Monday, October 10, 2005
A new model of black masculinity is needed, one that prizes "softer" virtues of nurturing and negotiation and renounces misogyny and homophobia, says Duke University professor Mark Anthony Neal in his new book, "New Black Man."
Neal, a self-described "hip-hop intellectual" and "male feminist," is a scholar of popular culture. "New Black Man" is his fourth sole-author book.
"It's really trying to redefine the contours specifically of black masculinity, but really more broadly of masculinity in general in this country," Neal said in an interview. "I think the issue that complicates it for black men is racism and race in general."
A paradigm of the "strong black man" began to develop in the last century as a counter to prevailing stereotypes of black men as irresponsible or dangerous. It has emphasized family provision and defense of children and women -- all good and necessary, Neal says.
"I think there is this kind of stereotype, that if black men aren't this model of strength and vitality and hardness, then their masculinity is suspect," Neal said.
But, as enunciated during the civil-rights movement by Eldridge Cleaver in his influential autobiography "Soul on Ice," it also can carry side effects of homophobia, evident in Cleaver's disparagement of gay black author James Baldwin.
"Homophobia is seen as an issue that most affects gay folks," Neal said. "If gay folks don't speak out about it, there's never a conversation when it occurs," he said. "I'd like to think that homophobia is another attack on black humanity," he said. (Read more....)