Updated: Mar 20, 2018
Author: Antonio R.
“Boys don’t cry!”
“You’re too sensitive!”
“Don’t be soft!”
More than likely, if you identify as a boy or man, you have either said the following or you’ve been warned. Michael Ian Black — a comedian, actor, and author — wrote in his article for the New York Times “too many boys are trapped in the same suffocating, outdated model of masculinity.” Michael formulates his opinion on the recent shooting in Florida, where, yet again, a boy decides to end the lives of so many. Statistically, men are more likely than women to commit violent crimes. Have we ever considered why?
Boys and men of color have to prove their masculinity because of colonization. When an individual is dehumanized, separated from his family, and physically abused as punishment for disobedience, there is an inherent fear that creates a need for protection. When your body is controlled by the state and you can easily be gunned down, knowing the perpetrator(s) will be acquitted of all charges, again, there is a perpetual fear that you experience. Aggression, physical strength, and suppressed emotion serves as your defense mechanism and permits you to exist, but are you living? Our masculinity becomes fragile and we are unsure of how to navigate boyhood and manhood, positively.
Caregivers, guardians, and adult figures in the lives of boys and young men of color need to provide empathy and affection that is not gender bias. Imposing misconstrued ideas of gender on how to nurture males can have irreversible effects that may lead to crime, violence, cycles of abuse, and unfortunately, self-hate. More than ever, it is necessary that within our male friend groups, we allow our peers to be vulnerable and express how they feel. Michael is a father to a 16-year old son and his perspective is valuable. Although he does not share our race, he does share sentiments from a parental point-of-view. This view can be applied to us.
It is no surprise that Center for Disease Control and Prevention discovered that the third leading cause for death among black boys and young men, ages 10 to 24, is suicide. It is time we create safe spaces for boys and young men to talk about how they feel without emasculation. To identify as male is to be privileged; however, it should not come at the expense of our well-being