14 year old black boy says: “I want to be one of the big black boys.”
14 year old black boy says: “So, I killed my black mother with a twelve gauge shot gun.”
Since when does killing your black mother make you a big boy? I know this is the Black Youth Project and we are advocates for black youth, but sometimes you have to pause and say, “Who told you son that killing your black mother would make you a man?” Have we cheapened . . . completely extinguished the experiences and voices of black boyhood that now to enter into black manhood, our sons must kill their mothers. Yes, kill their black mothers. Since when did killing black mothers become a Rites of Passage program? As a bone-a-fide black feminist who often writes about black women and black girlhood, we need to develop a national Rites of Passage program for young black men. And, yes, I know the issue is not simply behavioral that systems of oppression—racism, sexism, heterosexism, class, and many others—shape access to resources and definitions of manhood. But, when a black boy says, “I want to be one of the big black boys, So, I killed my black mother with a twelve gauge shot gun because she told me I could not play with them,” we need to develop quickly ways and outlets for young black men to know they have become men.
Unlike black boys, most black girls know at least biologically when they have crossed the sacred threshold into the realm of black womanhood that for the rest of their childbearing years they will bleed once a month with new moon and ovulate with the full moon. So, at the bare minimal, black girls know they are a part of something that most women are a part of, the blood woman clan. Of course, this does not mean that black girls are any more responsible or empowered because they bleed once a month, but they know biologically they can produce a baby. And, given the cultural and societal, deeply sexist and racist, narratives about black girlhood, they are told they are women when they bleed and that they should be careful not to do anything in addition to bleeding that would call attention to their ever emerging womanhood—budding breast. And, perhaps, there is another story here for why we want girls to know they are women at young ages in order to “legitimately” violate them, but that’s another blog for another day.
Yet, again, when a black boy kills his mother so that he can hang with the big boys on the corner, we have a problem with how we define black manhood and how young black boys are introduced into black manhood. My godfather who I believe to be an unconventional father, unconventional husband, and unconventional pastor believes that black boys act foolish because they lack initiation into the collective group of black manhood that “[best James Earl Jones’ voice] In the olden days, on the plains of the Serengeti young black boys would be sent away from the village to learn what it meant to be a man and be sent on a dangerous quest that forced them to use their unbridled animus to confront their inner fears and demons to be worthy leaders in their families and villages.” My godfather believes that young black boys not only need caring fathers, uncles, and brothers, but they need a redefinition of manhood that first challenges hegemonic, heterosexist, and sexist dominant definitions of black men—You are the unemotional provider and you rule over those who are weak—and that also challenges hegemonic, heterosexist, and sexist dominant definitions of black womanhood—Black women will emasculate you and they are too strong. Black boys need to use their unbridled animus to think critically about whom they are in relation to other black men and who, collectively, they can become with the right mentoring.
I tell you, we have done young black men a huge disservice if now their rites of passage into manhood are through killings of their black mothers as if they are the reasons for no jobs, no neighborhood safety, and no unconventional fathers in the home. Our black sons need a radical Rites of Passage program so that they don’t have to kill their black mother to become a man. What a sad day it is indeed.