The book the Man-Not by Dr. Tommy J Curry is as provocative as it gets, but it’s also a statement of fact that many people know, agree on, and deny at the same time. Being black and male, according to Dr. Curry, is a death sentence. So many events have proven time and again what it’s like being a black male in America and the book provides evidence and analysis of the situation.
Dr. Curry strongly believes that black men’s gendered existence deserve to be theorized and studied. They must be conceptualized as a victim, oppressed through death and suicide, and abuse and rape. This is why the book lists some of the many instances when black men are lynched even in modern times, and how most people see them.
- On March 20, 2015, Otis Byrd was found hanging from a tree in Port Gibson, Mississippi.
- On August 29, 2014, 17-year old Lennon Lacy was found hanging from a children’s swing set in Bladenboro, North Carolina.
- Kevin Campbell was caged for hours and sodomized anally by a Detroit police officer after he was stopped for driving on a suspended license. He was a father who happened to be black.
More recent events of black men being killed included Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin, with both crimes perpetrated by American men, one of which is a police officer.
Black Masculinity Throughout Society
Such crimes and violence against black men have something to do with how they are conceptualized and stereotyped. Apparently, black masculinity is different from mainstream masculinity.
- They are stereotyped as violent and hyper-masculine throughout society.
- They are thought of as the toxic abnormality of a hegemonic white masculinity.
- They are often theorized as defective.
Being labeled as such, whether true or not, will make any black man feel racial battle fatigue. Any black male would feel the need to arm themselves, fear and prepare for any possible threat, and see every situation as a disadvantage to them.
Well, their fears aren’t entirely unfounded. After all, crimes and violence against black male have been recorded throughout history. The Timeline from the Equal Justice Initiative (2013) entitled A History of Racial Justice marked the beginning of slavery when enslaved Africans first landed in Jamestown, Virginia in 1619 with no end in sight, even in a society that was supposed to be more liberal than the olden days.
Man-Not and Critical Race Theory
The book shows the world that black men being violent and viewed as capable of carrying out all sorts of crimes are partly because of how society perceives and treats them. It’s a fact that whenever people hear news involving black men, people often assume they are the perpetrators instead of thinking they can be a victim too.
In the case of Trayvon Martin, even after his death, he was made to look like the bad guy, accused of robbery and other criminal acts. But wasn’t he the one who died? The same is true with Michael Brown. What used to be his good name was tarnished and made to look bad in defense of the police officer who shot him.
It is also one of the reasons they are more affected by what Dr. William A. Smith calls the Racial Battle Fatigue. Knowing their fate, regardless of what they do to achieve success and positive image makes them more fatigued and stressed out.
In fact, Dr. Smith pointed out that black male morbidity and mortality decrease when they compete against white men in a middle-class setting. So even if they are not poor and without money, their life span remains shorter.
The book forces people to face the harsh realities that black men face daily and what society is doing, or the lack thereof, to change the way things are going. How long is this kind of racism against black men have to go on?
Studies have shown that such treatment against the black male population results in criminalization, emasculation, and death. There must be a way to initiate change and ensure the safety and rights of black men.
Man-Not(ness) is used to express the specific genre that which a black male is categorized, which is different from gender. The book served as a great tool for explaining the idea further.
It also points out that the situation black men are facing can’t be blamed on race and racism alone, as they are just part of the problem. It also taps into how feminists theorize Black masculinity that involves racially profiling Black males.
This brings to mind Jamila Aisha Brown’s piece of “If Trayvon Martin had been a woman…”, which taps into the stark difference of how violence against black men and women are treated, with the former having more attention because how black men are seen as more dangerous and threatening.
The book also touched base with some of the existing theories that are applicable to black males. It discussed hegemonic masculinity, a theory that Raewyn Connell developed in the 1980s, and Robert Staples’ work on Black masculinity and the Black family. Both of which give light as to why genre and gender are treated as two separate entities.
Man-Not by Dr. Tommy Curry is definitely worth reading to get a better understanding of what it is to be black and male in America. It provides facts, theories, and proof that not every violent act that involves black men is necessarily their fault only that they’re often perceived as perpetrators rather than victims. It can help change your own pre-conceived notions and that you see on TV, fiction or non-fiction, may be a result of racial stereotyping and not something to believe as truth.
It is unfortunate that black people are stereotyped all over the world, but black men have it worse when living in America. If the situation in the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, where 80% of the inmates are African American, is any proof, then black men have plenty of reasons to fear for their lives within the society they’re supposed to live in safety.
- [VIDEO] Challenging Racial Battle Fatigue with Dr. William A. Smith
Racial Socialization Through Forward Promise with Dr. Howard C. Stevenson and Rhonda Bryant
White Fright – Spiders, Snakes and Black Men!