing Betty Friedan’s The Feminist Mystique, which was white feminism. Straight, cis-gendered, White, middle-class woman were fighting for feminism and women’s rights, but only for themselves, yet claiming it was for all women. The same way white women were only fighting for themselves but saying it was in the names of all women, are the dangers that come about when we allow hoteps to be at the front lines of black liberation movements. These movements are meant for ALL black people, not just a select few, especially not those who face the least amount of discrimination, and don’t account for or care about the experiences of those who are facing marginalization from which white society inflicts. You cannot be pro-Black Lives if you’re homophobic, misogynistic, transphobic or use ablest language.

By freeing the black women, you liberate everyone, everywhere. Black men adopting a black feminist lens allows them to include in their analysis of self, and their social positions, the ways in which they must fight for the freedom of all black people rather than the select few that they identify with. Accounting for intersectionality will bring black men to an understanding of experiences outside of themselves that will inform them of the privileges they work with and how they can learn more by not fighting solely for themselves but for the needs of others who are more oppressed, which is the work that black women are already doing.

The carefree black boy movement gives black men the chance to not just redefine masculinity but to also redefine blackness. Setting the tone for who they are, who they can be, and why they can no longer abide by old standards of what they should live by, the carefree black boy and by extension, black girl, movements redefine what it means to be young and black and free. It gives new life to the ways in which young black people can imagine themselves, and create futures for a new generation of black youth. Young black people have not been given the same freedom as white kids to embrace nonconformity. That inability to explore and experiment has, in many ways, been detrimental. In a society that deems young black men hyper-aggressive, hyper-sexual and hyper-masculine and teaches boys across the spectrum to bury their feelings, being carefree in any capacity is a way to push against those unfair expectations. To be black is to constantly decolonize structures and binaries and make space for everyone to exist. To be carefree is to participate in a longstanding tradition of black radicalism, that stands against the constructs that have prohibited black people from being happy, and now affords, by their own means, a chance to see themselves as no longer being a part of labeled society. Black youth can begin to rather exist right outside of the boxes they’ve been forced into. The construction of a carefree black boy is one of the greatest forms of rebellion black men can show to structures that would rather see them fail.

Black Feminist Thought 2016

Considerations from WGS/AAAS 136

Tremaine Nate

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Black Feminist Thought 2016

Considerations from WGS/AAAS 136