#BlackMenHugging IS an image of “strong” Black Men.
The above photo, of CREED actor Michael B. Jordan and filmmaker Ryan Coogler, is currently circulating our vast internet. Upon initial viewing I found it to be a well shot photo of two of our own emerging screen powerhouses, and silently marveled at the love that these two men show each other in this photo. It reminds of the playful hugs that you’d see among brothers, or father and son. Imagine my surprise to learn that the image was not met with that same affinity by some people.
We have to consciously study how to be tender with each other until it becomes a habit because what was native has been stolen from us, the love of Black women [and men] for each other.
— Audre Lorde
Today’s Black man needs a better strategic platform.
As a Cultural Strategist I spend a great deal of my workday interpreting online data, social listening, and rabbit-holing myself to great degrees among comment sections and message boards. The insights and nuances gleaned in these areas are vital to nearly any marketing campaign I could create. When researching the image of the CREED actor and director, just a cursory scroll led to some of the most offensive, divisive, and left-leaning digital faux-tutorials on how to be Black man, and what constitutes as “proper” Black male masculinity.
To protect the ignorant, names have been intentionally removed — while leaving genders in order to paint a broader picture of the perceived problematic nature that #BlackMenHugging presents to a certain type of individual.
All typos and grammar (YES , I am *that* person) are the commenters own unedited commentary:
“Here we go!!!!!! Hollyweird with their homosexual agenda, jamming it in our face. I’m convinced Hollyweird is obsessed with gayness. Welcome to Hollyweird, how bad do you want it. #Creed” Female commenter
“I’m sorry. This post looks intimate as hell.. I’m not going to say sexual… but intimate and questionable lol… I’m not saying either of these guys are together… This pose tho lol” Male commenter whose cover photo promotes “positive thinking” 🤔
“You don’t cup your brother’s head like that. The gesture carrries a latent sexual signal. Learn your bodies non verbal signals. Its not a gesture used with a child, another man, but between one you have a sexual interest in. If it was recommended by the photographer guess what was on his mind…..” Female commenter
“Ain’t no brothers I know embracing each other like that !! Young black men just don’t get that Hollywood wants to dehumanize DEBALL and emasculate you and pay attention there is an agenda don’t sleep on it! Symbolism everything in this country and they use the media u being so whitewash brainwashed and don’t even realize it. This is not a power pose.” Female commenter
And my favorite… the backhanded compliment:
“now I would not care if they was straight or gay don’t ever cuff my head like i am a shorty.. do that to your son… i still done see gay..” Male commenter
“Black males who refuse categorization are rare, for the price of visibility in the contemporary world of white supremacy is that black identity be defined in relation to the stereotype whether by embodying it or seeking to be other than it… Negative stereotypes about the nature of black masculinity continue to overdetermine the identities black males are allowed to fashion for themselves.”
— Bell Hooks
In our society, we [Black people] have been passively and actively socialized as being hypermasculine, hypersexual, violent, aggressive, animalistic and beyond human “super predators” meant to be controlled, over-policed, and put in formation by the patriarchal and systemic powers that be. What is even more hurtful is when those systems trickle down and produce a post-traumatic response amongst ourselves. Resulting in lack of self-worth, self-loating and other internalized problematic behaviors. This results in an image like Micheal and Ryan’s being deeply misinterpreted, as it is then misguidedly viewed under a lens of sensuality and sexuality — versus one of general affection, care and well-being.
Can we not accept images of Black man in an embrace with no sexual context?
Can we not accept that a Black man care share an embrace with a business partner and collaborate — who is also Black, as an appropriate and worthy image of a “strong” Black Man. Can we accept this image without them being immediately judged, and worse yet — emasculated?
Showing love is not feminine, it is human.
I want to change the narrative surrounding Black masculinity and their expressions of love to a fellow Black man. Black men (and women, but that’s another post) are currently, regularly, and frequently dying in American cities and neighborhoods. Despite anyone’s particular feelings or opinions about #BlackLivesMatter, this is a FACT. I won’t regale you with the statistics and figures on life expectancy in the Black community, you have Google for that. What I will share are images of Black men showing each other love in many forms. Men in my family. Men in my friend circle. Men on the street when they dap up the homie. Men online that I don’t even know personally. Men who are lovers. There is nothing weak about emotional awareness, vulnerability, or something as simple as an embrace.
Let’s change the narrative.
About the author
DENITRIA LEWIS is a Cultural Strategist who is disrupting bias by showing advertisers how to overcome their cultural blind spots, and increase their #CulturalIQ. She is the host of That’s So Podcast, a weekly discussion on Pop Culture, Black American life and digital media. She enjoys cultural critique, good bourbon, and exploring legal cannabis culture as a means to establish new millennium black wealth and community.