The need to deconstruct and redefined “Black Manhood”

As a people that came under colonialism and endured cultural distortions and consequently a definition of ourselves as a people, we find ourselves lost of a sense of who we are and how we should behave, we find ourselves emulating the ways of the oppressor in our daily lives. This is a problem in our society as it has contaminated our social relations with one another. One of the things that have been influenced is our perceptions of gender, how we view both genders and how they ought to operate, this being very much influenced by the belief, which Mama Oyeronke Oyewumi has critically challenged that, “Gender categories are universal and timeless and have been present in every society at all times. This idea is often expressed in a biblical tone, as if to suggest that in the beginning there was gender”. Mama Oyewumi challenges this narrative and says the in Pre-colonial Yoruba(African) society the body was not used to classify society, social hierarchy was was not dependent on gender.

This beautiful narration by Mother Oyewumi helps us to understand and further analyse that the lens we are today using to view the our social structure is gendered or is westernised, this means that social classification is based on gender, social roles and responsibilities are based on gender, even our inner feelings are defined within this ambit of gender. This becomes self-distructive for black men and women, women are defined to be soft-hearted and must be submissive to men and on the other hand men must provide for their women and must be strong, and never be emotional or atleast control their emotions, this is all because of the enduring legacy of patriarchy. These western defined convictions are a problematic to black lives, for example if we go with the belief that men provide for their families, how do we expect the black man to provide for his family when he is faced by an arrogant white man at the door while looking for work, how do we expect the same black man to keep his dignity in a society that defines manhood based on accumulation of wealth while he has nothing. How do we expect the black woman who has suffered and endured disgrace under this state of racism and patriarchy than anybody else, how do we expect them to be submissive when they suffer abuse, when they suffer dehumanization, it is thus important that we re-look and re-define ourselves outside of the model of patriarchy, as a people.

The reason i chose to write this passage and give a historic analyses is because of witters and thinkers such as Bell Hooks who say “i have


hoped that, along with radical black women comrades, that individual black men who care about the plight of black males and who are themselves advocates of feminist thinking would do more to reach out to black males as a group.” This is very important because it is not too many times that we see black man fighting for a new image of themselves, more black men constructing a new open and free space in order to deconstruct and reconstruct Black Masculinity. More black man need to come out and say its okay for man to be vulnerable, it’s okay for man to feel, to fear, to not know how to be violent (which has become a more defining part of black malehood). Black man associate their masculinity with being able to fight or being violent, this has a historic influence as many black men during slavery were forced to fight one another for the entertainment of the “massa” and they would often kill each other for survival, it is time we teach each other to let go of the colonial definitions of ourselves.

Often man are told that a man does not cry, which means that men must not express their feelings or must not be able to talk about anything that concerns their lives especially to their wives or mothers because that is a sign of weakness, this is a conviction that emanates from the very patriarchal nature of the society, these narratives are the reason now we hear black man killing themselves, or hurting the ones they love(often black women) and if black man do not see this or understand that it is a burden on our women we are still going to see more black men in self-distruct. This is in no way an apologetic of the plight black women face in the hands of the black men, but it is an analysis of black manhood and the need to re-define black masculinity and it starts with us black man, we can never be men if we are not human.

By: Lufefe Benbella Sopazi.

Lufefe Sopazi is a students at the University Currently Known As “Fort Hare” at E.L. Campus, is a final year Bachelor of Economics student. Sopazi is a Pan-africanist/Black-Consciousness activist. Sopazi believes that there is no liberation if the black woman is still oppressed.


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