“Fruitvale Station” and the Need for Black Male Rebranding

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The film “Fruitvale Station” is the most powerful movie I’ve seen in some time.  The director (Ryan Coogler) and lead actor (Michael B. Jordan) should be nominated for Oscars. They were most successful in humanizing Oscar Grant and portraying him in a way we don’t often see Black males onscreen–and sometimes even in real life–as multidimensional. (PLOT SPOILER ALERT.)

As a recent Huffington Post article pointed out, Grant was both a saint and a sinner. He was a great dad, but couldn’t stay out of jail. He loved his girlfriend and momma, but cheated on and cursed them. He was in a gang, but was a loyal friend, right until death. He was handed very few opportunities in life, yet ruined the few that he had. His struggle to be a better young man, in spite of his tough circumstances, was very apparent. It was as if the actor and director were challenging us to find a young man, of any ethnicity, who wasn’t in some way like Oscar Grant.

That they made Grant dangerously, beautifully, and fully human should be the legacy of this film. Young Black males could definitely use more of that, as we have a serious branding problem! As a juror from the Trayvon Martin case–the one who “couldn’t identify” with him–recently reminded us, Black males are often seen as devoid of [full] humanity and undeserving of justice.

Even worse, it’s a view that decontextualizes so-called “black-on-black” crime, which many point to as an example of our moral backwardness and lack of humanity. What those who take that view fail to realize is that (a) all Americans are legally entitled to justice, regardless of whether they were victimized by someone from their community, and (b) a number of Blacks have internalized a unique sense of hopelessness and despair, which is often a militating factor in some Black folk’s decision to engage in criminal behavior and to view other Blacks as worthy victims.

Unfortunately, this is what comes along with 246 years of slavery, 100 years of Jim Crow segregation, and 50 years of broken educational systems, mass incarceration, mass influxes of drugs, and the mass exportation of urban jobs.  Put another way, it’s what happens when you’re seen as a threat to society and pushed to its fringes.

While this film certainly is not the magic elixir, it is a start–a start to the cultural push that can recast Black males in a new light.  If the 90s showcased a number of “in tha hood” movies that highlighted Black male frustration, anger, and violence, then the current decade is as good a time as any for an onslaught of films that portray Black males as hopeful, intelligent, positive, and likable.  Of course, movies alone, however well-intentioned, will not lift people out of poverty, or provide impoverished communities with better schools and jobs.  But they will inspire.  They can change people’s hearts and minds, just as The Cosby Show and Oprah Winfrey did a generation ago.  When people stop seeing Black males as thugs and criminals, they may start believing that it is unjust for the police to shoot us in our backs when we are laying face-down and handcuffed.  We have been viewed as “America’s worst nightmare” for far too long.  The time has come for us to be seen as America’s best leaders, thinkers, and creators.  We need a serious rebranding campaign!

It Can’t Be That Damned Hard to Find a Man!

I recently had a full “work up” of tests for an assortment of sexually transmitted diseases (or infections these days).  I don’t have:

  1. That Bad…HIV (either strand)
  2. Syphilis (a Tuskegee joke would be in poor taste even for this blog entry)
  3. The Clap…gonorrhea
  4. The Silent Disease…chlamydia
  5. The Gift that Keeps on Giving…herpes (HSV1 or 2)
  6. Hepatitis B or C

Yay cleanliness!  I didn’t get tested for HPV because there is no test for men, but it is a highly contagious disease that adversely affects millions of women and can make your genital area or mouth look like this and/or this!  PLEASE get information regarding HPV here. Continue reading

Irrational Racial Fears & Guilt

There are still White people who lock their doors and clutch their purses in broad daylight when I pass.  I used to be offended, but not anymore.  I know that most White people are completely ignorant in that way, but I am curious as to where this irrational fear comes from. 

When were Black people robbing Whites in droves–and in broad daylight no less?  Has this ever been the case?  Isn’t just the opposite true?  Don’t Whites have a long history of robbing, killing, and abusing Blacks regardless of the sun’s position and without fear of reproach?  And when they stopped outright murdering us, don’t Whites have a state-sponsored organization (the police) dedicated to beating Blacks about the head, neck, and shoulders without pause?  Continue reading

The Scarcity of Marriageable Black Men: An Honest Analysis

In a recent ABC News story five successful, attractive, and well-educated Black women lamented the fact that they were not yet married and had no upcoming prospects for marriage (see video below).  The reporter went on to review a few well-documented Black marriage statistics, in what always seems like an attempt to paint a bleak, desolate picture for Black families as hopeless, archaic relics that can only be seen in a metropolitan museum somewhere. The numbers break down something like this:

  • 42% of Black women have never been married (more than twice the rate of White women)
  • There are almost 2 million more Black women in the U.S. than there are Black men
  • Only 54% of Black men are “marriageable,” meaning they are neither imprisoned, gay, uneducated, unemployed, or dead (being alive is probably first on most people’s “ideal mate” lists) Continue reading