“I don’t know about you, but I think about my Black maleness everywhere I go: walking down the street, in elevators, in stores, at the gym, in crowds, on trains, on airplanes, around other Black men, and especially around large crowds of white people. Even as a thirty-eight-year-old man, I can’t seem to shake the fact that people from all racial backgrounds prejudge me before they even get to know me. Why am I so hyperaware of my Black maleness and the way other people perceive me? Because I know that so many people in this country have bought into the various stereotypical images of Black men as big, dangerous, and scary. From Nat Turner to Jack Johnson, Marcus Garvey to Malcolm X, Jim Brown to Mike Tyson, O. J. Simpson to Bigger Thomas, Barry Bonds to Pacman Jones—we conjure up fear in the hearts of people who have not closely examined their prejudices of Black males. Meanwhile the media, from Hollywood movies to cable news, continue to play on White people’s overwhelming fear of Black men.
Images of Black males in the media have been distorted for so long in this country that many of us don’t even recognize dangerous images when we see them. We are desensitized to them because we see them so much in popular culture, and because they’ve become a part of the language of media. Indeed, many of us have been brainwashed to such a degree that we buy into these images and even perpetuate them, without even knowing it.”
Excerpt from the book The Black Male Handbook
Chapter 3 Redefining Black Manhood
Written by Byron Hurt
Edited by Kevin Powell