Little Black Boys

How do you define manhood? Masculinity?

How many times have you seen a male child crying only to be told to stop crying, to act like a man? How many times have you experienced an adult told a boy to “stop acting like a sissy?” I don’t think a lot of parents or people charged with raising children realize the effect this has on the psyche of a black boy. By trying to “toughen” up boys our culture plays into the patriarchal socialization that insists boys should not express emotions. These young boys and girls get a warped sense of how males and females should behave. These children take the attitudes that they’ve learned at home to the classroom. Boys who display any emotion that deviates from what is deemed masculine are ridiculed.

Methods used to beat down a boy’s natural instincts and raise him to be a “man” includes: physical beating, scare tactics, extraction of love, and isolation. In most black homes these forms of punishment are vastly different from the punishments handed out to little girls. Eventually young black boys, like all boys in this patriarchal culture, learn that manhood is tantamount with the domination and control over others. In their minds they start to believe that by simply being male they are in a position of authority that gives them the right to assert their will over others.

As children grow into young adults the message that black boys should not show any emotion is reinforced by mass media. Rich, powerful men (at least in their eyes) rarely refer to their emotions or show any signs of them. Instead they focus on how much better they are than the next man. Flexing their amount of money, access to easy sex and ability to murder you or have you murdered. These images are not only reinforced in rap music but also on the silver screen and on television.

Eventually these young adults develop into grown men who will seek relationships with women. The problem is the psyche of this man is damaged. His whole life he’s been taught that showing emotion is weak. It’s been beat out of him figuratively and literally. Women wonder why a lot of men have such a difficult time communicating. To answer that they would have to travel back in time to discover and unravel the years of emotional abuse (that’s what it is in every sense of word) that’s already been engrained in him.

The biggest example of this phenomenon Black America has right now is Drake. Drake is a man who is in touch with his emotions and is not afraid to admit it. For that men and women alike chastise him. I will admit that even I’m kind off turned by some of the ways he chooses to display how he feels and frankly a well timed shot at Drake is funny.  Maybe its because many people label him as a rapper he gets so much shade thrown his way. I don’t see nearly as much shade being thrown in the direction of Chris Brown or John Legend. Maybe singers can display their emotions but rappers are supposed to be hard and only talk about cash money, fucking bitches, murder and any other materialistic depreciable asset.

I’m not suggesting that parents should give their sons Barbies instead of GI Joes but letting your son know that its ok to display emotion every now and then will go a long way in helping him develop into a fully rounded adult.  Show boys more attention. Not only when they are misbehaving but try positive encouragement when they do something right. You never know how you may reflect negative behavior that’s so deeply deeply rooted into you into impressionable minds.


22 thoughts on “Little Black Boys

  1. Sayo O.

    I agree to the fullest. I believe that many of the bouts of male aggressiona re caused because many men simply never feel like they could take the appropriate outlets to express emotion, particularly anger.

    Teaching a young man to vocalize his emotions, even as Drake does, could go a long way to preventing some of the abuse he may dish out to others down the road, particularly any women he may end up dealing with.

    I have learned over the years to be confident enough to express myself, and believe that it makes me more of a man to be able to confidently share things, despite what people feel is “manly”. I think masculinity is defined by having the confidence to know that your feelings and opinions are valid, even when others would not.

  2. Dr. J

    I think you misinterpret Drake. Drake is an entertainer. Drake is well aware of his approach and how his angle sells records. I wouldn’t ever put an entertainer of Drake’s caliber in a conversation about societal norms and trends. He doesn’t have the resume to prove as such. Drake touches your emotional side because it’s his ploy to sell records. Nothing against Drake, I really like his music, and enjoy it frequently, but putting him in this conversation takes away from your point. The same goes for Chris Brown. However, with John Legend it’s not his music about love and relationships that moves us, but his music that calls for social responsibility or change. And that’s what separates him from Drake and Chris Brown. Those are the songs missing from their repertoires.

    If a parent wants his kid to show emotion, they must teach them to show emotion. Paul Robeson, Harry Belafonte, Talib Kweli, Mike D, Russell Simmons, and Tupac Shakur are examples of entertainers who showed emotion through their music, words and actions. They provide excellent examples to our young men that it’s okay to show emotion, that’s it’s okay to be charged about something, and that it’s okay to go against the grain. However, Drake and Chris Brown lack the longevity and repertoire to ever be looked at as role models for inspiring the youth, especially Black boys.

    But you’re overall premise here is correct. We need to show our youth that it’s not about who’s the toughest or hardest, or suppressing feelings. That is a prudent move in our homes.

    1. Sayo O.

      Just wanted to say, that was a pretty good liat you had about dudes that express in theory music, its one of the main reasons I became a Tupac fan. Didn’t realize he had anything socially responsible until I stopped listening to the wrong fans, lol.

    2. madscientist7 Post author

      appreciate the comment. i’m not a drake fan but my reason for bringing him up or music for that matter is to show how a man can be put down for being emotional and yet black men are criticized for not showing emotion. its a damned if you do, damned if you don’t type thing.

  3. ellemarie360

    Another great post! I’ve witnessed this within my own family. With my male cousins and brother being told that crying isn’t manly and they need not express themselves in that way. Then when they would act up and fight and be aggressive for no reason, no one could figure out why. But they needed an outlet to the emotions they were forced to hold in. Even with us girls, we were told that nobody wants a whiny girl/woman around them and to basically suck it up and cry at home when no one is watching.

    Thankfully I, too have learned that it is healthy to express myself and my emotions, and I can see my brother teachng my niece the same thing. This is the beginning of changing that mindset that we had growing up.
    Great read!

    1. Sayo O.

      I think you touch on a very good point when you bring up female emotion too. With all the “Miss Independent” going on, I find that women are trying to be more “manly” as well, as if hiding emotions makes you self sufficient. I think if men can learn to properly express emotions, we can return to being a proper head of the household, able to nurture our families the way we were meant to, and hopefully begin to fix some of the stuff wrong with black America now.

      I’m in a relationship with a woman who was raised by a single woman, learned to change tires, and handle business at all costs. This person who raised her recently had her mother pass, and was almost as cold as a statue about it, as if crying would have been some kind of set back or waste of time.

      A mismanagement of male emotion has had a generational impact, but seeing posts like this gives me hope that maybe when I have a son he may have some balanced males to associate with after all.

  4. Wu Young, Agent of M.E.

    I agree with you that the way black men are raised is very responsible for many of our emotional shortcomings. At times it seems that we are stuck somewhere between being a Spartan warrior and philosopher and the results are evident. As I get older I do my best to find that middle ground.

    It’s funny you mentioned Drake because I’ve never chided him for his emotions. It’s the fact that he whines that turns bothers me because that’s just a pet peeve of mine.

  5. Silent Scorpion

    Even with all the “role models” aka entertainers there are manufacturing dribble (fcuk bitches get money), parents need to educate their children on what it really means to be a man. The emotional expressiveness or lack there of in young black men is such a difficult trait to modify with age. I agree, we need to educate young black men early on about the importance of self expression.

    I still haven’t listened to Drake’s album but I’ve been hearing terrible reviews from both men and women. Both sexes agree he’s rapping outside of his expected gender.

  6. chunk

    While home for Thanksgiving I heard one of my 15 year old boy cousins tell my 16 year old brother that he was “very proud of [him]” and it made me tear up. Me and my mom and aunties talked about how often we use those words to these young men. It makes me believe in modeling. I think we do a good job in our family of raising emotionally stable boys. Even at the age they are now we are always tickling, head rubbing, kissing them. They always say “ew” but they’re happy boys all the same. We have several adopted black boys in our family as well and they seem to calm and adjust considerably well with the emotional changes of our family. I can not agree more that it is important that we raise emotionally stable men. I will say that for how well we do with considering their mental health… we continue to slack on their self-sufficiency, sigh. One thing at a time I guess.

    I know you’re reading belle hooks right now, I hope you’re enjoying it!

  7. madscientist7 Post author

    i think there may have been some confusion. i didn’t bring up drake in order for children to look to entertainers for role models as how they should display emotions. i brought him up to show how a boy/man can be chastised when he chooses to display his emotions or deviate from the societal norm of masculinity. this happens everyday.

  8. K.Nicole

    One of the things that I’ve noticed is that white males, though they have their own what it means to be masculine issues, too, have far more leeway into what is seen as feminine.
    For example you can be a male goth and paint your nails, not happening with blk guys. Or you can dye or highlight your hair, I have not seen one straight black male do this, the only pass is NFL players w/ dreds that have lightened tips.
    There are a whole other host of things I’ve seen that white males get a pass on, but if the guy were black they’d get side eyed.
    Anyone want to posit on why that is?

    1. madscientist7 Post author

      that’s simple. white boys are also damaged by patriarchal socialization but the damage done to black boys is intensified by not only society’s demand that they adhere the masculine norm but i think black boys also deal with the history that labels them inferior to white males. this causes them to try even harder to conform to what society deems masculine.

  9. NIAnaturally

    ALL. OF. THIS!

    Wow, i think I love you, Tu. lol. I’m happy to see a man talking about this.

    After Drakes’s album leaked, I saw a few tweets that led me to tweet this.. “I have a theory… Drake’s Canadian right? I wonder if that’s why he doesn’t seem to have A-A male emotional hangups, and baggage… Maybe?” I can’t remember the exact twitter conversations that followed, but I remember mentioning that I hope someone blogs about black men and their emotional conditioning, leading to emotional confusion, and sometimes, all out dysfunction. You make a lot of good points, and I think the reaction to Drake is a good example of how black boys are conditioned to think about emotions. Great post!

    1. madscientist7 Post author

      you know what i didn’t see you tweet that but i most certainly thought it. i truly believe him growing up in canada had a lot to do with his how he behaves today. also, he’s mixed and if i’m not mistaken was raised mostly by his mother (who is caucasian). that also has a lot to do with it i think.

  10. DblogEdition

    Today’s “men” reflect a variety of pictures, ranging from weakness to dim-witted silliness to indecisiveness to feminine sensitivities to carelessness—and beyond. They are given to extremes, lacking control over their emotions and desires. In short, this world produces males who are like puddles of liquid—spineless blobs.

  11. A Woman's Eyes

    I agree too. I think that looking at our own conflicted feelings about emotions is important too. Black women face a different type of social feedback on how we feel and express our emotions and whether we have the right to feel as we do. Prime examples are statements that are often said to us in girlhood to adulthood…such as ” I’m sorry if you were hurt” “You’re such a drama queen”or messages that indicate we are responsible or at fault if we are harmed by someone else such as the negative comments about Rihanna somehow bringing upon violence on herself or rumors that she was violent first and thus she deserved this violence despite her having been beat up in a car by her then boyfriend who caused much more damage to her face than she was able to create on his face.

    How do parents make that step into allowing their sons to show emotion if they themselves don’t show emotion either and grew up in households where they were punished or ridiculed for doing so?


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