“Sometimes when I’m alone I cry because I’m on my own The tears I cry are bitter and warm They flow with life but take no form I cry because my heart is torn and I find it difficult to carry on If I had an ear to confide in I would cry among my treasured friends But who do you know that stops that long to help another carry on the world moves fast and it would rather pass you by than to stop and see what makes you cry It’s painful and sad and sometimes I cry and no one cares about why.”
– Tupac Shakur
Black Men have been hurting. As Black Men trying to survive in America, we demand that we be respected as human beings. The toxicity that we know as Hypermasculinity, has affected you, our kindred, and I for eons. Since slavery, we have been repudiated of our freedoms and civil rights, stripped of our identities, and have been demonized as subhumans who are incapable of having emotions .
Black Male Hypermasculinity has been utilized as a culturally hegemonic tool, which reinforces negative stereotypes of Black Men across the Internet, the news, magazines and the radio. For this oration, I will profess one of my experiences from Black Hypermasculinity, a few of its corrosive aftereffects, and lastly, emotions. Emotions are integral to what makes you and I human. Emotions are a facet of Black Humanitarianism. Growing up, I was both a hyperactive and reticent child. Though I had days where I kept most of my feelings to myself, there was something opaquely sentient about me. At the end of the day, I always kept an upbeat smile on my face. Throughout my academic life: elementary, middle and high school, I didn’t interact with other students. I rarely talked to my parents. From when I left for school to when I got off the school bus at home, my mom would ask me how my day was.
I was often irritated and upset with myself. Reluctant to say anything, but aching to explain how my day was, I gave brief responses to them like “fine” or “don’t worry about it.” My mom would look into the languor in my eyes and ask me what was wrong. Sometimes, I wouldn’t even look back at her. I’d just glare straight, purposely losing my focus from peripheral sight. I was afraid of saying anything to her. I was afraid she wouldn’t understand. I was afraid that if I uttered words concerning my feelings, I’d get panicstricken and start whimpering; which would worry her even more. I had made myself believe that even if I told my mother what was bothering me, there would be nothing she could do about it. I hated crying and I hated feelings. I hated them both so much that I’d internalize my own feelings, and condemn myself for crying or for openly saying I loved a friend or family member. I held the preconceived belief that having emotions depicted me as a weakling. Today, I can still recall hearing rude, dismissive remarks such as “get over it,” “be a man,” “grow a pair,” “stop complaining” and “don’t let it get to you.” I can proudly say I am more open about my feelings than I was five plus years ago. If I always repressed my emotions, and pretended this racist, judgmental society has never affected me socially, economically, institutionally, racially, and psychologically, I’d be perpetuating the myth of Black Hypermasculinity. Today, as Black men, we are still stigmatized by both the Black Community and our White counterparts.
Gangsta Rap, being one of the most prominent sub-genres of rap music, is predicated on an essentialized, and limited construction of a hyperbolized black male subjectivity. But what is Black Hypermasculinity? Black Hypermasculinity is a social construct represented by a white male patriarchal perspective. This construct exaggerates Black Men as over domineering, super-powered, callous, deranged, insensitive and animalistic brutes. Black Hypermasculinity is the racist, deprecating term used to dehumanize the validity of Black Humanitarianism. Some Black Men might exhibit more “masculine” traits than White Men; however, that does not make a Black Man more or less viable than his White counterpart. In the mid-‘90s era of Hip-Hop, the music industry has reinforced the idea of Black Hypermasculinity, and still to this day, it manifests itself through aggressive verbal battles and physical disputes. In Gangsta Rap etiquette, several rappers, in their fluid and eloquent, but rugged, braggadocios, and brash lyrics, have engaged in hyperbolic masculinity. Moreover, it dictates a volitional desire for violence. Rhyming about their virility, strength, and exaggerated invincibility, imagined or real deaths of a competitor induces no remorse or sorrow. These characteristics alone negatively reinforce the personification of Black Men in Gangsta Rap music in American society.
In spite of White businessmen perverting the aesthetic of Hip-Hop culture, delineating the art form as “criminal” and “nihilistically self-fulfilling”, essentially, with emotively charged lyricism expressed by 2Pac, Kendrick Lamar, AbSoul, Raury and Capital STEEZ, and the like, have successfully dismantled the myth of Black Male Hypermasculinity. And like these iconic figures in Hip-Hop, it’s our obligation to do the same. In this society, we, as Black Men, have been condemned for showing our feelings, let alone admitting that our feelings exist. Our white counterparts demonize and denounce our humanity. Some whites are surprised by the fact that we are no more human than them. By our own Black Community, we have been mocked, teased, and dismissed for exhibiting our humanity. This must end. In order to dismantle this ongoing stigma, we must show our emotions. We must show our vigor. We must show our happiness. We must show our anger. We must show our loneliness. We must show our melancholy. We must show our guilt. We must show our bitterness. We must show our tears. Crying is a natural response to our pains, and our joys. Our cries should be resonant ones, cries of cathartic release, cries of our brethren who are weaponized wherever we go, cries of our brethren, ruthlessly being murdered near their homes, in the streets, with no logical, justifiable premises as to why. We must show feelings, because feelings are an integral facet of manifesting humanity. We are human beings, and we demand that we be respected as human beings. With that said, I urge you, Black Men of America … to cry.