Loneliness, Black Men, and Friendships: Part II
What’s up Superspade family, this post represents Part II of my series concerning Loneliness, Black Men, and Friendships. Today we are going to address the paranoia that concerns Black male friendships and the suspicion of homosexuality. It is time to talk about the elephant in the room.
This post is specifically dedicated to my nephew, whose relentless curiosity and dedication to living a Godly lifestyle never ceases to amaze me. Keep the faith little homie,
Love, Uncle Brandon.
To kick off our discussion, I turn to Lady B, whose comment on the first post sets the stage perfectly,
“If you want to see something dear just watch little boys playing and sharing together in kindergarten and first grade – then something happens and they are taught that they are not suppose to be close or love other boys unless they are gay this is not right.”
Young kids, Black boys in particular, are being robbed of their innocence earlier and earlier. For example, when I grew up in Detroit, my best friends became my “play” cousins. For those of you that have never heard of this term, a “play” cousin is someone who is a close friend so much that you can depend on them like you would a member of your family. In the Black community, a play cousin carries with it a measurable amount of significance. Now can you remember the last time you heard Black men or Black folks for that matter, talk about play cousins or some similar moniker? I certainly can’t remember and I think similar traditions that Black men used to engage in represent a downward shift in the innocence that used to define healthy Black male friendships.
Now fast forward to current debate about brothers on the down low. Thanks to JL King, brothers all over the country are having their sexuality questioned overtly or implicitly. To be clear, I believe that the health and emotional fall out from brothers being on the down low is indeed a legitimate problem in the Black community. However, maybe we should rethink our efforts to encourage brothers to be honest about their sexual activities. I say this because I think we have made it so that many heterosexual Black men, in attempts to avoid suspicion, have withdrawn from their Black male friendships and overcompensated in their female relationships.
So now we find ourselves with Black men with a jaded sense of innocence combined with a barrage of suspicions surrounding their sexuality. These two factors I believe work together to destroy sound friendships between Black men.
Some of the effects of the down-low paranoia have caused Black men to engage in the following behavior to various degrees;
1) We for the most part feel comfortable hanging out with the guys, but a certain stigma surrounds hanging out with just one of our friends.
2) Our sexuality has become more of a central part of what we define as masculinity. As a result, some men to overcompensate their love and appreciation of women almost to the extent of becoming womanizers in order to prove they are not homosexuals.
3) There is a more marked shift between having boys and having friends. Focusing more on having boys enables men to do guy things while keeping enough emotional distance from each other to maintain deniability.
4) We have come to rely on our female friends to be our male friend fill-ins.
5) We don’t use each other as sounding boards before the jinks goes down. This is because we rarely ever tell our male friends anything of substance unless our plans or mistakes have been obliterated.
6) Unless we have something specific to talk about, we don’t call just to touch base and see what is going on in each other’s life for fear of looking like we are keeping too many tabs on our male friends.
7) We don’t feel comfortable sharing emotions with our male friends because if we even do that to begin with, we typically focus these conversations towards our female friends. We rarely tell our male friends that we appreciate them being there for us when they helped us through that tough situation. Or God forbid, we wouldn’t be caught dead telling our male friends that we love them (look up agape and phileo in the Greek language).
Of course, this list could go on and on, but I want you to add to this list based on your own observations and/or experiences. Nevertheless, I don’t think anyone could reasonably argue that the down low paranoia has not affected the quality of Black male friendships. As such, it behooves us to continue to address brothers leading double sexual lives (this includes cheating with other women too!) but at the same time, we have to create and protect spaces for Black men to share in meaningful dialogues. But when we cast a shadow of doubt over Black male friendships, we end up endangering these spaces and create more problems than we solve.
So let me leave you with these questions,
For the men, have you allowed other people’s suspicions affect the way you interact with other men in the light of the community concern about brothers on the down low?
How do you think the down low paranoia has affected the quality of Black male friendships?
How can we address this issue without endangering healthy Black male friendships?
Looking forward to your responses as we call out the elephant in the room,
Stay up fam,