Self-activism: Reclaiming the voice of the Black male

There are two wars being waged against Black males. The first is an external war against the negative stereotypes, discrimination, racism, and oppressive policies placed upon Black males. This external war contributes to societies limited perception of positive Black manhood. The second is an internal war in which the Black male is fighting his own belief in the negativity of Black manhood that conflicts with his historical and lived experience. The greatest causality in this war has been the powerful voice of Black males. Society has been inundated with images of Black males as being dumb, deviant, and dangerous. These images have contributed to the creation of an environment in which Black males feel hopeless and powerless. In addition, a posture of apathy ensues that manifests as a pseudo mental paralysis. The voice of these males to share their stories has been silenced through threats of harm or death, imprisonment, drug use, and limited access to employment/ educational opportunities.

The key to the reclamation of this lost voice lies in the Black male’s journey towards a coherent knowledge of self that honors both the realities and resiliency in his situation. As the African Proverb states, “if there is no enemy within, the enemy outside can do you no harm.” To regain
their voice, Black males must reconcile the conflict between the socially constructed negative experience of Black manhood with their own internal definition that has been developed historically and supplemented through experience. For example, a young Black male may bear witness in media to images of Black males as innately unproductive members of society destined for institutional slavery within the confines of the prison system. These images can influence the young man’s thinking about his own Blackness as a sort of “stain” that he must distance himself from (via racial self-hatred expressed by oppressing other Black males) or that he must hyper identify with (via a hyper endorsement of a traditional masculine values such as anger, limited emotional expression, use of aggression, hyper sexuality). These coping strategies deny the Black male the ability to define his experience of Blackness for himself.

The cultivation of a sense of one’s Blackness can serve as a resiliency factor in the face of clashing depictions of Black manhood. At the core of this resiliency are three components: knowing one’s history, making one’s own history, and sharing that history with others. Black males can reconcile the conflict within and conquer the impact of societal oppression by developing an understanding of where and who they come from. This will in turn serve as foundation for them to have the confidence in their own abilities to positively impact the world. Lastly, combining their historical knowledge with their lived experience, these Black males will be able to effectively communicate
and advocate for themselves and their communities.

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