Is There a Country for Black Men With Strong Opinions?
What do you do when you find yourself unable to fit into a set box academically and socially?
In a time where what you believe determines your career, it becomes important to know how to think or how to hide what you think. Sociologists and academics from Jonathan Haidt and Jordan Peterson to social critics like Thomas Chatterton Williams and Coleman Hughes have described the intellectual chasm we are. Some of us struggle collectively to justify our existences and inherent privileges. No longer can we ignore concepts like intersectionality because it’s no longer safe to. Where do you go when you are seeking haven? What do you do when you insist on having a black nationalist mindset and are unwilling to accept the limited role espoused under traditional black feminism? How can you reconcile your privilege without wallowing in self-loathing? Most of all, how can you present your views when you’re told you can’t contend with the lived experiences of black women?
I think about this a lot these days. I agree with what academics like Saidiya Hartman and Jared Sexton say, especially about how black men need to revamp black masculinity to better the collective freedom of the race. But I find myself vexed at how people cherry-pick statistics to fit their narrative and disappointed at the disregard for scholarly analysis from those put in places of power. I also see black men eager to espouse hatred and hegemony against those who don’t conform to time held norms of masculinity and see the potential damage they can unleash. I find myself in intellectual flux, a no-man’s-land, as I seek to tread the line between extreme liberalism and conservatism.
Some would say that means I am a moderate, but I reject the titles. I believe in vetting all sides to determine a practical stance. I fight myself for believing what I believe and then accept that my worldview is not wrong but my own. What a person does or says once seems to be more important than everything they think or do, but I still believe that what I think and believe is mine and mine alone to judge. Still, I feel bad for agreeing with men like Kevin Samuels and Jordan Peterson when they advocate for the necessity of masculinity. I feel bad for agreeing with people who see the value of retaining our societal constructs on gender and feel as if because they don’t say everything right, I should castigate them.
It makes perfect sense for me to read the works of black females who compare my rage and frustration to the structural system of white males. I’m encouraged to do so as a way for me to understand myself. How is it wrong for men to say the same?
But I also struggle to agree with the toxic and hateful energy of men like Samuels and others who hide their hatred under the guise of realness. We can see that in the middle of their rhetoric is a genuine feeling of condescension and arrogance that is easy to spot. Do you really want to help women or justify your viewpoint and position? Why is the onus of change on women more than it is on men and women? These are some questions I wrestle with more lately. The stakes are too high for me not to. I agree with many writers who emphatically declare that cancel culture is a myth, but also find myself unwilling to ignore the energy and irreconcilable damage that a misplaced tweet holds for my future. How can I tread the line between public persona and personal identity? How do I manage the desire to think and explore contrarian thought while maintaining a conventional outlook on life?
I believe that this is an incessant struggle where I will fight within myself to accept other’s thoughts while not allowing others to paint my view and sense of self. I wonder if there is a place where we can go to think, work, and reconcile these thoughts peacefully?