When I was a teenager, in the 1980's, it was important to me [and my buddies] to be a Manly Man.
Please note that I didn't just say, "to be a man" - I said, to be a MANLY MAN.
I lifted weights so my body was muscular, I kept my hair and mustache trimmed neatly so I always looked dapper, I always walked with my head up and my shoulders squared, so I looked strong and ready, and I never did anything that would be considered [even remotely] feminine or girly. None of this took any particular effort, because I was a boy/young man and it just came natural and I didn't really believe I had any girlish tendencies, so - I was just ME. A young man, being manly.
But, this weekend I saw a teenaged boy, a young Black kid, about 16 or 17 and he was wearing a "Rugrats" backpack. It was a bright yellow backpack, one of the new small backpacks just big enough to store a small lunchbox. By the way - RUGRATS is a cartoon that is popular with 5 to 7 year old kids. He was wearing this backpack and chillin' like nothing was unusual. I tried to get his attention so I could ask him why he was wearing a 6 year old girls backpack, but I didn't have a good opportunity. Sure, somebody might say, he was wearing it because he likes it - my retort would be, why does a 17 year old boy like a 6 year old girls backpack? Why is he avoiding the call to be a Manly Man?
Here are a few more examples of young males, more specifically our young Black males seeming to try and avoid, duck and dodge, what I personally thought was a natural desire to be a Manly Man:
- A few weeks ago, I noticed a young Brother, probably in his late twenties wearing a big red Snoopy backpack. To me [please note I said, TO ME] this looked rediculously childish.
- The rapper Cam'ron is trying his damndest to make pink the next black among young Black men. There are lots of photos around of him in pink leather, pink fur and pink outfits. Please Cam'ron, quit trying to confuse our young men into thinking pink worn as promanently as black or blue is manly. It is not. They, and you look like damn fools.
- This weekend I saw this big hulking dude walking down the street with these two huge afro-puffs in his hair. He looked like a 6 foot 4 inch 400 pound Mickey Mouse Club reject.
- This one isn't an everyday event, but we've all seen it - in the rough and tough sport of football you always seem to have the Brothers that score a touchdown and the first thing they start doing is prancing around, wiggling their asses, and fluttering about in the endzone. This is one of the most manly sports in the world, and yet you have this crazy number of guys that do something big and the first thing they want to do is prance around like a bunch of Frilly Kansas City Showgirls!
Look - I can go on and on, but I won't. The point I'm trying so windfully to get across is - I feel like there is a strong undercurrent within the Black community to emasculate our young Black men. Okay - sure, I'm not the fisrt person to say that, but I do think this emasculation transends the violence, abandonment, and self loathing we see so much of. I think this process is as clear as day in the way that so many of our young men carry themselves in their daily lives.
First there were the earrings, old school guys frowned upon this fad, but for some reason it blew up in the early 90's - almost all the brothers had to have one. Then the baggy pants hanging off the ass phenomenom kicked in. Ex-cons brought this beltless, drawers showing habit into 'the hood' and it spread like wildfire. I have heard a million times that the flagrant homosexuals behind bars use this style of pants wearing as a sign of their open-ness to sex. Again, this is what I've heard. But for some reason, the homeboys liked the look and embraced it with vigor. Then the braids and cornrows and twists all these different hairstyles popped up on every damn corner in our neighborhoods. I'm not what I would call old, but damn - I have an old school attitude about this, all these twists and braids and shit are GIRLY! There is nothing manly about having your hair all made up with beads and clam shells and colors and all this kinda' crap. It is amazing to me that these poor guys think sitting down on the front porch and having their sister pick their hair out and then braid it up nice and pretty is manly. Guys - your hair should NOT look cuter than your girlfriends.
Now, I'm not saying that every man with an earring, or braids or pink dress shirts is gay or effeminant - but what I AM saying, is that over the last 20 years there has been a significant watering down of what it means to be a MANLY BLACK MAN. A large number of our men are embracing practices and habits that were not too long ago, clearly regarded as feminine. From clothes, to jewelry, to mannerisms, to the desire to look 'pretty' - many [not all] Black men, don't seem to have an ounce of desire to be manly. Just a few years ago - we thought that being MANLY meant being tough, strong, and rugged. Now, we have THUGS that carry guns instead of using their fists, we have BABY DADDIES that abandon their children, we have young males that want to express their individuality by wearing the same braids and white T-shirts as 90% of their contemporaries. I hope this trend is reverseable, I hope Manly Black Men come back in style and all this desire for pretty hairstyles, pink tennis shoes, showing off of underwear to other men, and wearing 2 karot earrings fades away and we see our strong Brothers come back to the fold.
PS> (I read a comment on another blog recently about this phenomenon, and I loved it. It went something like this: "A Christian minister said to his congregation, 'Black people, we used to have hard-working men and pretty women, now we have hard-working women and pretty men. Men, we have to get ourselves together." )