Monday, November 08, 2010

Black male and Gay: Reality TV or castration

Historically, African Americans — especially males — have been portrayed in a multitude of stereotypical caricatures. The noted author Sterling Brown studied and wrote about this extensively, with respect to the images of African American men in literature.

In the past it was playing roles like Uncle Tom and Buckwheat or as Brown wrote "a harmless eunuch who could be tolerated if he accepted that role or the raging beast who could be killed without conscience if he did not."

During Sterling Brown's time, in the Harlem Renaissance era, the daily image of the African male was one who wore torn and ragged clothes and oversized baggy pants. Thus, over the years males have developed a psyche best seen through the psychologically emasculation of our personal image and self-concept.

It is no wonder that white men would lynch and castrate African American men from slavery through the modern era. This trend is continued today in the images created by white and blacks that we see inordinately on television and the wide screen. If you have not noticed, there are a large number of men playing gay roles and even cross-dressing.

This group of characters is way more visible on television and more popular than positive heterosexual images of African American fathers on shows slotted for prime time.

In the '90s, cross-dressing characters played by Martin Lawrence and Jamie Foxx were hugely popular.

The sketch comedy show “In Living Color” ratcheted things up another notch with a skit titled, Men on Film, in which Damon Wayans and David Alan Grier played extremely effeminate flaming gay men named Blaine Edwards and Antoine Merriweather.

Since that time, new gay characters with prominent roles can be found on network and cable television.

“Noah's Arc” is about the lives of four black gay friends and even shows intimate relations between many of the characters.

Then there is Tyra Banks' "America's Next Top Model" show, which features J. Alexander, a man that looks and dresses like a woman and even walks around in high heel shoes. Miss J. as shim is called, is a judge on the show and a runway coach.

Not even gangsters are safe. In the HBO hit series “The Wire,” Michael K. Williams, who plays Omar Little, a drug-dealing thief, plays the role of a homosexual. The character has even had several boyfriends.

It appears that there is an overt and focused attempt by Hollywood to place more African American men in the role of gay men. Why is this? Is it a result of the history of how the majority has treated African American men as outlined in the many writings of Richard Wright and Ralph Ellison? Or is it an extension of the practices promulgated during Jim Crow and reconstruction that often saw strong African men hanging from trees with their genitalia cut off and stuffed in their mouths?

Whatever the answer is, it is impossible to separate what we see in Hollywood and on television from the historical truth in America: there is still a movement afoot, through overt and covert means, to emasculate African American men.

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The Sex Prof said...

Dr. Torrance Stephens, I cant help but wonder if you are of the belief that homosexuality is white perversion and that African people are conditioned, socialized into this "role" or "character" as if these are not true or real identities for Black men. Meaning the only valid sexuality for Black men is heterosexual? Those who aren't heterosexual are simply choosing some behavior that has been forced on them by psychological warfare by the dominant culture, remnants of slave images of castration? So Before chattel slavery in the U.S no Black male was homosexual, only after jim crow and European influence did we get Black homosexuals? Dr. Stephens I challenge you to think broadly of the implications of this ideology. The way in which you link femininity to sexuality is also dangerous.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dr. Stephens,
Sorry to call you Doc, but you were my professor about 10 years ago at CAU. Not sure if your still reading the comments for this post, but I just wanted to say I am glad that you wrote it. I think this is a MAJOR issue that needs much more discussion in the black community. Did you see the VIBE article out this month on the "cross dressing" gay males at Morehouse? As someone with a background in mental health and counseling, I have to say that I think this issue is much deeper than people realize. I believe that there are many factors, but sexual abuse is definitely one of them. It's interesting that no one seems to be addressing this issue in the black community (sexual abuse) but yet it's rampant. Just my two cents...

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