“Where You At?”: An Open Letter To Black Men

  |  Topic: Advice, General, Identity, LGBTQ, Opinion, Race/Ethnicity
By Kaleb Anderson
Dear Black Men

Dear Black Men,

First, I just want to say that I am one of you. I thrive off of being surrounded by other Black men in any capacity. So this critique of us, includes myself.

For too long, we have let our black women, trans-women, and queer people down by othering, discriminating, and shunning them for their identities. I’ve seen this since I attended an all-boys, 6-12 public school that was majority black. In 7th grade, I witnessed a gay police officer be villainized by students, staff, and parents because of his sexuality. Freshman year of high school, I saw countless friends have to fight to defend themselves because expressing themselves by filling in their eyebrows, wearing wigs, and carrying purses broke gender norms. Experiencing this heteronormative environment suffocated me as well. Senior year I shied away from bringing a guy to prom with me because I didn’t want to deal with people’s opinions of my decision. Homophobia and the respectability politics we endorse as black men is destructive to our community.  

Now that I attend a co-ed college, I have befriended many Black women, and the stories they have told me about the mistreatment they have received from Black men are terrifying. Our Black women fight daily fight to excel in a society that has built standards and stereotypes to hinder their success. According to a study conducted by the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation in 2016, Black women make up more than half (52.9%) of the Black workforce and are also the most likely to start their own businesses. The NCBCP also gathered that between 1997 and 2015, the number of companies started by Black women grew by 322% culminating in over 1.3 million businesses nationwide.

However, the professional prosperity Black women in America are experiencing is negated by how wasteful, scary, and just disappointing dating is for the Black woman. ABC gave us the receipts back in 2009, and you let me know if it has changed.

Many of us do not date Black women, and get upset with them if they date outside our race. Then we have expectations that black women should assimilate to Eurocentric standards of beauty (makeup lighter than one’s skin tone and weave/straightened hair). I’m not saying that we are obligated to date Black women, but we shouldn’t devalue them with statements like, “Black women are angry”, “they don’t listen and are loud”, and “Black women aren’t submissive.” How about we pull up our pants and promote chivalry and respect not only in our words, but in our actions. We can start by not policing their bodies and “gaslighting” them. Black women deserve our respect and support.

Black women deserve our respect and support, even out here in these streets marching. Black Lives Matter was founded by three, black queer women and has made it a part of their mission to include that black, queer lives are apart of the movement. Historically, Black movements during the civil rights era did not prioritize queer inclusion in their fight against systematic oppression. Even now, the self proclaimed “gatekeepers” of pro-blackness (aka Hoteps) are openly excluding issues of our queer folks from the movement. Y’all boy Dr. Umar Johnson makes this known here.

Being pro-black, means standing for all of our black people. If one of us is suffering, all of us are. Now, we as Black men are out here making moves rallying and organizing when the time comes, but that isn’t enough. We have to continue to educate ourselves on the plights of Black women and queer identifying folks. Progress has to embrace all identities and walks of life in our community regardless of sexuality, gender identity, religion, skin-tone, age, and political views.   

Brothers, now more than ever we need to show up. Not only for each other and build solidarity, but for all Black people. I am ready to contribute to the movement, how about you?

With appreciation,

A Fellow Brother

P.S: Do not expect a black women to twerk on you at a party, fawn over you, or accept any of your wack, elementary compliments just because you are a man. Step your game up.

Kaleb, 19, a sophomore at DePauw University, loves “swag-surfin” with other black men at parties.

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