A Great Straight Black American Male Struggles With The Rise Of Great Gay Black Men In America
I can’t imagine there’s a harder thing to be right now than a great heterosexual black man in America. With all due respect to my fellow — and similarly struggling and feeling like an American outlier — great minority brothers and sisters of all backgrounds, there’s something particularly troubling about the experience of being a great straight black man in America in 2016 that’s vexes me. Therefore, I’ve committed these thoughts to screen. In hoping that the leadership of black America doesn’t potentially become dominated by more gay voices than straight ones — and hopefully to also learn if others are similarly thinking about this, or similar issues — I’ve written what I hope can spur a good, honest and decent conversation that leads to aware and empowered solutions.
The biggest thing that has me writing this column is just how potentially amazing it could be to be a great gay black man in America right now. There’s a vacuum that’s developing in the great black male space in black American cultural leadership that I don’t think will be occupied by too many heterosexual black males. If we’re just thinking in a stereotypical sense, dominant and strong black stereotypes and looks being ascribed to great straight black men isn’t hot in the streets. It’s largely all beta-male ego sublimation that’s running things for straight black men, and maybe keeping us from having a place of respected strength in the conversation about the future of black America.
When the last of the “great straight black American men” Barack Obama gets out of office, I’d want to say that we should all aspire to be like Kanye West, but for all of his Alpha-style bravado, he’s likely caught up in the same existentialist struggle that I’m in right now. I suppose as straight black American man I’m ultimately left with wanting to be Drake, but let’s remember that he’s Canadian. Therefore, unless I move to Toronto and change my citizenship too, that’s really not anything that I’m going to be succeeding at, either.
I am certain that there’s something out there that I’m missing regarding truly understanding this entire issue (and I urge people to write MORE think-pieces to educate me), but there’s a notion of dominant black homosexuality that could be zipping to hyper-relevance insofar as defining excellence from the black male perspective. Moreso than any other great black men, it’s great gay black men (like say, RuPaul) who look to gain the most in the future. Gay marriage is legal, conservative angst towards gay people in general appears to be on the wane, and lanes that are stereotypically gay-friendly are again reaching the top of pop culture (like house music crossing over (again)). This creating all sorts of spaces where great gay black voices and faces — and namely great gay black MALE voices and faces — can rise to the forefront and have the potential for even greater visibility/ears lent to their cause and the cause of black liberation overall.
Once again, it’s important to note that my life as a straight black man doesn’t matter. Being reminded that Hillary Clinton once called people like me (yes, I’ll take the leap without data to prove it that there’s a lot more of straight black males in America’s prisons that openly gay black men) super-predators reminded me of that. Because of this, I’m definitely left to believe that there’s no #StraightBlackBoyMagic that’s going to suddenly appear and give my life a sense of greater meaning. #BlackGirlMagic’s definitely happening all across America though, and is giving African-American women the boost to basically run the whole entire world right now. Fortunately, I’m not mad at that.
Rather, I’m just jealous as hell of it, sitting here in all of my one-time awesome straight black maleness doing things like looking at the best form of myself preparing to end his two iconic terms as President of this nation. As I was doing this, I saw the Republican party attempt to tell me that Dr. Benjamin Carson was an acceptable substitute for Barack Obama as the most idyllic form of straight black male to which I would want to aspire to emulate. Yes, Dr. Carson once separated twins conjoined at the cranium, but when you don’t have Barry O’s swag, that really doesn’t matter much.
To continue using rappers as a parallel to my best and greatest self, I suppose #StraightBlackBoyMagic is what someone like Chicago-based emcee Chance The Rapper has. However, I’m 37 and he’s 22, and I don’t know if I have it in me anymore to live with that level of reckless abandon and amusement at the universe unclouded by cynicism. So this begs a question: What’s a wizened, conscious and vocal straight black man who’s struggling to not become a parody of himself like Kanye, too old to be Chance or fearful of falling incredibly short of being Barack Obama to do? I mean, I think there’s a need for strong and universally appreciated straight black male voices to emerge in society, but I just don’t see how it’s going to happen.
America has historically come of age with strong straight black male voices and faces at the forefront. This isn’t to say that the rise of strong black gay male voices and faces isn’t important. It is. However, with a lineage that includes Benjamin Banneker, Frederick Douglass, Malcolm and Martin and Bobby and Fred and so many more, both straight and gay black men deserve equal space in the conversation. For as powerful as these emergent voices and faces are/will be, there’s always been a straight black man (or men) whose greatness as a visionary, leader and person with impact has been undeniably felt. Maybe I’m pulling the trigger on this whole entire article too early or it could be that I’m not seeing the forest in spite of the trees. However, in 2016, I’m just not seeing or hearing a plethora of unquestionably great faces and voices emerging in America’s straight black male community.
Sure, you’ll all point to Ta-Nehisi Coates, but that’s just ONE undeniably great straight black man in America in 2016. That raises a point, though. In this era where we’re learning what 45 years of (what is likely largely) straight black men being ostracized by Nixon-era harassment into drug abuse and incarceration means to our race and gender, are we back at one? Are we at a place as straight black men where we’ve been reduced to having ONE straight guy shining while all of the rest of us are off polishing ourselves in the shadows?
Or, are we not scared of the spotlight at all, but rather content as straight black men to be great outside of the realm of the brightest of spotlights? Furthermore, are we possibly afraid of not being able to meet or exceed the Obama standard? Moreso, could it be that we are we sociologically, emotionally and metaphorically henpecked and castrated into invisibility and silence by years of our forefathers and ourselves being berated into second-class person-hood? If that’s the case, then what do we do while we live here? Do we just silently support our new gay and female leaders as the best versions of selves that we cannot be? Are we all, again, Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Men? These are all important questions.
I’m writing this piece in order to empower myself. I also hope that other straight black men reading this see these words and decide to read their own empowerment and #StraightBlackBoyMagic through them as well. It’s a difficult time out here for all black people to truly excel. However, there’s a historical space for great straight black men that’s in danger of being lost. However, it may be up to me, you, your uncle, and your cousin, too, in order to fill it. The desire to wait for someone else to do this is clearly understandable. But the need for us as great straight black men to each stand up and be great — like our straight black male forefathers were great — is readily apparent.