The Perception of Black Masculinity

– By Dillon Adabie

I’ve been going back and forth on whether I should start writing, due to the fact that I don’t know if I’m ready to actually share my feelings on the internet. But it’s 10:44pm, I’ve just got a trim and I’m feeling inspired, so here we go…

There are very few people that I look up to in life. The reason for this is multifaceted. It most likely comes from the conditioning I experienced whilst growing up in a Ghanaian home, where each generation is filled with the spirit of individualism, both to our benefit and to our detriment.

From a young age, I’ve depended on myself to achieve whatever I’ve wanted. Whether that be through school, learning how to trade, playing rugby at a high level or going on an exchange programme to America. This sense of individuality has strengthened my life and in some ways, has damaged parts of my life. This ranges from relationships to work and even to how I perceive myself. This idea of individuality has also resulted in the bottling of my emotions. Believing that I can do any and everything by myself without the need of anyone else. This was my warped perception of being a man.

Growing up, we as men are naturally conditioned to protect ourselves. We are taught that displaying emotions makes you “less of a man”, ultimately creating a generation of fragile individuals running on auto pilot. The only emotions we’re allowed to show are apathy and aggression.

As young black men growing up, we’re constantly told to be strong, to “man up” and to be fearless with little or no words of affirmation. Naturally, doubts and wonders start to take a toll on our mental resulting in our minds going into a state of conflict.

During my first year of university, I dropped into a state of anxiety which broke me down in ways in which I could not imagine. I naturally love my own space however I completely isolated myself to the point where people would not see me for weeks on end. My relationships started to falter and I felt as if no one would understand me or how I’m feeling. I tried to force the whole positive and happy thoughts mind set but that would only last till I came back from rugby training and had to face my reality. Alone at 12am. I didn’t want to talk to anyone about it and I shrugged it off.

Why?

Maybe because stress doesn’t hold as much weight in the mental health spectrum. Maybe because of my sense of individuality. Maybe because of my perception of what a man is. Like many young black men who are in the process of maturing, I despised opening up. I was never taught how to water my own garden – let alone someone else’s. We are demanded to “man up” as soon as drought hits the land even though we never took the time to grow. “Manning up” hardens our soil. We don’t understand or even want to feel the refreshing effect that is vulnerability. However, we cannot continue to use our upbringings as an excuse for our behaviour.

We, the young black millennials need to foster relationships and environments where we can lower our guard. If the world we live in doesn’t allow us to, then we need to create a safe space where we can. Black women are great at finding these safe spaces. They’ve put themselves first and rightfully so. In reaction to this, a lot of us black men panicked and have gone around this is in a bad way. If black women are not seeking solace from us anymore, then maybe we should think about how we can work this masculinity thing out by ourselves. Our growth should not come off of the hurt of anyone else, especially our young black queens.

However, there has been a paradigm shift in the perception of masculinity, especially within the “mandem”. My boys have been instrumental in my progress. Opening up to them about how I’m feeling and having those uncomfortable discussions about their feelings towards life and what they are going through took a massive weight off of my shoulders. I found comfort in letting them know that I want to be free in every sense of the word, but every time I try to fly, I realise that I don’t know how to. Through telling them this, I gained a deeper understanding into my friends and gained invaluable little gems which I can honestly say has changed my life. So, for that I’d like to thank my guys and let them know that I love them.

Unfortunately, some men are not as lucky as I am to have other guys that they can turn to. It’s sad that we have to wait till breaking point in order to express ourselves. This persona where we have to be the “hardest” and hold things in is ridiculous and has to change. Our generation has the most potential to change the way things are in the future. Our parent’s generation, many who made the leap from Africa or the Caribbean to Britain, got it wrong. This is not a fault of their own but they had to be tough and hardened in order to survive in a foreign land. This should not be the case; however, this is the world we live in. On the other hand, we the young Black and British millennials have a duty to make sure all aspects of our health are adhered to.

So, check up on that friend that isolates himself. Check up on that friend that has been acting different and even check up on the friend that seems to have everything going for themselves because they need us and we need them.

Remember, one hand cannot clap.

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