Recently Jaden Smith posed with a few pale photo subjects. In the summer past, HUFFPOST Culture Writer Zeba Blay credits Smith and #Carefreeblackboy with redefining black masculinity. So, inspired by the recent Louis Vuitton Advertisement which has brought this back to attention, I am led to ponder on what has been presented.
If quirkiness can somehow define black masculinity let’s consider the genre-bending-unforgivable-blackness of Saul Williams. He has a line in a song acknowledging ‘interplanetary truth is androgynous’. Is that not remarkable enough? Saul Williams has represented for art, and hip hop in particular, in a grand manner, fashioning a letter for Oprah defending the popular culture. I’d say that’s quite commendable. May be word on the street, but, the Brotha has been rumored to wear t-shirts with a woman’s cut. Is that not radical enough? Or does embodying anti-establishment afro centricity disqualify a well rounded artist such as Saul as one entitled to redefine Black Masculinity? Williams is an accomplished actor who has even played Sivad ,a celibate love interest on popular sitcom Girlfriends. That character is a contrast to how masculinity is interpreted in general.
Oddly enough, the people have crowned a model of black manhood long ago. His name is El-Hajj Malik el -Shabazz. Malcolm X, ‘our shining black manhood’, redefined himself, loved his wife and daughters, protected his family, was an advocate for human rights, and fought the good fight. Until…someone felt the need to riddle his body with bullets. So we’ve got a portrait of black masculinity that’s been filled with holes…
How is it that our manhood grows into becoming a #carefreeblackboy? My son isn’t interested in being defined in that way, and he’s studied theatre and takes ballet. He sees embracing black masculinity as perhaps, growing one’s hair out. In his mind, it’s the willingness to be seen in beads, hand laces, necklaces, bangles, and other adornments. My 19 year old mentions septum piercings and cultural clothing as a way/or ways to put that so-called ‘black’ masculinity on display. Such a packaging has been witnessed in hip hop pioneers X Clan who carried the African peoples flag boldly blended with their socially aware poetry; The African Diaspora a tagline for their testaments of originality.
Media continues diluting and repackaging their millennial manipulation of black masculinity. Is the worship of this questionable ‘expression’ an example of ‘society’s rising reverence for ignorance and privilege’? Jaden’s fame and Hollywood status make this noteworthy. My father, a Howard graduate, has his doubts that the mass of voices, black or otherwise, would condone Jamal Quan Public walking about in skirts and halters. Other onlookers would be even more uncomfortable seeing a Brotha in tribal dresses or Islamic thobes. As a people, our clothing is gender sensitive; from Yoruba to Seminole.
Are persons encouraging an embrace of quirkiness as a form of self empowerment? As original people, our ‘quirkiness’ and masculinity is well represented by our traditions and CULTURE. Is this desire to buck stereotypes for flyness more related to commerce or a catalyst of capitalism? I tend to echo the sentiment of America’s Youngest National Columnist Ernest Owens. “It’s not as simple as making a snap choice. It’s political, economical, social, spiritual, and any other intrinsic institutional set up that the rich can override any time they choose.” What do we stand to gain? How much do we have to lose?