To Ask A Black Man How He’s Doing Has Become Taboo. You Good, Man?

To Ask A Black Man How He’s Doing Has Become Taboo. You Good, Man?

As things stand today, to ask a black man how he’s doing has become taboo. To ask a black man how he’s doing is seen as an insult to those who suffer at the hands of a black man. It is to suggest that the world doesn’t have bigger problems and all must be cast aside to attend to the fragile, child-like ego of a grown man. Indeed, to ask a black man how he’s doing is seen as to christen him with a crown of thorns and declaring him a victim.

But, nonetheless, I will ask;

Bruh, You Good, Man?
Did you sleep well? Did you wake up rested? Or did you spend parts of the night staring at the ceiling with a multitude of questions gnawing at your mind until all your thoughts were riddled with doubts about the coming day? You woke up, took a shower and shaved, but when last did you look in the mirror, not in passing but held the gaze of the reflection? Fam, when last did you look at yourself? Not the self in the reflection but the self that is a reflection of the sum total of your thoughts about you. When last did you have a conversation with yourself? Not the telling yourself stuff convo, but the keeping quiet and listening to yourself kind. When last did you smile at yourself and mean it?

Fam, You Good, Man?
How’s your spirit? That part of you that always asks of you much more than you can answer. The part of you that is always yearning. Yearning for a truth that, at times, falls right through the cracks in the flaws of your character. Yearning for a freedom that, at times, lies just beyond the tips of your wings. I’m talking about that part of you that bleeds through your palms after you’ve cut hands holding on too tightly to broken dreams.

It is that part of you that sinks as you watch the coffin descend and you have to throw dirt on everything that raised you. That part of you that dies every day when you go to sleep and have nothing to show for being awake. That part of you that can’t simply “snap out” of a deep depression. 

Guy, You Good, Man?
How’s your love life? Does she know how you are doing? Does she ask and wait for you to answer? Does she wait for that pause, that pause you have to make as you rip through all the thick layers of pretense that you’ve had to put on each time you were told to “man up”? Sometimes you can’t go through all of the layers, does she know that? Sometimes, the very last layer before you get to “how you are doing”, is silence, does she know that?

You Good, Man?

How’s your anger? Are you taking it out on the people you claim to love? That kind of violence is the language of those with a poor emotional vocabulary. Those starved of feelings who use open-palmed sentences and bare-knuckle words clenched and aimed at hurting rather than being heard than being understood. But, it is a loud language that says absolutely nothing about the listener, save to betray the speaker’s own brokenness. Violence under the guise of love is not for the strong, it is for those with a weak and emaciated heart. Feed your heart, fam! Starve it of people’s pain and feed it laughter. Feed it the hopeful rays of the morning sun. But above all, feed your heart gratitude. There is no muscle stronger than a full heart. True love is the sound of words spoken in prayer for another as they are gently placed in God’s grace. What are we here for, if not to bring each other closer to God?

Are you Good, Man?
How’s work, fam? Are spending days wondering if you have a job or a career? I know that bitter taste when you’re entrusted with putting food on the table and all you can dish up is half-cooked promises and burnt disappointments. Dreading month-end phone calls, not the private numbers, but the familiar numbers, the ones in the favourites list, the calls that will end with, “it’s ok, I understand”, from a voice that has always believed in you more than you’ve believed in yourself. Those are the month-end calls that leave your eyes heated and a lump in your throat. Bruh, trying to make ends meet is hard when you were introduced to debt first and it pimped you out for a mediocre, two-bed-roomed existence, close to all amenities. No one told us that those dreams our young selves waxed about on the street corner were borrowed, with 11% interest and 60 months to pay that you have to extend to 72 months because your skin colour weighs less on the remuneration scale.

Are you Good, Man?
How’s your daughter? Does she know that the glow of her smile shames the sun? Does she navigate a world hell-bent on breaking her, comforted in knowing that you will help her piece herself back together? Does she feel safe that men like you exist? Does she have an expectation to be loved for her physical attributes? None of these depend on who her mother is.

How’s your son? Have you seen him battle your demons and lose? Does he know that you fight for him? Did you see how your dim nightmares crept into his dreams? Do you help him dream in brighter colours? Does your son help you to realise that, with all his flaws, “your father tried”? Or, are you haunted by the possibility that the only difference between you and your father is time, that your son should grow up without you, lest he end up with a father like you; you, as your father?

Are you Good, Man?
We live in a society that preaches emotional silence yet still dares to ask, “if a man’s heart breaks, and no one hears it, did it break?” When eyes that have been shamed into drinking their own tears are then said to be full of emptiness, what then? How are you expected to handle delicate hearts while your fingernails dig into your palms?

Are you Good, Man?
Does ANYONE know how you are doing?

Photographer: Adrian MacDonalds