Black man designation, what does it means to be your self? Sounds like an easy thing to do, but in reality it’s a lot harder than it sound. It’s a continuous struggle, to be yourselves. Being one self is the reason I admire the “Pride” community. That’s an unimaginable hill of acceptance to climb socially and personally. To join “Pride” you have to overcome a superego, which is what everybody you know and care about thinks. The struggle is not coming to term with your sexuality, but overcoming the beliefs of love ones.
In reading Michele Wallace’s: “Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman. thekolemangroupscreen ” The notion of being your self is revealed in this fascinating book. I have to admit I did not know who Michele Wallace was. I knew who Faith Ringgold is, the brilliant Afro-American visual artist. I first saw her superb work: Flag for the Moon: “Die Ni… r ” in a slide lecture at the Maryland Institute College of Art siting in Dr. Leslie King Hammond’s cool class: Africans In the New World. I love that class. It was a revelation seeing myself reflected in art, a subject that I’m innately passionate about. It’s something the larger culture would not understand, I’m guessing. White folks are reflective in art… objectively speaking they’re the art, as we know it. Also artist Faith Ringgold is Michele Wallace’s mother as well of the dedication of this brilliant book.
And the book is dazzling and straightforward in so many ways, a true piece of art. Michelle Wallace explains what is was like to live at that time of the Civil Rights Movement, of black revolution, feminism black and white, and of becoming a young middleclass black woman, with the gnawing guilt of not taking the punishment that poor black where taking in her stead, of falling for the simplemindedness of ghetto life, of avoiding the purgatory of being middle class or not black enough.
Of growing up around black men – not an easy thing, for a group with out an establish culture. But rather a group that is looking to identify with a culture or reinvent a culture based on its differences with the dominant European culture. So everything had to be African or what ever that means. And with Africa, women’s roles are not chief, they’re likely but not necessarily subordinate to their men. Not much different from European culture but perhaps a few centuries behind. After all it was Europeans who first revolted against their kings to establishing a republic moving equality a little bit forward.
However, chilling and accurately Michele explains how she fell for the popular definition of ghetto life: “it was erotic, wild, free, intense, and liberating in its poverty and in the violence of its extremes.” And having myself worshiped at the temple of the king of punk funk Rick James, dancehall reggae and rap music I concur, ironically finding one self in a group.
Michele Wallace shed light on American stalwarts like Norman Mailer’s “The White Negro” and his assertion of the black man as a sexual outlaw its influence on the culture at the time, even now. Rap videos are the personification of the “black buck” every rapper wants to be the Black Macho with their video homage to Al Pacino’s 1985 “Scarface” that little paradigm to manhood. And as Michele points out, Euro-Americans “by controlling the black man’s notion of what a black man was suppose to be, it would successfully control the very goal of his struggle for “freedom.”
And by far it was the brutal buck who was the threat to the white man’s family his legacy and of course his wealth. Toni Morison makes lots of sense when she states: “Racism was always a cone game… ” however, Toni Morrison for as brilliant as she is, is ignored, because as Michele observes for black folks the pursuit of manhood is what stirred the collective imagination then and now, “in fact, that the black man risked everything – all the traditional goals of revolution: money, security, the overthrow of the government- in pursuit of an immediate sense of his own power.” – wow! What an amazing observation. Its no wonder we never heard of Michele Wallace.
Michele, to drive her perspective invokes the great James Baldwin who in his essay “Many Thousands Gone,” Notes of natives Son by Richard Wright: “recording his days of anger he has also nevertheless recorded, as no Negro before him had ever done, that fantasy Americans hold in their minds when they speak of the Negro: That fantastic and fearful image which we have lived with since the first slave fell beneath the lash… that admits the possibility of his being subhuman… ”
James Baldwin too was a great observer and unquestionable artist. But questioned he was by the transformed father of black poetry Amiri Baraka who transformed Mailer’s sexual outlaw into the role model for the black revolution: the black man as a sexual outlaw by raping white vagina (Baraka was not PC), not groveling for it, Baldwin was questioned also by professional rapist Eldridge Cleaver, real black man (that was sarcasm). Henry Louis Gates, Jr. in his essay From the Stacks: “The Fire Last Time” in New Republic makes the statement about how Amiri and Clever felt about James Baldwin. “Baldwin was thus engaged in “a despicable underground guerrilla war, waged on paper, against black masculinity.” Young militants referred to Baldwin, unsmilingly, as Martin Luther Queen. James Baldwin did not fit the definition of black man’s 1960’s masculinity then and now but to be fair not many can, although they are many whom succeeded. And many more who benefited from the intoxicating swag it produces.