Jesus in responding to one who was an expert in the Jewish Torah/Law as to
what was the greatest Commandment replied, “Love the Lord your God with
all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first
and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as
What is the role of the Black man in this 21st century culture? I ask this
question in hopes that we can begin a meaningful dialogue about African people
living in America and how we move forward together.
I have worked with Black men as the minister to men at my home church, so I
start with the Black man, because I am a Black man. I have talked with and met
with many Black men over the years that are serious, conscious and who love
God yet finds it difficult matriculating this maze of masculinity in the 21st
On the one hand there have been many books, articles, and forums on getting
Black men to be more committed to their families and more visible in the community.
Moreover, I have met many Black men who are spiritual, who are with their families,
who are visible in the community. On one hand it seems okay for Black women
to try and define the roles Black men should have, yet Black men are not allowed
to do the same for our Black women.
So let me ask some questions, do we as a Black culture still expect Black men
to be the provider of the family? Do we expect Black men in marriage to make
sure the mortgage is paid? This seems out dated with the emphasis on mutuality
in relationships and Black women’s earning power. Yet there are Black
women and men who despite the change in social trends fall back into this perspective
that says the man is the one who supplies the basic needs for the family.
What specifically does a mutual relationship where both male and female are
co-equal, co-shepherds in the home look like? What are the specifics of how
things get done? Who defines the roles of Black men? Do women, or theologians
or the culture we live in? I ask these questions because things have gotten
so confusing for African American men in this culture in the 21st century. It
gets even more complicated because African American men still don’t communicate
well among each other. We still don’t share our struggles, challenges
and fears well with each other.
Malidoma Patrice Some has said that, “only when I’m among other
men am I at my most authentic self.” Yet we are so task oriented we don’t
have time to be a part of supportive groups of men that will help encourage
us to understand the uniqueness of being a Black man in America and hold us
What does this mean when we face a Bush agenda for the next 4 years? White
men’s voices are heard loud and clear in this fear driven period of this
country where white men have methodically taken the banner of protector of white
supremacy and thrown it in the world’s face. Is there still a calculated
assassination of the Black male image? If so, what are we saying about it in
our conversations in the health clubs, the barbershops and on the streets? Are
we having conversations to strategize how to present our concerns?
When Colin Powell let his boss put him in check because he expected to go to
the conference on Racism in 2000 only to have Bush publicly override him, it
signaled something dire for Powell and the Black male voices in America. Now
I know many of you say that his boss had every right to override him. Yet consider
this, Powell was and is a wealthy Black man who did not need the job he has
now given up frustrated. Therefore the only reason for him to be there in the
beginning from our perspective (the administration needed his face for credibility)
was to address our concerns where the administration so willingly ignored them.
He could have gone anyway and put the administration on notice that he was
his own man and that there are some things more important than pleasing a boss
in a job he did not need anyway. I am not singling him out, but using his experience
as a signal of where we are as Black men and Black people.
So who articulates the role of the Black man in America? What does the world
think of the Black man’s influence in the world? What do Black women really
think about the importance of their men? What do our children think? What do
WE as Black men think about ourselves? Do we care?
Jesus said, “…You should Love your neighbor as you Love yourself…”
It seems the whole thing hinges on whether we as Black men Love being Black
men. In fact Black people must Love being Africans living in America.
Perhaps we have tried to please white folks too much. We have tried to prove
that we were loyal Americans. We have tried on our jobs to show that we would
be harder on our own to show our loyalty. We have tried to live the life of
Now maybe (I think overdue) it is time we see ourselves as a nation within
a nation. I don’t mean we have to separate from America, just demand our
due as a people. We should not be ashamed to lobby for African people living
in a forced Diaspora. Maybe it is time we embraced ourselves as a people, an
I think we have taken for granted that all of us actually embrace our Africanity.
Maybe that is one important reason many Black men find it hard getting our footing
in this culture, because we are trying to fit into something that is alien to
us. Maybe we need to ask Black people, men and women, boys and girls, who are
Maybe we should stop asking (at least stop focusing) on what’s wrong
with Black men (Black women) and ask Black people, do you love being an African
people? Perhaps if we start with identity we can work toward unity