Rcently, Michael B. Jordan’s and Ryan Coogler’s friendship gained a place in the public eye it didn’t have before. All because of a photo.

They’re two talented young black men working together to excel in the film industry. Their collaborations have given us great works such as Fruitvale Station and Creed and should lead to more in the future.

To be honest, part of me even hopes Coogler can manage to get Jordan in Black Panther – which he’s been tapped to direct for Marvel. While Jordan was more than capable in his specific role, the last thing we need is another Fantastic Four movie anytime soon. But, I digress.

The two have have gotten considerably close over the years and often show support for one another on the public stage. However, a recent photo shoot with Vanity Fair has led to a bit of controversy regarding the nature of their friendship.

The main photo that’s circled the Internet shows the two sharing an intimate embrace. Almost immediately, the two were criticized for a long list of things that basically boiled down to accusations of them being gay.

First of all, why would that even matter if it were the case? That implies that being anything other than heterosexual is something to be ashamed of and worth condemning. That’s the same problematic mentality that people have when using the term as an insult; it makes the people they target with their hate feel as though they should be offended. In that scenario, both sides are actually in the wrong for assigning a negative connotation to the term in the first place.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s examine the deeper issue here. All the picture shows is Michael B. Jordan placing his hand on top of Ryan Coogler’s head. That’s it. Seriously. They’re not holding hands, looking passionately into each other’s eyes or even holding each other close. But, somehow, this small embrace becomes the target of homophobia.

Are we as black men expected to lack compassion and empathy to the point where just touching one another gives people goosebumps and raises concern? The sad answer is yes.

While many of us are still working to break through the simple notion that we can actually be vulnerable with our romantic partners, doing so with our male friends is a completely different issue that’s often lightyears beyond us.

Many people took the defense of “I’m not homophobic or anything, but that just makes me uncomfortable.” This is common. But to break that down further, that discomfort is likely rooted in either fear or a lack of understanding – which, coincidentally enough, often leads to fear. By definition, that’s still homophobia.

Believe it or not, there are a lot of steps between placing your hand on someone’s head – or even hugging them – and somehow waking up in bed together the next morning with your clothes scattered across the floor. If you think that one automatically leads to the other, in any kind of relationship, you probably need to spend a considerable amount of time going over how relationships and intimacy work anyway.

For the record, even though it really doesn’t need to be stated, I’m straight. But I’m also comfortable enough to give my male friends a hug in public – with both arms. This doesn’t make me less of a man or somehow less straight than I was just a few minutes before.

Not being able to show platonic affection to each other without having our masculinity called into question reveals a deeper issue that affects the larger black male population. Hyper-masculinity is damaging for all parties involved. It sets often unattainable standards for the men trying to uphold it, damages relationships with those on the receiving end of it, and becomes perpetual when children are raised in its shadow. Not to mention it is often linked to misogyny and sexism.

Hopefully we’re moving into a better direction as a demographic. Fathers being able to embrace their sons even after they grow facial hair and friends being able to greet each other with more than a handshake shouldn’t take as much effort as it clearly does for some.


Photo Credit: Twitter