I’m denied my masculinity because I’m not a criminal or because I have not yet served a jail sentence. Unfortunately, black men today are stuck in this criminal manhood. Where violence, drugs, aggressiveness are depicted as the new black masculinity. This criminal mine set where I should sell dope and be in a gang will prove my manhood. Pop culture feeds this fire where songs like “Chopper” emphasizes on guns and violence. In the song, Lil’ Wayne and Rick Ross’s masculinity are not questioned or denied because the song promotes violence. Both rap artists are seen as a “boss” to most due to their lyrics of killings and being this aggressive man, which equates to being masculine. The song states having guns ready in the car to blow a pus*y ass nig*ea’s head off. Black men buy into these rappers and start repeating the rappers actions, to prove that they are also aggressive and as masculine as them. Many other rappers add to this criminal manhood stigma that further pushes us back.

Due to oppression, black bodies have trouble finding an identity. Thus, what it means to be masculine in the African American community has shifted a multitude of times over generations. In Jackson and Hopson’s edited addition of Masculinity in the Black Imagination, Christopher Davis writes about such a generation shift of the black masculinity. White supremacy laws like Jim Crow denied African American rights to own property, provide for families and security. Most importantly it denied men, especially men during the civil rights era their masculinity. African American’s fight against the injustice and oppression is simply the fight for the rights of citizenship. Men during this era correlated their masculinity with their citizenship. Citizenship to black men didn’t just mean just voting but, the rights to live freely seek education etc. The concept of democratic manhood allowed black men to redefine themselves on how they should live as men. It provides a foundation of set personal values and day to day practices that are essential to control over their own life.

The civil rights movement gained more rights for African Americans, but black bodies were still being oppressed by under toned laws from whites. The civil rights movement was seen as a failure to some which gave raise to anger black men, who were feed up with peaceful ways in protesting. New methods were used to get back more rights. This aggressive method was one of the contributing factors that lead to the criminal mind set which lead to African Americans definition of masculinity. Due to the raise of the new masculinity in black men they were are seen as this unwanted traffic. Black men are seen to either belong in the ghetto as underclass men or put into the jail system. The criminal mind set and must be apprehended and put away were seen by others. Black men did not fit in society and were known to be obsolete. Most black men who are sent to jail face hardships such as being assaulted and raped.

Due to my interest on the topic of the jail system I viewed a documentary entitled Turned Out – Sexual Assault Behind Bars. The documentary informed viewers how males use sex as a way to pay and gain safety from others. Majority of the time most males are raped for another males satisfaction. Some males become “turned out” and continue their gay relationship out of jail and there’s some that turn it off when they leave. It is hard for most heterosexual males because society places this one time gay rule. Where if you have sex with another male just once you become automatically gay. The inmates do what they have to do in jail to make sure they don’t make themselves look weak or to have some sort of power. Due to their actions in jail most black women are scared of the DL brother.Thus, jail time tarnishes a women’s perception of the black male’s sexuality and ultimately their masculinity.

The other day I was questioned about my masculinity by another black man. The male said I didn’t have this masculine demeanor, which made me less aggressive and I didn’t fit this thuggish lifestyle. I grew up quite and shy, so excuse me for not wanting to start punching holes in walls. Other than my sexuality, he said I wouldn’t be seen as masculine to other black males if I didn’t walk, talk and most importantly start a fight or get buck with another male to prove how much of a macho man I am. Sadly, this is what our generation thinks of what the definition of masculinity is. Hopefully the next generation is a lot more progressive than we are.

The first part of the documentary: Turned Out – Sexual Assault Behind Bars


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