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,