The Emasculation of the Black Man

THE PORTRAYAL AND representation of black men in the media is a persistent problem, rife with stereotypes and misrepresentations. Recently, the press has found new ways to disempower black men, perpetuating harmful stereotypes and diminishing their societal presence.

In the 1960s and 1970s, black people in the UK faced extreme racism. As a schoolboy, I was brutally attacked by two white men, leaving me with a fractured skull. This violent incident went unreported by both the police and the media. Such violence and casual racism were stark realities of the time, with neighbours naming their dogs derogatory terms like Nigger, Sambo, and Spade.

Surviving this near-death experience as a 14-year-old toughened me, fostering resilience instead of hatred. This resilience is a common thread among black men of my generation, often overlooked in media narratives. During this period, we faced intense police racial profiling under the SUS (Stop and Search) law, yet we stood our ground, inspired by the struggles of blacks in America and South Africa.

The media significantly influences public perceptions, often reducing black men to athletes or entertainers, thus ignoring our intellectual and multifaceted contributions to society. These portrayals undermine our achievements in other fields, perpetuating a narrow and harmful image.

"The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete."

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Recently, the media has adopted subtler methods to undermine black men, challenging traditional notions of black masculinity. While it is crucial to embrace diverse gender expressions, the media's disproportionate focus on black men in effeminate, non-traditional roles is concerning.

In the 1990s, tokenism saw Black characters included in media superficially. Recently, the media has leveraged the Woke movement, initially aimed at addressing racial injustices, to portray young Black men in ways that undermine traditional masculinity. This portrayal fosters an image of Black men as less resilient, gentler, more effeminate, and bland, disempowering their traditional masculine identity.

The increasing representation of Black gay characters on television is disproportionate, considering that Black gay men represent less than 0.5% of the Black male population. This misleading overrepresentation distorts reality and impacts the perception of Black men, overshadowing the typical inner-city Black male—athletic, sharp, streetwise, and edgy.

The film Green Book, on Netflix, about the struggle of a Black musician in the racist US over 50 years ago, depicts the man as homosexual. It’s ridiculous. Back then, there were very few Black homosexuals. Even today, few Black people identify as gay. Why are they doing it?

"Representation is a crucial location of the struggle for any exploited and oppressed people asserting subjectivity and decolonisation of the mind."

Bell Hooks

The media has consistently shaped the narrative around black men to their detriment. From overtly racist depictions to subtle undermining today, these portrayals have far-reaching impacts.

"A man who stands for nothing will fall for anything."

Malcolm X

I hope that this article can inspire disenfranchised youth to strive for better, challenging the negative stereotypes that have long been imposed on us. The fight against media misrepresentation is about changing perceptions and reclaiming our identity and dignity. It's about ensuring that the voices and stories of black men are heard and valued in all their complexity and richness. If you asked me 50 years ago if I would still be having the discussion now, I would have said no. Sadly, the struggle continues only in a more provocative way.

“We are going to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery because whilst others might free the body, none but ourselves can free the mind. Mind is your only ruler, sovereign. The man who is not able to develop and use his mind is bound to be the slave of the other man who uses his mind.”

Marcus Garvey

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