During this time of worldwide protests condemning police brutality against unarmed black people, and systemic racial inequality, the ‘I Am a Black Man’ challenge started trending on Instagram. The challenge involves black men posting individual photos of themselves with a specific caption. The end goal of this challenge is to build the self-esteem of black men as we continue to carry historical and undeniably present burdens thrust upon us by a society that has largely proven itself to view black people as less than. After being tagged to participate in the challenge, I came to the conclusion that it would be best to not only participate on social media, but to also attempt to encapsulate with words what this statement means to me, and why it’s so important.
I AM A BLACK MAN
This is one of the first things I see while looking in the mirror. I see myself as a black man because I was taught to see myself as such both by people who want to protect me, and by people who want to harm me. I see myself as a black man because of people who say with their mouths “I don’t see color”, but with their actions show that color is all they see. I see myself as a black man because while race doesn’t exist genetically, it exists as arguably the longest standing social, and economic construct in my country’s history. Maybe even in human history. Therefore, I am a black man not only because I say so, but because I must be a black man in a society that has deemed me a black man above everything else.
I AM A BLACK MAN
It is a statement I can be proud of and wear as a badge of honor. This declaration means that the generations of black men before me have successfully endured and fought back against centuries of systematic oppression and suppression. It means being part of a crowd, and not just any crowd, but the crowd. Comprised of abolitionists like Fredrick Douglass, musicians such as Duke Ellington, civil rights icons like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X, Supreme Court Justices like Thurgood Marshall, movie stars like Sidney Poitier, athletes like Jesse Owens and Jackie Robinson, spiritual leaders like Richard Allen, educators like Booker T. Washington, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. All of these represent leaders, fighters, and catalysts for the advancement of African Americans during American history. Lastly, and of dear importance, I am a black man, counterpart and son of black women, the real superheroes who support us despite having to reconcile with carrying an even heavier burden simply for also existing as women.
In light of this, I will close this out with an excerpt from the challenge itself:
“I am a Black man… I build… I don’t tear down other Black men!… I have felt the pain of being torn down and I have decided I will be deliberate about building others! If I didn’t tag you, please don’t be offended. I tried to pick people I thought would do this challenge!! All too often, we men find it easier to criticize each other instead of building each other up. With all the negativity going around let’s do something positive!!“
#HARDWORDKEASYLIVING – Do HWEL For Yourself