Updated: Apr 3, 2020
By: Mensa Smith
I should introduce myself. My name is MenSa Smith, and I am a proud member of the Black Lives Matter community. I spend a lot of my time speaking to people who will listen about the injustices that black people face, and I try my best to promote any important messages about what goes on in our community through social media. As a black male heterosexual, I understand that I probably have it best out of all black Americans. Often times, the black male heterosexual faces criticism from his community, and it’s usually warranted. What I never see is anybody who will speak up for the black man to his people, and that is what I intend on doing with this letter. I don’t plan on convincing anybody of anything; I just want to shed some light on where the black male may or may not get his views.
It takes some real decompressing for black heterosexuals to accept homosexuality in our community. Our whole life we are taught to not be emotional, to be tough, and to basically be as far from “feminine” as possible. You get beat up for crying, everybody around you tells you to “man up,” certain colors are forced upon you while others are shunned, and a slew of other unhealthy ideas are taught to the black male youth throughout their childhood. I recall my Jamaican father’s questioning of my sexuality because I took my books to school in a purple drawstring bag despite the fact that it was inspired by Shaquille O’Neal’s jersey. Shaq is one of my heroes, but all he saw was purple and yellow and that “those colors were for women.”
Essentially, the mentality inherited by the black man from society is a toxic one and it has, in turn, affected the black community negatively. Having an unbiased love for people is easier for women in our community because they are taught from young to love themselves for who they are and what they look like despite what the media portrays as beautiful. They are taught to open their minds to other forms of beauty and essentially learn how to be loving and nurturing as a result. For black women (and black homosexuals), learning to love and accept differences a necessary part of their growth because if they never learn these ideas, they grow up to hate themselves due to the stark underrepresentation of the wide variety of black women in the media. It also helps that they grow up with a female role model in the home (sometimes multiple) more often than boys grow up with male role models in their household (you know, because of deadbeat dads). As a boy growing up with his father’s presence being limited and ultimately full of more promises than fulfillment, I can say first hand that I turned to Jay Z to learn how to be a man, I turned to J. Cole when I felt oppressed by society, and I turned to Kanye West when I wanted to learn how to freely express myself. I didn’t turn to daddy. Daddy wasn’t there to guide me, and that was a reason why I never learned to love myself or to love anyone else for that matter. I was taught to suppress things about me instead of learning how accept them as what made me my own man simply because there was nobody around who knew how to be a man. I didn’t really have men in my life on a consistent basis until high school; there were very few male teachers in my schools from grades K-8.
Ultimately, what I’m trying to say is the black man’s view on society is myopic because we weren’t taught to love ourselves or even how to be men. It wasn’t okay to cry or to speak about how we felt. It wasn’t okay to wear what we wanted or listen to Beyonce’s music because “uh uh, son that’s gay.” We were taught to rely on our female counterparts to be emotional, and even then there are women in our community who say “oh nah you acting like a bitch. If I wanted to deal with all of this I would date a woman.” There were no men around to teach us how to deal with these things. Growing up as a black male in poverty-stricken neighborhoods is all about not being gay nor a statistic.
This broken lens through which the black heterosexual male sees the world affects the black community at large, but specifically the black woman. She is victimized by our ignorance because she is left to fall in love with a man who isn’t incapable of love, but he is too proud to accept information on how to love. You can only imagine how infuriating that is if you’ve never dealt with it. We do not stand up for our women enough or include our women enough because society has taught us to look down upon femininity. It all comes back to how we view ourselves. When you are taught not to “act like a bitch” and when your women are constantly referred to as bitches, it becomes difficult to respect your woman. Even so, it’s easier to view a woman as different but equal because she isn’t doing anything wrong in our eyes. We see the homosexual as a person who deviates from nature, and that causes the one-sided disconnect between black heterosexuals and homosexuals of any color. We are taught in religion to shun homosexuality, but even that is no real excuse. Religion teaches us to love the sinner and reject the sin. Black male ignorance is so strong because we are taught from young to ignore all of our feelings, and that desensitizes us for a lifetime. To a certain extent, society has programmed us on what to think and how to feel.
To this day I have trouble expressing myself emotionally. To this day, I have trouble fully accepting a homosexual man as a brother. I do indeed accept the homosexual man as a part of our community while respecting his right to do and feel as he pleases, but I still see him more as an extension of the black community than I recognize him as my black brother. I understand that I need to grow from here, but it’s tough for me because of what I was taught and how I was shunned and ridiculed (by people I trusted nonetheless) for parts of my own individuality. My job is to make it easier for my children to love all people no matter who they love or what color their skin may be. The reality, however, is that a large part of the black male community was taught to look down upon and shun anything feminine. That is where the misogyny towards women and hatred towards homosexuals is born. It is a taught behavior that will take time to heal despite societal impatience, and it is getting better.
My point is simple. I was taught, as a young black male, not to love the feminine and emotional parts of myself. Those lessons were compounded and reinforced by my economic situation and racial profile where I would watch people around me be criticized, ridiculed, and even murdered for their inability to adhere to the rules of society. So how could I love somebody who punctuates everything I was taught to hate about myself? You can tell me to love everybody, but that’s not as convincing as the lunch table roasts I witnessed and took part in during my grade school years. As shameful at they look in retrospect, those memories will always be a part of me.
Parts of the black American culture are toxic and they need to be addressed. In times like this, the black male needs to understand that the Black Lives Matter movement includes both genders and all sexualities. At the same time, the entire black community needs to understand that black males, by and large, were systematically failed when it comes to being taught how to love and how to accept not only ourselves, but the variety of differences in other people. The sooner black men and women alike acknowledge this truth is the sooner we can move forward. The black man growing up in poverty is taught that the answer to everything is to fuck bitches (only) and get money. We’re not taught to be accepting. We’re not taught to be friendly. We’re taught to lay low, stack the paper, and stop acting like a bitch.
It really doesn’t help the black male consciousness to see itself criticized by our people on social media, either. We’re already traumatized by the drubbing the powers that be have given us all of our lives and that a major part of our development as human beings was shut down as children. The criticism of the black male (or anybody who is indeed black) needs to be a private matter. Public criticism inside the black community just leads to a “who is more woke than who” competition among us, and it ultimately proves to be divisive. I only try to speak for the black American male when I say our story hasn’t been told at any point in history but we are criticized on a global level for our flaws. The love we were denied from youth is still denied to us today. We are complex beings and we are not easy to love or understand. But we are very sensitive and I wish our women would go a little easier on us. There are women in our community to waste no time to bash the heterosexual black male, and that is a cancer. Some of us are responsible enough to be apologetic for the faults of our peers and ancestors, but it can get annoying really fast when you’re constantly attacked based on the assumptions made about your character because of who you choose to love.
That’s ironic, huh?
There are many black men (but I don’t think it’s the majority of us) who are hopeless. Their ignorance runs deep while being embedded in their subconscious and it’s nobody’s job to deal with this. As a black heterosexual male, I do not ask black women or black homosexuals for your patience, your pity, or even your forgiveness. What we need to do is preach love and to teach our boys to love the same way we teach our girls to love. Right now, there’s a little boy getting a beating for wanting to wear a pink pair of Air Jordans. We need to save him before it’s too late. We need to fix our black men.