Thursday, May 7, 2009

Some thoughts on black masculinity, part 2

In a previous entry I referred to "fatherlessness" -- that is, not so much not having a literal father around but a lack of established older men around to show boys just how to grow and become centered in their masculinity. One of the major consequences is the high number of illegitimate births in the African-American community, now at around 70 percent nationwide. Most people probably think it's because black males are naturally oversexed and simply looking for an easy lay, which is certainly stressed in parts of hip-hop culture, including what are known as the demeaning "b-" and "h-words" in referring to women -- if that were addressed things might change.

But, upon thinking about it, I'm not sure that such adolescents really want or intend to become playboys or abusers. Rather, many of these boys, without realizing it, have embarked on a fruitless search not for so much sex but intimacy and validation. Work with me here...

As I mentioned before, that lack of guidance starts early with no strong male in the home -- and that leads to something that probably most people don't consider: Boys don't see how a healthy relationship between a man and a woman actually works. Therefore, they don't learn to treat women or girls like queens and princesses. (Remember, this goes back many generations, before the 1960s.)

Let's remember, however, that these boys already have a hole in their soul due to a lack of not only validation from a father or other strong male but also appropriate nurturing, so guess how they often try to fill it?

Often, with girls. Of course, that leads to many boys getting their sexual education from the street.

You see where I'm going with this -- sex in this context represents not so much sport but a salve to, at least in theory, wash away the inner pain they often don't even recognize. Trouble is, of course, that they're so needy themselves they don't have what it takes to satisfy a woman's heart. If she turns up pregnant they may "try to do the right thing" but in many cases, seeing correctly that they're defective, she breaks off the relationship believing that she and the child are actually better off without them. (One reason why simply marrying the child's mother doesn't solve the problem is that the emptiness will still be there after the wedding; about two decades ago I worked with a woman who had two children out of wedlock but refused to marry their father because "I don't want to raise three children.") Repeat numerous times and you have the present situation.

Anyway, this lack of confidence in their own masculinity has other results, too. Most obvious is the violence that often goes on in the street -- members of my own congregation have been shot, some to death, because of someone trying to "be a man" by imposing his will on others, and that doesn't always have to do with dealing drugs. And then, not discussed as often, are secret homosexual relationships between black men (colloquially called being "on the down low") that also can come from not being affirmed by Dad or some other man.

So what to do? I'll give answers -- as well as ask some other pertinent questions -- in an upcoming post.

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