Another perspective

By Tunde O.

Editor, the Gauntlet

[Re: “Black Men” feature]

As a member of the so-called “idolized” ethnicity, I found this article both interesting and disturbing to read. Interesting because I have mused over this topic only to return to the same conclusions as the writer. Disturbing because I am (proudly) part of an ethnicity that remains socially ‘inferior’ in society today.

There are several approaches to understanding this topic, which has been extensively debated in psychological literature. Rather than get into a literature-driven discussion of the topic at hand, I hope to offer some of my own thoughts on the matter.

The idea that all black guys are “hip-hop” is one of the most pervasive and infuriating stereotypes in Canada today. Many Canadians, who have grown up watching American TV shows, have an image of all black guys as being African American–or in other words, urban, ghetto, gangstas, uneducated, and other unmentionables. For example, shortly after being introduced to a particular friend of mine, his first question to me was: “Where is your bling-bling and your FUBU ?” In other words, his question alluded to the fact that I wasn’t dressed “black” enough, or more accurately, African American. This widespread belief has perhaps contributed to the ubiquitous observation that many black kids in Canada now dress more urban and even attempt to speak “ghetto” or more appropriately, in “ebonics.”

I, however, believe that this evolution is partly due to the fact that Canadian black kids look to emulate the closest similar group of people (African Americans next door) as a means of finding “belongingness” in predominantly white Canada. This initial identification leads many to further explore the culture, in terms of its music, fashion, accent and general way of life. Thus, I believe that many young black Canadians become more “African American” because of the love of the culture, rather than because they are African Americans. Think about it: how often do white Canadians get “confused” as Latin Americans just because they fancy salsa dancing?

Now that that’s out of my system, I will now further another point. One can try to understand the “cool black man pose” prevalent today as a reaction to the true, socio-economic state of many African Americans in the US. Compared to their white counterparts, African Americans have, on average, very low socio-economic and political power.

With such divide in influential power, the “cool black man pose” evolved as a way of, in a sense, regaining power. If one can’t measure up on the socio-economic ladder, the next best thing is to create a social image bringing one up to par on the scale of measurement. Thus, many have adopted the well-entrenched gangsta profile in order to remain competitive in a world that seems to have passed them by. Of course, the younger ones don’t have much of an idea about the true nature of this phenomenon because they simply grow up assimilating what they observe in adults. On the same token, young Canadian black men assimilate these images without true knowledge of their origins. In any event, perhaps it is not so far out to expect such social fronts (which, I might add, has become very successful, as evidenced by the writings in this article) if it appears as the only visible way one stands out in the white crowd.

Hence, if the dark-skinned sexual appeal is so prevalent in today’s society, who is to blame? Is it necessary to blame anyone, or is it more important to ask what can be done to address the perception of those lusting after the sexy, dark men of our times? Education is by far the best means of achieving this goal. For this reason, I applaud the writer for taking the time to create awareness, especially at the U of C, where the proportion of these exotic beings is so low, heightening the mysterious-ness surrounding them (I did my undergrad at U of C, so I was part of the population at one point).

If the writer’s friend begins with a quest to fulfill her desires, and later on ends up falling in love, all is well–as long as she is aware of the initial reasons for her fatal attraction. If, however, the fling ends with a discardment of the exotic creature, then there is a problem; one that can, hopefully, be placated with the spread of knowledge via such articles as the present one in question.

I conclude this discussion with the shared thoughts of a very enlightened young black man at the University of Calgary: “These (white) girls just want to play around with black guys and have fun…they know that, at the end of the day, they’ll go back to their parent-approved (white) boys to get married. So for us (black guys), we just need to have fun as well, with the knowledge that they are only here to stay for a short while…”

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