I thought it was another internet prank when people said that Jaden Smith, son of Will SMith and Jada Pinkett, was the new face of Louis Vuitton’s Spring/Summer 2016 women’s collection. That is until I actually went to Louis Vuitton’s site. He is definitely on LV’s payroll. THere is even a 60-second short film, complete with a crew of pale, skinny white girls, wisping away in the sunny Florida breeze. They should really be careful. As tiny as they are, they may dissolve in the humidity or get blown away in a gust.
But there is young Mr. Smith, in the middle of his own gang of pale wood sprites, rocking a skirt and what looks like a wool mesh tank top. Well, I say, good for you, Jaden. Get that bank. You are a...unique...child.
My sentiments are not shared by everyone, though. The reaction to this news was everything from the near-worshipful praise to the visceral warning Homosexual Agenda’s™ march toward of the End of Days.
One article on Huffington Post claimed that this is a new corner to turn in the journey of the #CareFreeBlackBoy, which I didn’t know was a thing. However, Zeba Gray, the author of the article thinks that Jaden’s new career move, plus the adventures of black male bloggers like Brandon Stanciell and James Phlemuns, will usher in a new definition of the black men and black masculinity.
...I don’t think I’d go that far...But again, let them be them. They are doing things that are unconventional, but they are not going to redefine black masculinity, because contrary to 1980s casting lists, there is a myriad of different black people, just like white people.
On the other end of the spectrum, there are those who are so adamantly against this “affront” to their eyes that they promise to murder their own children if they so much as wear a pink sock, let alone an entire dress. The standard Ankh Nigga response is that Jaden Smith, and any straight black man who wears a dress or a fuzzy coat or whatever the hell is succumbing to yet another genocidal plot by our old nemesis, The White Man™. The Ankh Nigga claims that blah blah blah plot to poison our children blah blah yadda yadda make masculinity a bad thing, blah blah blah thereby diminishing our numbers by making us gay, blah blah blah, non-reproduction, “homosexual agenda”, no more black people, The White Man™ wins.
Oh Ankh Nigga, how I miss your incredibly unfocused and head-poundingly stupid misogyny and homophobia. Perhaps I miss you, because I used to be you, but then I used the mind you keep telling others to open.
The truth is that The White Man™ and his cousin, The Homosexual Agenda™ don’t give a shit about us. The White Man™ is too busy siphoning oil from the Middle East and scapegoating Muslims and poisoning poor people and administering policies that have already been in place for years (because they sadly won most of the wars), and The Homosexual Agenda™ wants exactly what black people and women want: to be treated equally as a human being. Put the Ankh down, Ankh Nigga. Stop Ankhin’.
Both arguments revolve around a prevailing entity: Black Masculinity, specifically the American flavor of black masculinity. It’s a special version, but how have we come to evoke this masculinity-on-steroids version of masculinity? What would propel us to be violently averse to any challenge to our perceived manhood, and would make people be intimidated by us, even when we’re just standing around? Mainly, how much of our augmented masculinity is thanks to the effects of the trans-Atlantic slave trade?
Some of the practices of Western hemisphere slavery are brutal beyond belief. Sadly, they happened. The Middle Passage was only one aspect of the conditions of slaves in the Western Hemisphere. People think that being packed like corpses in a ship for months was the worst of it. Even more horrors awaited Africans in the “seasoning” process. Seasoning was how slave owners would “break” their captives, much like the way people speak of “breaking” a wild horse when trying to domesticate it. The difference is that the atrocities done to captured Africans were never enacted on any horse. Men were castrated and had limbs cut off as punishment, in front of everyone, to make an example of them. Some were hanged for minor offenses and left to rot, hanging from trees. Women were repeatedly used as sex objects. Their children were taken away from them, and they were beaten brutally if they cried about it. Black infants were literally used as bait to hunt alligators. Many slaves were branded with red hot irons. With the exception of the branding and the separating of families, no animal would be treated this way in order to ensure the other animals on the farm would stay in line. As much as we like to say that people who did this were of their time, anyone who could do these things to another person without flinching is some sort of sadist. If I believed in hell, I would expect that every overseer and gator hunter is wallowing in the 7th RIng.
In the midst of all of this, black men and women were commonly called bucks and does. Strong field hands were often made to “mate” like bulls to produce more virile progeny. It is a strange case, where the women involved were being sexually assaulted, but the men who were forced to do it lest they be beaten or killed, so they were technically being sexually assaulted as well. Though true that some body types are hereditary, most of the reason that black field hands were so strong was that they had to work or die. Women in society were already not really considered or treated well, so a slave woman was even worse off. Masters had their way with whomever they wanted, and they were “bred” just like the men were. Women were the ones who had to carry the children, wanted or not, to term, only to have them taken away at birth for any reason the masters wished.
Now in modern times, we black men are in an environment where we are seen as slower, dumber, but more physically able to hurt people, and we have some inability to control our carnal urges. Black masculinity seems to always be a hyper-augmented version of the “masculine persona”. We feed into it, in our music, in our chosen religions, in the violence we inflict upon each other. Black masculinity has revolved around violence and being averse to anything that might hint at an emotion, because the augmentation was born in violence. A man can only emote anger to be considered a REAL man. Humor is…okay…but then you’re just a clown. Lord forbid you shed a tear, though. There is a lot of putting down others wrapped in this masculinity, usually anything deemed feminine, so there is a deep seated disdain for women in there. Any slight divergence from this persona means that a black man is either gay or not REALLY black.
Black people, and especially black men, are prescribed fewer painkillers when diagnosed with the same levels of pain as their white counterparts. How much of that is the residual misconception that we feel less pain since we were partially beasts of burden? People are more afraid of us. We’re more virile than other ethnicities. Many of the lynching victims over the years were tortured and hanged to avenge the honor of innocent white women that they had allegedly accosted with their uncontrollable, subhuman libido. Emmitt Till didn’t even touch a woman. He supposedly just whistled. In other cases, the “innocent white victim” never existed. Birth of a Nation solidified this idea, and it plays out up to today. “Once you go black…” is both a phrase of braggadocio and an ominous threat. If you look at any of the reports of unarmed black men, women, boys, and girls in the last five years, be they law enforcement or chubby assholes who were “standing their ground”, They all said that that they felt intimidated by them due merely because of their victims’ dress or stance. Trayvon Martin was wearing a hoodie on a cold night. Darren Wilson said that Mike Brown had “Superman strength”. Troy Davis’s murderer claimed he felt threatened, and continued to posit that Davis and his friends were likely going to do something bad had he not shot them. He called himself a hero. They were sitting in a car. Renesha McBride was knocking on a door to get help when she got shot. Sandra Bland was taken into custody because she was mad about being stopped, and she voiced it. Meanwhile, white men with assault rifles strapped to their bodies roam Texas without anyone raising an eyebrow.
A teenage boy wearing a dress is not a threat to the black community. Aversion to him is a distraction to the real threats to the black community. Rick Snyder never wore a dress (in public), and he helped to poison an entire city under his care. George Zimmerman wore pants. None of the state legislators who helped pass laws that effectively disenfranchised thousands of people in Kentucky, North Carolina, Georgia, etc. donned women’s wear. All of these things were done by men in pants. Also, they are men who simultaneously worked to keep rights away from the very homosexual people and trans people that you claim are “taking away” your masculinity. They are still legislating to keep women from having control over their own bodies. It would make sense that you seek allies in people attacked by the same adversary.
If you are a black man, you should examine exactly what it is to be masculine, and if it is dependent on homophobic tropes. There is nothing wrong with masculinity and bravado, but we should also know that it has been defined and redefined throughout human history. Men cried in ancient Greece, Rome, and even in what is now Uganda and Nigeria. They had homosexual partnerships, and it did not take away from their manhood or ability to be warriors. Today, modern black masculinity is ok, but only if it does not involve making us less than human or waging social war on others to edify it.