Robert E. Randolph
AFS 305-01 Black Masculinity
28 May 2010
Mimicry of Black Masculinity
The performance of African American males in the 21st century has been greatly influenced by the forefathers of Black History. With many Black men continuing to search for an identity in “White America,” society becomes presumably aware that the struggle and strife of the African American man is still prevalent. Leaders like Frederick Douglass, Bruce Nugent, and W. E. B. Du Bois each had an impact on improving the present day Black man, despite the continuous suppression of not only Black men, but African American people as a whole. Gender performance requires a set of beliefs, rituals, rhetoric and theatricality which assumes an audience or culture of a gender. This means that Black men are going to act the way the community views them and the way they have viewed others in their own community, hencing the term mimicry. Violence, education, sexuality and prosperity all contribute to molding the identity of the African American man and in the 21st century we see the mimicry of
earlier historical figures.
In class we discussed four stereotypical classifications of Black men, with the Buck being one of the most common stereotypes by White Americans. Most Black men are viewed as strong, hot-tempered, violent, dumb and hypersexual. In the prologue of Traps we are introduced to a character named John who is a product of African American folklore. John is trying to escape the traps that society has tried to use to keep him bound. John is also portrayed as a “Buck” through his character. In modern day we see “Bucks” all the time. They are depicted in movies, books and also on the local news everyday. Violence seems to be the most emphasized characteristic, but John’s character was only violent if provoked or in times of self defense. Most criminal activity that occurs in our society is most often associated with a Black male, but where is the emphasis on the successful Black C.E.O. or the one that has custody and raises his small children alone? Traps encourages Black men to elude from the social expectance of committing crime.
Hurston also places an emphasis on laughter which was interesting to me while reading the passage. John uses laughter as a way to cope in my opinion. It’s almost like it is his substitution for humiliation, crying and possibly anger. This seems to be a very common trait in a Black man. Laughter seems to be a response to hide hurt, humiliate, or to keep anger from escalating. Hurston also states that John brought hope and encouraged others around him. The ambition of many of our Black men today exemplifies John. From drug dealers to rappers and athletes to gangsters, when a Black man aspires to do something then the odds are it will be done. Not everyone can be the famous or rich, but regardless of this reality, it seems like there is never an impossible task to a Black man whether it be positive or negative.
Sexuality is another issue that is heavily elaborated in Traps and we also see it appear in Douglass’ narrative. Homophobia is common amongst Black men. Being openly gay has been seen as taboo, but there are more and more homosexual brothers expressing their sexuality, which is what John would consider part of evolving into a real man. In Douglass’ narrative we are made aware of the humiliation of male slaves by undressing them before whipping them and the molestation that occurred. Sexual molestation seems to be a silent issue in society today. Many young Black men have been molested by someone quite familiar to them, but they are silenced for fear of being judged as less than a man. I think maybe sleeping with as many women as possible could be part of proving manhood for some men and allowing them from being judged as being gay. Could this be why many are viewed as hyper-sexual?
Freedom for Frederick Douglass came through literacy. Despite the threats of the White man and the