It’s hardly any secret that being black in any white racist society is complicated. Sometimes it can be a hazard. The world around you sees how awful you are first, and your humanity last, if it chooses to see your humanity. It will not hesitate to exploit your problems to prove how loathsome you are as a people. And to further rub salt into the wound, it turns what you are into a pathology. Your dark melanin skin is seen as a disease of a punishment from a white male god.
All of this anti-black hatred is enough to make you wanna holler. You want to resist these constant unrelenting messages, but the fight is ongoing. Sometimes you reach a point where you are too tired to fight anymore. So, you may give up and give in to the hate, internalize it and allow it to shatter your self-esteem. You conclude that to be black is indeed a curse and that you wish your Creator didn’t make you this way.
“The issue of black self-hatred is something I am supposed to pretend does not exist. However, the great French psychiatrist Frantz Fanon wrote about this issue in his ground breaking book Black Skin White Masks in a chapter called “the Lived Experience of the Black Man”. According to Fanon, the black man is viewed in the third person, and he isn’t seen as a three-dimensional human being. The black man internalizes the perspectives of white society and its negative thoughts about blackness affect his psyche. In the chapter, Fanon discusses a white child calling him the “N word” and how he becomes cognizant of how he is different and viewed as someone people should fear.”
Such is the case with writer Orville Lloyd Douglas, a Black Canadian male, who wrote an article for the Guardian expressing his disdain for being a black male in Canada…Oh wait, you thought Canada was more open and tolerant in race relations? Like I said, in any white dominated society, being black is complicated.
Douglas opens with his own experiences traveling in a bus, street car or a train. He wonders about why there’s always an extra seat next to him. According to Douglas’ sister it is because people are afraid of him because he’s a six-foot tall black man with broad shoulders.
I’m sure there’s no need to remind you that the fear of black men has been around since before any of us or our parents were even born, and that fear is largely unsound and hyper-exaggerated. But even so, this fear is powerful enough to cross racial boundaries and time. It’s no secret you have black folks scared of black men as well.
Yet, there are black men who are suffering from self-hatred, as Douglas points out, and there is more of them then we would like to believe:
“A lot of black men don’t want to acknowledge the feelings of disgust we have for ourselves. It is considered emasculating to even admit the existence of such thoughts. I think my own self-hated manifests from the exterior, from the outside world. It is born out of the despair and the unhappiness I see within a lot of young black men.”
Douglas has conceded with Canadian society’s hatred for black males and have decided that being one is pure hell:
“I can honestly say I hate being a black male. Although black people like to wax poetic about loving their label I hate “being black”. I just don’t fit into a neat category of the stereotypical views people have of black men. In popular culture black men are recognized in three areas: sports, crime, and entertainment. I hate rap music, I hate most sports, and I like listening to rock music such as PJ Harvey, Morrissey, and Tracy Chapman. I have nothing in common with the archetypes about the black male.
There is so much negativity and criminal suspicion associated with being a black male in Toronto. Yet, I don’t have a criminal record, and I certainly don’t associate with criminals. In fact, I abhor violence, and I resent being compared to young black males (or young people of any race) who are lazy, not disciplined, or delinquent. Usually, when black male youth are discussed in Toronto, it is about something going wrong.
Honestly, who would want to be black? Who would want people to be terrified of you and not want to sit next to you on public transportation?
Who would want to have this dark skin, broad nose, large thick lips, and wake up in the morning being despised by the rest of the world?
A lot of the time I feel like my skin color is like my personal prison, something that I have no control over, for I am judged just because of the way I look.”
After reading this, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the brotha. Yet, I have mixed feelings around his attitude about black men and the connections it has with his own depression.
Speaking as a black man myself, I admit that I struggle with this war against my basic humanity. I too get tired of having to fight the messages that we are one huge monolith of subhumans. But I also remember not to believe that we are monolith to begin with. Sure, we have individuals within our group that are messed up, who act the fool and ruin lives, but they are just that. Individuals. They do not represent who or what I am because I, like Mr. Douglas, do not have a criminal record and do not celebrate violence.
Although I admit that I kinda like sports, but I’m not good at basketball or football – not good at all. Living in America, as a black man, you’re virtually expected to excel in sports, particularly basketball and football. But guess what, not all of us are into sports or are gifted in sports.
This is what I mean by our individualism. We all do not like or hate the same things. We all have different interests to different topics. And we all do not think the same way.
Black males come in all shapes, sizes, backgrounds and personalities. There are rich black men, poor black men and in-between black men. There are democratic, republican, independent and any-other-political-party black men. There are heterosexual, homosexual and bisexual black men. There are dark skin, brown skin and light skin black men. There are black male doctors, lawyers, race car drivers, pilots, scientists, inventors, construction workers, CEOs, judges, police, soldiers, rappers, song writers, comedians, athletes, celebrities, activists, politicians, college graduates, geniuses, etc.
Of course, you have black male robbers, rapists, serial killers, embezzlers, crooked politicians, wife beaters, and mass murderers. But you also have black men who are against violence against themselves, black women, black youth and human beings. Period.
In short, we’re all a diverse set of human beings.
Hell yes. It’s hard being a black man in America, Canada, the United Kingdom or anywhere else. The world chooses to only pay attention to the less-than-reputable among us mostly to build up the self-esteems nonblacks.
By being you, you already shatter racist stereotypes. You’re showing that being black is a part of who you are and not what the world thinks of you. It’s tough not to give in to the hate. But always remember that you are an individual and black men are not a monolith. My only word of advice to Mr. Douglas, from one brotha to another, is to be the best you you can be, and know that despite what the world thinks and says, you and all other black men on this Earth, are fully-functional human beings.