Telling a little black boy to “man up” or “not to cry like a little girl”, to me, is problematic.

I posted an article yesterday about my very first experience in a black barbershop and how it specifically shaped my journey of being unable to process my emotions in a healthy manner. In my mind, when I was writing that article, it was to point towards a more broader thought that I had–and that was–how I believe black male culture has aided in the creation of black men who can’t properly sort through their emotions.

After posting the article to Facebook, a few conversations were started, and some of the responses have forced me to dive a bit deeper into my thought process as well as the thought processes of others.

But first, I would like to apologize to any black parent who read that article and felt as though I was attacking their parenting style. That was not my intent. How people choose to raise their children is up to them but long gone are the days where I, or anyone else for that matter, am unable to talk about things that you don’t agree with simply because that isn’t your experience.

Referring to and expounding upon yesterday’s article, the heart of the matter is, some ways of thinking and lessons passed down from black parents to their sons (and their daughters which I’ll have to give my thoughts in a later post) have aided in creating some very damaged and emotionally fucked up adults. 

Can we at least agree on that much, or nah?

Telling a little black boy to “man up” or “not to cry like a little girl”, to me, is problematic. Especially without unpacking what your meaning behind that is. Why? Because as smart as kids are, they are not that intellectually equipped to decipher all of the weight phrases like those two come with. And black kids, especially the boys, from birth are placed at a disadvantage more often than they are not so, having to process the intent of the adults they are under the care of as their little minds start developing makes their already unleveled journey much more unleveled.

When those little black boys are told those things, they aren’t hearing “mom or dad wants me to express myself differently.” They usually are hearing “mom or dad doesn’t want me to respond or express myself this way at all.” That’s just how children think and that’s where the cycle begins. It’s not what you say, it’s the fact that there is still so much left unsaid or not discussed at all, about what you said, why said that and more imporantly, what you were trying to convey that leaves a lot to be misunderstood.

Much of my push-back was in reference to the example I used about crying not wanting to raise a child, especially a boy, that cries all of the time. But I wasn’t just referring to crying. Black boys aren’t taught how to properly sort through any of their emotions. Just think about how many times you have experienced a man shut down after his feelings were hurt, or he felt disrespected, or frustrated, or couldn’t get something right, or felt overwhelmed? Why do you think that is that case?

Do you think our black men are innately disconnected from their emotions in such a way that their only response is to shut down? Hell no.  Often times, it is simply because many of our upbringings are rooted in this unrealistic expectation for us to not be human. Think about it, historically we were not conditioned to see ourselves as that [human] and thus, have adopted the same conditioning used against us and put it onto those who have the responsibility over.

 

That’s all I have for now but before you go, Naja Hall wrote the following in response to a comment made on the original article and I definitely think that it too is worth exploring:

“Look, let’s speak on the pink elephant, it seems that people would rather their sons not be gay. Telling them not to cry/show emotion makes them lightweight sociopaths not gay though! The agenda to “soften” black man is rooted in African superiority and the fact that “the majority” is fearful of what an unchained Black man can become. He can become a wild beast or a President. Neither are what he was kidnapped and forced into servitude here in America to become.”


Also published on Medium.