To talk about rebuilding the black male child is a process of understanding what being black is and what being a man is. But more fundamentally, it is a process of unlearning and ‘unteaching’. First and foremost, you are not black. You are an ever-changing landscape of brown tones and tan palms. The concept of blackness is a definition that has nothing to do with you. The definition of your blackness was conceived in order to describe you as darkness. The truth is that never will your blackness be reflected in the mirror. Your blackness is what you will see reflected in those unnerved glances and forced smiles in public, the ones that avoid eye contact but glare in contempt. Your blackness is reflected in the tone with which you are questioned about your there-had-to-be-more-to-life-beyond-just-getting-by ambitions by your own family. Blackness is what constantly read on the news headlines. Blackness is the hero you never see when film credits roll. Blackness is your pain being currency in entertainment.
Blackness is taught. In being taught your blackness, you will be told that you knew the devil before you knew God. The God made who was created in their image. Not yours. With a nail through your left palm, you will be taught lack and that hunger is your lot. A nail through your right palm and you will be ridiculed for not speaking a language foreign to you as if your mother tongue didn’t recite the poem that brought you into being. The third nail pierces the soles of your feet and the land that raised you now pains you. A crown of hateful thorns is rested on your head; your pride and dignity bleed down your scorned flesh. Don’t waste your cries; they say your father has forsaken you. Blackness is taught.
As you grow up, you will be told that boys don’t cry. This may be true but while boys don’t cry, the night has seen men weep. As a black man, the night will see you mourn manhood you’ve never met but the disdained whispers of your forefathers who died for your throne will haunt the sleep of every man that you know who are now slaves toiling their own land, reaping broken promises and unable to feed for their families.
Even in broad daylight, during smiles and normality, a man’s spirit can midnight, his insecurities curled behind his ribcage. So what happens when a man lets his spirit sink into the abyss? Well,
In your image, a man who looks like you will ball up his fears into a fist that lands a woman into a woman’s rib,
In honour of your patriarchy, a man will rob a woman of her soul because he couldn’t afford her heart,
In your name, men who look like you will take turns on a woman because they found her beauty offensive,
In defence of your culture, men who look like you will seek to hollow out a woman’s body of her dignity, her mind of her wisdom.
But this is not a yoke you can unburden yourself of. The actions of those who look like you cling to your skin as though they were sewn into the fabric of what we were taught about being a man. This is what happens when we embrace blackness as darkness. And in the morning, when the son rises, his light will only expose your neatly packed sins. You must be able to look him in the eye, even as the burden of his presence scotches your hands, your knees buckle and you want to look away, to run away, to avoid being blinded by the truth of your own actions, you must. You must. You can’t let that boy down. You must raise him up to the very threshold of your strength. But you can’t do much while you are clutching on so desperately to your father’s sins. LET GO!.
So that when the son sets, when the time for dreaming comes and your heart gives birth to your little Moon, when she tells you that she is scared of the world because she has seen men who look like you do to women who look like her, it is your duty to remind her that even in the darkness, she is light and she must never hide. When it gets too much for her she must know that you will be there for her, counting the stars as they sparkle in the black of her eyes, the stars that are all those who have come before you and all those who are yet to come. That, is being a black man