Loneliness, Black Men, and Friendships: Part III

If you think back to your father or other male figures in your life growing up, do you remember at some point, one or more of them trying to school you on how to engage the opposite sex? Now hold that thought and compare that to how many times a Black man has taught you how to be a good friend to other brothers? My point exactly…

The fact is many of us did not grow up with positive examples of Black male friendships. For example, think about those of us fortunate enough to know and have relationships with our fathers. Can you name two of your Dad’s closest friends? Have you ever been with or seen your Dad hang out with other men? What about over-hearing your Dad talk to his friends on the phone? If my hunch is correct, many of us can not answer the aforementioned questions in the affirmative. And if you don’t know your father, then I can imagine how much harder it would be to get these examples from say, uncles, boyfriends, etc.

But what do we remember? Things like learning how to play a sport, working on the car, doing lawn maintenance, etc. And not that any of these things are wrong, I think they are important experiences that should be cherished. However, I wonder why male to male friendships are assumed to be something that just happens naturally.

I assume part of this thinking comes from the fact that growing up, we made friends with whoever was on the block and everything seems cool. To make it easier, most of our childhood friendships consisted of three components; playing games, telling jokes, and eating like cows. And for most of us, this formula hasn’t changed that much as we transitioned to manhood. The problem with this trajectory is that as life becomes increasingly complex and difficult; the qualities of our friendships don’t reflect the same nuance.

Therefore, my concern is the lack of examples of positive Black male friendships that would encourage us to take better care of our male friendships (our brothers by extension). Because unfortunately, after the games of our youth get old, the examples we have of pure, healthy, male friendships fade quickly, if they ever existed at all. And when I say take better care of our male friendships, I am primarily interested in whether or not you make each other better people. And if all you do is debate sports when you really need to be venting about how you are desperately trying to save your marriage, then there is a structural problem we have to deal with.

Are there any examples outside of family, church, etc. where we see examples of positive Black male friendships? I submit to you that to our detriment, the media has saturated us with unreal or perverted examples of positive Black male friendship. To be sure, I’ll ask my music connoisseurs when they have heard of a song by a Black man talking about positive male friendship (and tribute songs to the deceased do not count). That was easy, but what about movies/television shows? I honestly can’t think of one, but I reserve the right to be wrong and encourage you to correct me by posting comments and telling me how this example has helped you.

So coming back full circle, how is it that Black men learn what it means to have positive Black male friendships? Are there any people in your life that either taught you the art of friendship or do you remember any examples that were particularly helpful? If not, how did you learn friendship? Do you think friendship comes naturally? What examples do you wish you had growing up?

Stay up fam,

Brandon Q.

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3 responses to “Loneliness, Black Men, and Friendships: Part III”

  1. Garlin II says :

    B,

    You ask a lot of great questions in this post.

    The question about whether friendship comes naturally or not is an interesting one. I’d argue that relationships & interaction come naturally, but friendship does not, especially not friendship the way you define it, as a relationship in which you make each other better people, or a relationship where you care enough to challenge someone to improve. Humans are naturally social, which is in my mind what it the lack of non-superficial relationships between black adult males seems so unnatural to me. I thank Brandon for addressing this not-so-natural phenomenon.

    But since I don’t think it’s natural, I believe that it is a learned behavior. Allow me to get back onto my mentorship soap box and say the best way to learn anything is by being someone’s apprentice. What does this mean here? It means that since the answer to most of B’s questions are “no, I can’t think of any examples of positive adult Black male friendships,” it needed, rather imperative, that individuals like me, Brandon, Steve, and any/everybody else take it upon themselves to teach the things that we know and understand. Ladies, especially mothers, if there is a man that know/are friends with/work with that you admire and think is a good guy, why not approach him and let him know that you think your son could benefit from a relationship with him? I thankfully had my Father in my life, but my mother still did this for me when I was in high school. It was this act that formed the foundation for my relationship with my now closest mentor. Everybody has a part that they can play. Everybody can contribute. Everybody has a position.

  2. Ellen says :

    Brandon,
    You pose the question is friendship learned or does it come naturally. I think either side could be argued. Male mentorship has the power to be an extremely positive influence. I have seen it with my students time and time again. It can provide positive examples of friendships and solid male relationships but simply having positive examples in one’s life is not enough. Let’s go back to Garlin’s post on Hurricane Katrina to help me make my point. Garlin calls for people at large to “pay attention”. Part of paying attention is getting to know oneself and one’s surroundings. Arguably, once one knows oneself, it is much easier to visualize and then become a true friend. It is innate for people to desire kindness, love, support, and respect. We all know what we want from a friend and how we would like to be treated. We just learn to settle when once we have been socialized to believe that a) we do not deserve such a friendship or b) such a friendship is not possible. Rather than settling or believing that we are not worth the highest quality of friendship, I would like to challenge people to be the friend to others that they would like to have in their life. It is difficult to do, and it is much easier said than done, but it seems that deep reflection and honesty with one’s self coupled with that golden rule in life (do on to others as you would like done on to you) would make all of us-male and female- better friends.

    A few years ago I read the novel “The Unbearable Lightness of Being”. In the book, there was a line that since reading the book has stuck with me. I do not remember the line but it essentially said to love unconditionally. It is something I have tried to employ in my own life. Once I learned to do this (and I am far from mastering this skill) I learned it was much easier to be a friend to people and I found my relationships much more gratifying. When combined with my efforts to be a better friend to people in my life, the rewards were profound. .
    Lastly, recently I read bell hooks’ “All About Love: New Visions”. In her book, ms. hooks talks a great deal about friendship and as I read your post Brandon, I found myself thinking of her book. It is definitely worth a read.

  3. Anonymous says :

    Hi Brandon,

    I had been waiting for Part 3 then I got busy and I am excited that you had posted this writing. As Garlin stated you asked a lot of questions but I focused on the question “whether or not you make each other better people.” I know that you make your friends better people when you tell them the truth and trust the friendship to last. This is truly a friendship when you have a friend who can say just between me and you and they mean it.

    This still goes back to the common theme “how do we develop trust?” The key is how do we develop taking the risk of trusting others.

    Lastly, do I think that friendship comes naturally? I think that the desire to have true friendship is always there because you can see it in young children – they desire to play and be with other children. The problems come in when someone breaks trust – then you begin to develop layers of protections against the hurt – this is why you see people that hang around a lot of people and they are not truly their intimate friends.

    My example of true friendship is when you friend can call you and discuss things within their life that are hurtful, painful, and embassing and trust you to tell them the true about what they did wrong and encourage them to pick themselves up and grow some more because success is not for people who quit the game – its for those who play until the end whether they win or lose.

    Waiting for part 4.

    As Always – Stay Blessed

    Lady B

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