As I walked home yesterday from the market with my several bags of groceries and my godson in toe being harassed by young black men who probably could be my nephews, I finally understood why many Black men act the way they do. Why they are completely impervious to emotions. Why they can sleep with countless numbers of women and men and deny their sexuality. Why they have so much free time to harass me as I walk down the street (al. holding constant the double digit unemployment rate in the black community). Why they can walk away from raising their children. Yes, I know why they act the way they act. It’s pretty simple. They have no social responsibility and by extension no emotional responsibility. Meaning, they can freely with impunity harass me as I struggle down the street with my groceries and my child on hip.
You see, what the young men and sometimes the older ones don’t realize is that my non-speaking glare of resentment to their degrading words about my derriere is all that I can muster after a long day of work and familial responsibilities. I don’t have time to explain to them why I can’t banter with them sexually or why I am offended by their unsolicited sexual gibes. I have to get home, put the child to sleep, cook dinner, and wash clothes. I have much to do as a woman. My feminine gender, female body, and body of law force me to take social responsibility and sometimes take too much social responsibility.
And, this is not to reduce social responsibility to gendered divisions of labor. Yes, it is part of it, but it also includes and ethic of caring, nurturing, and emotional vulnerability. All, these things are needed when you care for people and the environment. However, somehow we have taught our sons through modeling and through law that this type of responsibility is women’s work. We have created studies like the one that came out last week that highlights the malevolency of men caring meaning men who care or nurture their children loose large amounts of testosterone. Is that a bad thing that men loose a small amount of their animus and acquire a little anima? I tell you, after the announcement of the study the blogsphere went crazy with men vowing, in their most manliness tone, never to care or reasons why they don’t care and nurture.
To say the least, I was pissed because this ethic of being non-caring socially irresponsible men is dangerous and even deadly.
It allows men to make choices without thinking about the social and emotional effects of their choices. Meaning, I can rape a woman as a tactic of war without thinking about how the act will affect the woman and her community. Meaning, I can beat a woman when I am frustrated without thinking about how our children perceive such acts. Meaning, I can come home and not lift a finger to clean because I worked so hard today without thinking about how hard my wife worked also. Meaning, I, heterosexual black man, can sleep with other men because it’s just sex without thinking about how it will affect the health of my male partner and my wife or girlfriend.
Don’t get me wrong, I know some black men are struggling with their sexual identity in a world were hetero-conformity is the norm, but if we progressives are fully honest with ourselves we would have to admit that some of it has to do with the fact that many men, irrespective of race and sexuality, are taught to be emotionless creatures about social phenomenon including sex. Meaning, they can screw another man and be emotionally unattached and see it only as sex with no social norms attached to it. Or, a man can sleep with a woman who is not his partner and only see it as sex and not as a broken vow against his marriage to his wife.
And, if I can be totally honest, I think I may agree with my grandmother that perhaps the institution of marriage, on its most positive day, seeks to humanize men, make them more caring, and give them social responsibility. But, even the institution of marriage has limited futility because of the many years of cultivated unbridled animus. We have raised our sons to be men. Yes, men in the normative sense. And with that choice a tradeoff is made. Men are allowed to or forced to disavow all things associated with women folk including the ethic of care and by extension social and emotional responsibility.
They never have to grow up. They never have to care. They can be Peter Pan and the Loss Boys forever.
Yep, I know why they act the way they act.