Written by: Wisdom
The media has been enamored with the plights and struggles of my Nubian sisters for quite a while now. Television and cinema have jumped on the proverbial bandwagon in telling these stories, often at the expense of the black male. I’m definitely not saying these stories of struggle and overcoming aren’t worth their weight in gold, but a shifting in paradigm has to take place. “For Colored Girls”, the new movie from Tyler Perry, based on the stage play “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow Is Enuf” (written by Ntozake Shange), falls in place with this very mindset that has overtaken entertainment and media. Why is that? Tyler Perry has, in essence, based his career on catering to this very demographic: church-going, black women. This target audience serves as the basis for his storylines. It’s a very solid demographic indeed, because the female black contingent are loyal to a fault when it comes to anything Perry touches. No haterade drinking on my part, because I am very happy for the continued success of this powerful brother in the ongoing saga of mainstream acceptance. I have noticed, however, that the characters, catering to women of color, can be somewhat one-dimensional in tone and nature. The women, with all of their flaws and shortcomings, are victorious in the end, while the male images often depicted are of the trifling, oversexed, non-committal types.
I know that there are black men that fit the stereotypical mold presented in all types of media. My qualms would be the one-sided portrayal, the lack of diversity, and overall negative slant when showcasing a brother of color. This doesn’t bode well, because just as little African-American and Latina ladies need a positive image, so does the male of color. It seems to me that the common perception of the black male is a drug-dealing, thug life-living, womanizing, child-abandoning, non-working billboard. To make matters worse, whatever ills beset upon women are caused by the black male. The media has perpetrated this since the beginning of cinema, and even prior to this. Even taking a look at “Birth Of A Nation”, the stereotype was put on celluloid for public consumption.
Black men are so much more than what is depicted in constant images. We have our own set of problems and issues that need to be resolved, but those problems are not the end-all be-all. We are well-rounded, productive, three-dimensional entities. We love our women. We love our children. We want the best for our families, just like every other facet of society. Are those images being seen or perpetuated on a consistent basis? The short answer is no. I say short answer because this image has been infiltrated in the psyches of many for a good while now. There was a time when positive black male images could be seen on the big screen and television. There now is a chasm separating us from those images now.
If art imitates life, I know a plethora of men that are not of the stereotypical nature. From my two father in- laws (I still claim my ex-wife’s father as an in-law), to my best friends, these are individuals not considered trifling, women-beating, dead beat fathers. On the contrary, each is a positive role model in the home and in the community. I’m pretty sure other men can say the same thing from their perspective. Truthfully, life has a way of being adjusted to fit within the confines of art, instead of all facets being represented.
In the midst of me writing this diatribe, I came across an intriguing piece of film: “Diary Of A Tired Black Man”. More of an indictment on stereotypical black male images than a female-bashing movie, this film examined the black male/female dynamics in such a way that we just don’t see. Ultimately, the core relationship with the primary characters dissolved, after continued verbal and mental abuse from the feminine character. Dialogue from both genders displayed the disparity between the sexes when the issue of black relationships was discussed. On one hand, there was the constant notion of the “strong black woman” being the central discussion point for the female characters, while the male characters mulled over the notion of “angry black woman syndrome”. I could identify with much of the dialogue throughout the underrated and relatively unknown film. This type of moviemaking doesn’t get the press or push from the filmmaking machine, it seems. A movie like this is the antithesis of Tyler Perry-based films. I noticed an honesty in “Diary Of A Tired Black Man” that is seldom seen in today’s media world. Even though the relationship between the primary characters deteriorated, that inbalance wasn’t depicted with the male being stereotypically depicted. It actually was a good movie, because intertwined with the storyline was a semi-documentary spin where individuals were asked different questions relating the the movie and relationships.
So what can be done for a shift in balance? Opening honest, respectful dialogue is one thing. Instead of harping on the same clichéd views of what makes a “real black man” or “strong black woman”, individuals can take stock on what they do and don’t bring to the table as a person. We all have baggage and unresolved issues, either from childhood or relationships. I know that I am not pristine or perfect by any means. Being transparent, I have contributed to relationship and marital issues. I’ve done things not deemed right by most. I have anger in my heart at times, and I can shut down emotionally as well. To put things in perspective, however, I also have compassion and forgiveness. I’ve recognized my flaws, and I continually work to be a better man, for my own sake as well as those within my family and circle. That is the true sign of someone strong, recognizing those flaws and not letting imperfections dictate my existence. I think that once both genders realize that we are all flawed and are trying to be better, then healing will take place. I just hope this healing takes place before it’s too late. For all the “colored boys”, keep your heads held high, be the best you can be, and respect yourself and others to the fullest. Don’t let music, media, or outside influences deter you from being a great person. The potential is there, you just have to realize it fully. This same advice I will give to my “colored girls”, because you are precious gems. Don’t let a bad apple spoil your ultimate happiness. Be happy with yourselves, and life will fall properly into place. Eventually these “colored” folks will be vibrant and thriving, and the world will be a better place!