My very good friend Natasha and I are doing a 4-part blog series on black love. Below is the second blog, written by Natasha Shorts (@NotedByNatasha). To view the introduction and first blog click here.
As we continue to understand the necessity and depth of black love we wanted to break down the strength and resilience of black men and women individually so we can appreciate their power together. First, we will focus on the strength of black men by hearing from five black men we know who agreed to discuss this. Each man we asked differ in family dynamic, socio-economic status, backgrounds, personalities, and more as you will see in their answers below. This is not meant to be an exhaustive understanding of what EVERY black man thinks. Instead, it is a small survey where we have highlighted a few voices to give a broader understanding. Take the time to read, savor, and dissect what each man says because like all black men, these men are just versatile and nuanced as any other ethnic groups. But what ties them all together is their love for the Lord and their love for their black identity. Enjoy!
1. When did you first understand your black identity?
Aaron: I didn’t understand my ethnic identity until a few years ago. I’ve always known of my skin color and how that made me different growing up in a predominantly white group of friends, but I wouldn’t say that I embraced how God made me culturally until a few years ago. I’ve grown here, but I struggled with (and sometimes still do) being a black male from the majority culture. Questions like, “Am I not ‘black enough’ for black culture? Am I too ‘black’ for white culture? Or do they not even recognize I’m black?” I feel as though God is helping me get to the point where I fully accept how he made me and being unapologetic about that, yet willing to continue to allow him to shape me in new ways.
Avery: I don’t really remember when I first understood it, as a kid I was very dark so other kids would joke about how dark I was… even the black ones.
Kory: I am not sure that I have ever ‘understood’ my black identity apart from being made to feel differently by my peers and strangers alike. I understood that any time I walked into a store that I had to act extra innocent because I was often followed and characterized as a threat. Being ‘half-black’ and ‘half-white’ I understood my black identity as being black enough to be called the ‘N’ word multiple times, to not being black enough because I spoke white and wasn’t ‘ghetto’ enough to fit the stereotype of ‘being black.’ This is a quick summary of how I have understood my black identity.
Kyron: I remember at 6 years of age seeing my mom get her Masters degree from Southern University an HBCU in Baton Rouge Louisiana. She would always drill in me I’m black and beautiful and the importance of education.
Stephen: I first understood my black identity at a young age. I can’t pinpoint an exact time but my parents never shied away from the race conversation.
2. What comes to your mind when you think the strength of black men?
Aaron: When I think of black male strength, I honestly think of The Black Panther (Yes, I am Black Geek). The film’s portrayal of T’Challa’s journey of manhood was one of my favorite aspects of the film. Ryan Coogler unapologetically confronted the manhood identity issue. Chadwick Boseman’s character was unafraid to take up the mantle and responsibility of King in order to protect and serve not only his people but those who were NOT his people. He was a warrior: willing to fight and yet was merciful even to his enemies. He was a family man: He loved his father, mother, and sister. He leaned on and valued the strength of the women around him: They were not sex objects. They added immeasurable value to him as a person and his role as king. He showed affection to the woman he loved. AND HE LET HER KNOW HE WANTED TO BE WITH HER! He was willing to accept responsibility for the sins of his father and sought to rectify them, not be defined by them.
Avery: I think the strength of a black man is being able to be yourself in a room full of white men. The strength to overcome any pressure you feel to perform better because you look different than the other people in your class or at your job.
Kory: To me, the strength of black men comes from looking up to people like Dr. King, Denzel Washington, and Dr. Tony Evans. My father wasn’t really in my life and so I looked up to Dr. King as my father figure. He represented peace, love, and perseverance. Denzel Washington is my favorite actor and through his movies, I learned the toughness of black men through the roles he played, and the work ethic it takes to succeed through how good he is at his craft. What I learned from Tony Evans is how to cherish wisdom and how to prioritize submitting to Christ in every area of life. His life and ministry have truly blessed me.
Kyron: I think of perseverance when I think of the strength of black men. I feel this way because society labels us thugs, lazy, rapist, etc. Somehow we still grind and claw our way past these stereotypes.
Stephen: What comes to my mind when you talk about the strength of black men is dealing with the obstacles of being a black man in America. The fact that you have to be twice as good as a white person to get to where you want to go in life.
3. What do you all want other black men to know about the power of the black man? What do you all want non-black people to know about the power of the black man?
Aaron: I think what I want both black and non-black people to know is that the power and strength that black men can exude can only be understood as we look at the life of Jesus. It’s not the gangster lifestyle, a womanizing lifestyle, paper-chasing, athletic glory or anything else. Yet, I feel as though that is where we get pigeon-holed. Every man, black, white, latino, etc, need to look at Jesus first. How did he live? What character traits should I be seeking to develop? Culturally it may express itself differently, but the fruit of the Spirit will always be obvious.
Kory: What I want all other black men to know is that you do not have to live up to/or down to the stereotype that society has placed upon you. You are enough and created equally in the image of God. What I want non-black people to know about the power of the black man is that our power has been neutralized through time by stereotypes, systemic racism, and prejudice, yet we have continued to rise. Please don’t view this as a threat, but embrace the fact that obstacles have been placed in our path and let’s fight together to remove those obstacles.
Kyron: I want other black men and non blacks to know that we’re not what you see on the news. We’re more than thugs and etc we are over-comers. We are Pastors, entrepreneurs, husbands, brothers, politicians, teachers, writers, we are all this while steady being told by America that we are not valuable.
Stephen: I want other black men to fight through the adversity, throw excuses to the side and accomplish your goals.
4. What is your perspective on the resilience of black women?
Aaron: When it comes to black women I think we’ve all fallen victim to stereotype. Again, pigeon-holed into thinking they’re loud, sassy, etc. However, I think that misses the mark and doesn’t display the gentleness they portray as well. My mom and aunts are incredibly gracious and kind. YET MAKE NO MISTAKE! If you push my momma she’ll push back and I love that about her. I think with black women we’ve all missed that aspect of who they are. It’s weird but I feel like black men are more afraid of strong black mom more than anything else lol.
Kyron: I believe the resilience of the black woman is phenomenal. Black women have a lot on their plates. They have to deal with a lot of racism but also the fact that they are women in a male-dominated society. So they face problems that black men don’t face. I’ve seen it first hand the power and resilience of a black woman. Watching my mom grind for me and my sister while in college. Putting food on the table for us at times I have no idea how she did it. The black woman is the most important in my opinion.
Stephen: Black women’s resilience is amazing because women are already treated less than man and then you add being black on top of that. They’re treated the worst out of anybody in America. And yet you see black women succeeding in all phases of life at a large rate. I think we need black women to continue to be strong and not use their strength as a weapon against black men. We got a lot of work to do on our part but it doesn’t help if we tearing each other down.
5. What do you need from black women to move forward? What do you need from non-black people to move forward?
Aaron: I think what black men need from black women is encouragement. Not saying we’re not getting those things from them, but men across all cultures need this. The aspect of the Fall of Man that men (gender) experience is passivity. Adam failed to intervene when the serpent was deceiving his wife. He should’ve slapped the mess out of the snake, grab Eve by the hand and dip. But he didn’t. As a result, we continue to be passive…we fear failure, rejection, and loss of purpose. Failed attempts at pursuing a woman, failings of leading a business, a ministry, a family. We fear not measuring up to other men and what the culture says manhood is. “Am I making enough money? Does my body look like a superhero? I’ve been rejected enough times, why would I ask someone out again?” So by “encouragement” I mean, call us up to who God made us to be. Our curse is that we’re afraid to step out and so we become idle, waiting for things to happen to us, living reactively and passively, instead of prayerfully asking God to lead us and then stepping out with the courage to do what he’s called us to do.
Avery: For non-black people I’d say, to move forward we just need an effort to be aware of what is going on.
Kory: I guess one thing I can think of is more Priscilla Shirer’s, Rosa Parks, and Harriet Tubman’s to rise up as a voice and model for women, black and non-black alike (yes, I just put Priscilla on the same level and Rosa and Harriet!). What I need from non-black people is to stop acting like systemic racism is not a thing. To surrender to your political affiliation for the sake of understanding. Seek understanding. It’s okay to disagree, but it’s not okay to never interact with or listen to the men and women who are crying out in pain. Investigate the history honestly, not through the eyes of a political agenda – on both sides.
Kyron: I think from black women we just need them to not give up on us. We also need them to continue to put us in check and hold us accountable. Furthermore, we need them not to believe the negative stereotypes about us and to understand not all of us are dogs. For non-black people, we just need you to do your research about black history before slavery and after and also know this country’s true history. Most importantly stand up for us because being silent is just as bad if not worse. Learn and teach your families the truth and own the past, don’t try to downplay it. That’s the only way we can have true reconciliation acting like it doesn’t exist won’t make it better.
Stephen: I need non-black people to understand that racism isn’t going anywhere. There is no end all solution to racism. Knowing that, look out for your friends of color be fair, be mindful of what you say. And just have a conversation with your friends of color that you know will make you uncomfortable and you’ll learn so much about how they see the world and gain a better understanding of why they see the world the way they do.