Just Be a Man About It: Black Boys Don't Cry
Hey SimplyMei family! I know. I know. Don’t fuss me out. Some of you probably want to really square up with me. I admit, it has been awhile since I wrote a post. My apologies, Life!
If you follow me on social media, you know that I chose to add graduate school to my already full plate (almost a year in woot woot!) and I am still very much being a full time mommy. In fact, it was actually a mommy moment that actually inspired me to take a break from chaos, get back to the pen, and type up this good ol’ blog post.
So, thank my son Santana! Here we go..
LET ME TAKE YOU BACK IN TIME...
It’s finals week in grad school. Game time, baby! I’m sitting outside on the steps in front of my apartment trying to draft an “A – worthy” final paper for a class while simultaneously watching my son play horseplay around with the other 8-year-old boys in the neighborhood. Oh Santana - - my son is truly all boy. Naturally, I began to focus my attention more on my laptop to knock out my paper rather than intensely watching the kids play tag and be boys. They were not far from me and as long as I could hear their laughter and chatter, I knew they were fine. Parents you know what I am talking about. It is NOT the noise that we worry about… It is when kids all of sudden get quiet that indicates, “Houston, we have a problem!” They were fine, until…
Then came the loud cry…
Next thing I know my son was standing in front of me with two scraped knees, feelings full of hurt, and a face plastered with tears. Now the scrapes were not atypical of any injury that boys may incur from falling down or just playing around. In fact, I personally did not think they were bad at all - - not bad enough for the water works anyway. He was being dramatic. On top of that, one of his friends he had been playing with had scraped his knee too and he was just fine.
“Just shake it off son - - It’s only scraped knees. You will be okay. It happens sometimes. You don’t want to be outside crying in front of your friends, do you?”
Thought I was going to sugarcoat it and tell you that I allowed him to express his hurt, bandaged him up, and accepted that he was not okay, huh? Here’s the part of the story where I become sensitive to the fact that he’s only a kid and just because he’s a boy doesn’t mean that those two scraped knees didn’t hurt him any less, right? Well, if I told you that I’d be lying. That was not my initial reaction.
What my son told me following my comment is what really triggered me.
It jolted me.
“You always tell me not to cry but this time it really hurts mom. I can’t help it. I'm trying to hold it in, but...I can't”
This was more than my son saying to me that he was hurt over two scraped knees. You see, kids can’t always verbalize the bigger message. The bigger message behind what he was saying was: “Mom you don’t allow me to be vulnerable and express myself even when I really need to because the situation is hard for me to deal with”. Is this how I was raising my black son?
I ashamed to admit but before this “aha” moment, I’m not sure how many times I told him not to cry and toughen up. Of course, my intentions were harmless. I love my son. I just wanted him to be a boy. I didn’t want the other boys to laugh at him for being perceived as weak-- it was protection in a way. Beyond all of that, as a single mom I felt a pressure to be tough on him during situations like this in attempt makeup for the lesson he lacked from his biological father: how to be a man, especially a black man in today’s society.
But what does that mean? - - be a man. Where did I get this belief that black boys are supposed to be tough at all times? Where did I get this idea that my son’s reason for crying wasn’t valid? Why was it wrong for him to be expressive?
Why don’t black boys cry?
I’M NOT A BLACK MALE…WHY SHOULD I CARE ABOUT THIS POST?
This blog post is not just for the black boy or black man. In fact, this post is for anyone seeking to understand the black boy or man, how to raise a black boy, how to communicate with a black boy or man, how to be patient with a black boy or man, and so much more. Black men live in a society that literally fears them just because of their very being. Don’t believe me? Turn on the news and see how many black BOYS and MEN have been unarmed and shot by police who reacted in pure fear instead of valid suspicion.
... but like it or not, black men exist and will continue to exist which means we should ALL learn how to co-exist which starts with understanding why some black men are the way they are - - starting with exploration of their childhood.
Let me be clear, I think we need all men regardless of race or ethnicity. Men are like the rock and foundation of household. They are leaders. (I know some independent woman just read that and choked. “I don’t need nobody telling me what to do”. Listen, I am a boss too sis. Calling men leaders does not mean that you have no voice. When I refer to leader, I mean that in a sense of protection. A man that loves his family will protect and lead his family.)
So, why am I focusing on the black man? - - because often they are misunderstood. I know many black men that excel at being a leader and provider but when it comes to being expressive and vulnerable, it can be a challenge.
Their challenges with emotional expression can be perceived as being cold and disengaged when really some of these men are just a reflection of their upbringing - - taught to never cry. Black men, I know a lot you have been limited to only being able to express certain acceptable emotions be it in front of family or friends. When was the last time you cried in front of your homie or told your mom your feeling were hurt, black man?
So today (and over the next couple of weeks), I’m focusing on black boys because black men we need you - - all of you - - even the hard to reach, vulnerable places too. If I can help it, I’m going to do my best be an advocate for black men. If I’m missing anything, talk to Mei. This is a discussion and hopefully the beginning of something great.
Welcome to my blog post series on Why Black Boys Don’t Cry
PART I – REASONS WHY THEY DON’T CRY
I can hear it now…
“SimplyMei, how can you possibly speak to something you are not?”
Fact: You got it. I’m not a man - - let alone a black man.
I’m raising a young black King.
I have a very black father.
My brother is… *drum roll please* You guessed it. He’s a black man.
I have black males friends.
I have very much dated black men.
You catch my drift.
So no, I cannot say that I have truly walked in the shoes of a young black man but I can tell you that I have had enough experience and relationships with our melanin kings to know that there is a reoccurring theme pervasive in many of their lives: Man up. It’s crazy how many black males I know have been raised in similar ways. These males come from different households. Many of them don’t even know nor engage with each other. How is it that these black males can have seldom interaction with each other, yet can relate on being told things like:
"Black boys ain't no sissies"
"Black boys don't talk about fEeLiNgs"
"Black boys just figure it out"
"Stop acting like a girl"
Why is this the case?
While I’m sure that there are many more reasons, read on for 6 common reasons that SimplyMei has observed:
X Display of Weakness: Many black boys are taught to be to be strong and by strong, I mean to not cry over trivial things. Some are never even consoled with a hug or any other gesture physically comforting. Instead of viewing little black boys as kids, they are often viewed as miniature men. Even though physically black boys are still growing babies, there is a pressure placed on them to be poised, rationale, and mature in any situation. “Be a man about it”. The ultimate taboo is to cry over something that isn’t big enough to cry about. It alludes to being weak. Maybe parents are trying to teach and prepare black boys how to be strong in world that eats black men alive every day. However, when is this "grooming" too much?
X Lack of Trust: I see this more so in men than boys. Perhaps it started in their childhood and manifested into adulthood. Whatever it is, some black males don’t trust people enough with their emotions. Imagine that little black boy that was told to never cry. He internalized crying as being a bad thing - - as wrong. He grows up and he’s scared to be vulnerable with someone. He couldn’t even trust his caregivers enough to be open to hearing about his thoughts and feelings growing up. How in the hell do you expect him to be trusting after years of feeling like he had to bottle up his emotions? Telling a black man, “it’s okay, you can talk trust me and talk to me” may be a difficult concept to grasp if they’ve never had practice doing this.
X “Man of the House”: Before I go into this point, understand that I am a single black mom too. I am not coming for any single black mothers and many parents do this - - dads, too. However, in my personal experience I have witnessed a lot of single black mothers unconsciously push their young black boy into the role as “man of the house”. I’m not saying that it is wrong to give young black boys the duty of taking out the trash and trying to instill lessons in them that’ll help them grow into a provider and man one day. What I am saying is don’t rush this process. Allow that black boy to be a kid. Allow him to make mistakes. Allow him to grow. I remember back in the day I used to caption my son’s pictures with, “My Man”. Harmless, right? Well not really. Unconsciously I found that I was fueling this idea of him being my equal - - as if he was truly a man. He’s not. He’s a child and I’m the parent. What happens to the black boys that become men but were never allowed to have a true childhood? How do they act in their adult life? I know some men that are 26 (biologically) but still stuck at 13 (mentally).
X Code of Conduct: I’ve heard dads literally say “don’t act like a sissy in front of the boys” at my son’s football games. Even I was guilty of not wanting my son to cry in front of his friends. Why? It’s like an unspoken code of conduct. Crying or being vulnerable in front of family is one thing, but to do it in front of your homeboys is a whole ‘nother can of worms. You don’t want the boys to clown you, right? … and so often this continues. Instead of having friends that are truly receptive to talks on sensitive subjects, black men may be met with jokes from their friends like, “get out your feelings man” or “suck that sh*t up boy, let’s go out”. This only perpetuates a cycle of evading real talks and reluctance to being open with people who your support is supposed to come from- -like friends.
X Homophobia: I would go into depth but this here is another blog post that I plan to expand upon. I will say this though...I see this a lot in black fathers: the fear of their son being gay. Anything considered "feminine" is frowned upon. It is these fathers that express disdain when their little black boy does things like wants to talk about feelings. Now it is not just fathers but unfortunately I have witnessed many fathers raise their boys with this homophobe mindset. It is unfair to the child. Sometimes a little black boy is penalized for simply doing normal kid things - - like crying.
X History: Lastly, history. Even going back to times of slavery, black men had to be strong for black women. It wasn’t a choice. It was a way of life. Perhaps, this need to be strong for the woman and NOTHING LESS still lingers.
**Please note that sometimes, parents don't pay great attention to cries for justified reasons. Maybe the child truly is overreacting or crying as a method to get what he wants. However, that doesn't take away from the truthfulness in the statements above. The above things truly do happen.**
Wrapping Up With SimplyMei
How y’all feeling this series so far? Listen, you have to talk to Mei. You can comment on any one of my social media handles (I am literally always on my Instagram @heysimplymei). Heck, you can even shoot me a private email (firstname.lastname@example.org). If I get enough feedback, I’ll continue the series with Part II:
We know why black boys don’t cry, but why SHOULD they cry? In other words, how will teaching black boys to be vulnerable expressive have an kind of value. Tune in and I'll share my opinion!
Until next time boodaddies…
But what do I know…
I’m just a blogger that writes down her opinions. Until next time with #SimplyMei…
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