How many of us have used the lines
“I’m calm”, “Yh my g, I’m fine”
Knowing full well that those are lies
But also knowing it’s easier to smile
Tears are for angry moments.
But lately all you’ve felt is angry moments
Or you’ve felt nothing at all
Unsure if other emotions exist
Dear all, continuing on this weeks theme of raising mental health awareness, today’s post will be specifically addressed to black men. We’ve already touched on common myths surrounding M.I (Mental illness/es) “Your not crazy” and also on some do’s and don’ts when it comes to interacting with a friend suffering from M.I “Why don’t you tell us anything ??”, but we’ve yet to have a conversation as to why suicide is the most common cause of death for men aged 20-49 in England and Wales click here for more info. Black people have (over time), developed this false idea that mental illness is a “white people thing”, we’ve prided ourselves on our resilience, on our strength, on this unbreakable quality we believe is rooted in our blackness, but this narrative needs to be eradicated. Not because it’s particularly untrue, but because it leaves no room to be anything else. I write this post not with the hope that black men will enhance their emotional intelligence overnight, but with the belief that one day black men may be able to exist without being confined by the label “strong”. That they will be able to live and not just cope.
BLACK MEN AND STRENGTH.
As you would expect, being black, I’ve always struggled with opening up, with being forthcoming with anything that’s troubling me, with being able to hold my hands up and say “I need help”. And I’m a woman. The expectation placed on me to deal with problems solo is far lesser than that placed on black men and still it mutes me. But with being black and being male comes a tighter constraint. Bound by both your blackness and your manhood, asking for help is not something black men do. Muzzled by your parents from childhood, black men have always been taught to be “strong”, but the definition of that attribute has been warped by black mouths. For to be a “strong” black man means to bear pain with no complaint, to carry your burdens no matter the load, on your shoulders and your shoulders alone. Being a “strong” black man means to also take on the loads of others, to allow people to rest their burdens on your back, their load has lightened but what of yours? Being a “strong” black man means to be able to put women in their place. Beneath you. She can be a strong black woman but not stronger than you, because to be a “strong” black man means to be the strongest. But black man you can only carry so much. A time will come when your not going to be able to shoulder all your burdens and what happens then? What happens when you’ve been told all your life, that you are strong, that you should always be strong but now you feel weak.
BLACK MEN AND WEAKNESS.
Along with the inaccurate view of strength, black men you also don’t understand weakness. Emotions are not weaknesses. Men often pride themselves on being the more “logical” sex, women are said to lead with emotion and men to lead with reason. But black men anger is an emotion like any-other. And that emotion you know all to well. For far too many of you it’s often the go-to emotion when things don’t go your way, anger has replaced fear, has replaced pain. And when anger can’t be a replacement you choose to feel nothing. But there is a strength in feeling. With feeling comes honesty. And black men you have been lying to yourselves for too long. Emotions are what separates man from beast, man from machine and black men you are neither beast nor machine. We’re still on the topic of mental health and dealing with emotion is a big part of what needs to be done to keep your mind intact. You have to be honest with how you feel about a situation in order to deal and move past it. Repressed emotions, though easily avoidable, can lead to so many different complications and a strain on your mental health. This goes out to the “positive vibes only” brigade also, being in touch only with positive emotions is just as unhealthy. Protect your mental health and allow yourself to feel, everything.
BLACK MEN AND THEIR BOYS.
Why don’t black men talk? Who silenced you? Who was it that first told you that talking was a women’s thing? When you wanna link girls you have a boy for that, when you wanna chill off play some fifa you have a boy for that, but do you have a boy you can ring up and just talk to? I’ve lightly touched on this in a previous post “Why don’t you tell us anything ??”, but I feel as though black men in particular have a serious issue with opening up and admitting that everything isn’t “calm”. When I’ve asked black boys in the past why they find it so difficult to speak up about problems, I got different responses, but one of the most common was that they saw no benefits of talking. And at first I got it, why sit around talking about your problems when you could be out solving them right? But what of the problems you can’t solve? And even if you’ve solved the issue that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve healed and moved on from it. Talking has a healing quality, sometimes it takes openly talking about an issue to really understand it. So find a friend you can talk to and be that friend that others can talk to. Oftentimes we have this warped perception of other people’s lives being perfect but we’re all acting, all it takes is for one person to take off their “I’m fine” mask to make others follow suit.
This part of the post is addressed to black women. We can’t simply blame black men for their hypermasculinity, this isn’t something that grew overnight or something that is instilled into young black boys by way of men only. We too are just as guilty as funnelling this false narrative of what it means to be a “strong” black man. Black women have been loving black men for centuries but we’ve also been shitting on them, and we expect them to take it because they are “strong” black men. But black women they are only as strong as we are. The same way we can break so can they, and when a young boy grows up in an environment where he learns that black men ain’t shit, black men are lazy, black men are wotless, black men are broke, they internalise that. Added with the teaching that black men are “strong” and black men don’t cry, black men aren’t emotional, all it leads to is young black boys running around with low self-esteem, little self worth and stunted emotional development. Black women we need to make sure we teach our sons how to feel, that we shower them with positive affirmations everyday and we let them know it’s okay to not be strong sometimes.
Well what I think I’m trying to say is that black boys you need to protect your mental health at all costs. Allow yourself to talk more to feel more and understand that there is a strength in asking for help, in letting people know that you are not okay. Do more than cope.
Argumentative, Outspoken,Unapologetically Jaydee x