I think it would be fair to say that every American, at one point in their life, has felt pressured to fit in. This could virtually be said about the world at large. It’s more a human experience, really. However, in America, there seems to be added pressure everywhere. What’s surprising is that America is known for being such an individualistic culture. So why is it that we put so much pressure on each other to fit into predetermined, labeled little boxes? I may come off a bit radical, but I believe this way of thinking needs to be changed immediately.
If I identify as a male then that should be respected by everyone, no matter my actions or way of life. As a black man living in America, let me tell you, it is not so simple. This isn’t to say this only happens to black men, or men of color, but to a certain extent it would be a lie to say race wasn’t a factor in the degree of backlash one receives. Just think, a few weeks back Channing Tatum was a guest on the Spike TV show, Lip Sync Battle. He performed several numbers, his last being a cover of Beyoncé’s Run The World (Girls) in full drag. His performance was met with good reviews and, I must admit, it was quite entertaining. Yet, his manhood was never once questioned. Meanwhile, comedian Wayne Brady’s masculinity is scrutinized and questioned after taking the lead role in the Broadway musical, Kinky Boots, where he plays a drag queen. One must wonder why one was applauded while the other was belittled.
Either way, black or white, we should not have to adhere to any predetermined rules of masculinity. Just because I’m not a basketball player or an aspiring rapper doesn’t make me any less of a black man than anyone who happens to choose those professions. I have personally, in the past, been left feeling emasculated, usually at the hands of other men, for not fitting into the mold of the stereotypical black male. It hurts like hell and you’re left feeling less of a person, as if you have done something shameful, when in reality you are just being yourself. I can’t help it that I don’t seem to be like the typical hyper-masculine thug you see on television.
These images are so embedded in our cultural beliefs that it is all we see on the media, as if this is a true representation of all black men around the world. It’s okay for black men to not be some macho, intimidating figure. We as a society need to realize that there’s no need to be insecure to the point where you are constantly trying to prove your manhood. It’s okay to be to be a young black man who likes to read as a hobby. It’s okay to want to visit museums around the world. Don’t let the cage of stereotypes prevent you from living your life.
This image of black masculinity that we as Americans uphold, whether consciously or subconsciously, needs to be destroyed. The masculinity of an individual, no matter their race or their gender, is to be determined by that person and no one else. In a sense, we need to recognize that not all men are the same, and not all black men are the same, therefore there obviously is not going to be one version of masculinity that works for everyone. Stereotyping only causes more problems in the end. Be a good human being. Don’t judge a book by its cover.