Defending And Excusing Problematic Black Men Aint Love, It’s Low Expectations » VSB

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Defending And Excusing Problematic Black Men Aint Love, It’s Low Expectations

(Photo by Mike Pont/Getty Images)

There’s a virulent strain of criticism that exists both on the Internet and offline; surfacing whenever a prominent and problematic Black male is called on his fuckshit by other Black people — Black women specifically.

Someone says “Hey, what that person did was fucked up.” And then someone accuses the Black person making the critique of being anti-Black and/or anti-Black male. Sometimes, the criticism to the criticism goes even further, and racially-tinged epithets like coon, sellout, and negro bed wench are spat in their direction. And then the wagons already circling around the man in question become reinforced with a coat of self-righteous kevlar. They must protect and defend this man from both the racist and the intra-racial attacks on his actions and character.

If you’ve been on any predominately Black digital space this year when Lavar Ball or Umar Johnson or Bill Cosby or R. Kelly were discussed, you’ve undoubtedly seen it. You might have even been surprised by the number of Black people (men and women) willing to die very public and very stupid deaths on the Cosby and Kelly and Ball and Johnson hills. And, you might have been the target of their vehemence.

(Before I continue, just want to make clear that there’s a huge difference between what Cosby/Kelly have been accused of doing and Ball/Johnson — neither of whom, as far as I know, have been accused of heinous crimes. I put them together because they’re each very high profile Black men, and the types of criticism aimed at the people who criticize them are similar.)

As someone who has been on the receiving end of the criticism of the criticism — just last week, someone on Facebook pointed to a piece I wrote about #TeamLawrence as evidence I’m ghostwriting for the Rothchilds (or something) — I’ll admit that it bothers me. The names themselves don’t matter much to me. You call me a coon or a sellout, and I’ll shrug my shoulders and bite a pancake. My annoyance is more about their abject lack of self-awareness. While they’re accusing us of being anti-Black, they’re the ones allowing racial stereotypes to dictate their thoughts and actions.

To wit, a common response to the criticism of Lavar Ball’s ridiculous bombast is that we’re trying to sabotage “the one brotha who’s standing up for his kids.” And the “rare Black man willing to challenge White people.” And “one of the only Black dads out there so active in their kids’ lives.”

But — and take this whichever way you want — Lavar aint special. Yes, his sons are special basketball players. And he has a special, Trumpian gift for shamelessness and self-promotion. But there are hundred of thousands of Black dads who stand up for their sons just like he does. And are willing to challenge White people just like he does. And are just as active in their kids’ lives as he is. The only difference between Lavar Ball and literally any Black dad you can find doing Mikan drills with his son or daughter on a YMCA court today is that Lavar has a megaphone. A megaphone we only bother listening to because his sons are great players.

Excusing his fuckshit and defending him as some rare and precious jewel of Black manhood and Black fatherhood implicitly agrees with the worst stereotypes about Black men and Black fathers. That we’re so rare that Lavar Ball has to be handled like the Hope fucking Diamond. The same could be said about Umar Johnson. Who’s defended like he’s The Last Airbender, when I can personally name, right now without Google, (at least) 40 real actual Black men with real actual PhDs who are knowledgable about race and racism and unafraid to confront Whiteness and aren’t misogynists and homophobes and haven’t used GoFundMe donations to buy Muscle Milk and Bigen.

Ultimately, this defense is what happens when you’ve allowed what the world expects of Black men to exist as your standard. You start believing the hype — insisting that A Black Man Doing A Thing is so isolated and rarefied that it’s worth excusing all the terrible just to preserve the talent. And while this train of thought might possess the veneer of pro-Blackness, it’s actually pervasively anti-Black, as the coddling suggests that these men aren’t able to be better people. Like it’s impossible for us to be talented and not terrible.

And yea, it’s true that there are countless forces out there actively trying to kill us. Police. Donald Trump. Darth Susans. Office potlucks. And we need as much protection from them as we can get. But low expectations will do it too.

Damon Young

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB. He is also a columnist for GQ.com And he's working on a book of essays to be published by Ecco (HarperCollins). Damon is busy. He lives in Pittsburgh, and he really likes pancakes. Reach him at damon@verysmartbrothas.com. Or don't. Whatever.

  • Kellen Reeves

    Some good points made. That said, I don’t think its unreasonable at all to be annoyed when EVERY OTHER DAY the regular offenders (Black Huff Post, Ebony, etc) are posting something bashing a black man. They bash the black men for things they ignore from other groups. They bash black men for seemingly everything, ESPECIALLY any black man that doesn’t share their views on anything related to masculinity or lgbt issues. When 80% of the articles referencing ‘black men’ are negative, actual black men will speak up

    • cysinblack

      The narrative to make women and queers feel safe is emasculating men thorough social engineering. Men are trash. Masculinity is toxic and not real. Etc.

      • Men can’t be emasculated only bitches and there are a lot of those.

        • cysinblack

          Laughs. I love you so much. You are a genuine gift.

          • Hsquared

            It’s a no win sitch, bruh.

        • Brother Mouzone

          I wish that were true, but some people are easily manipulated and not strong of mind, not necessarily bitches.

      • Me

        So someone else’s safety makes you less of a man? How Sway?

        • cysinblack

          Feel safe and being safe are not one in the same.

          • Me

            Regardless. How does either effect your masculinity?

    • Queen@

      If you are only in tune with the “negative” articles, it’s because you are actively looking for those post that confirm your confirmation biased. You used the term ACTUAL BLACK MEN. Full stop. WTF?

      You seem to infer that LGBT issues are separate from Black men, in which black men are inclusive of this group. You seem to imply that the men who do not confirm to the standards toxic masculinity, “masculinity so frail” you can’t even wear pink or play with dolls, they are not real men.

      Really?

    • Mary Burrell

      What is an “actual black man”?

      • Tam

        I have read that as a straight black man

        • Mary Burrell

          I suspected but was not sure this hyper masculinity is nuts.

  • My brotha, my man, my niqqa. I don’t know how many times I have had to tell Black people that lowering the bar is one of the worst parts of internalized racism. Thanks for all of this. I’m not saying you should ever be pulled in to the “No, you’re the real sell out” argument because it’s mad stupid but this point needs to be made more often.

    • This!!

    • “I don’t know how many times I have had to tell Black people that lowering the bar is one of the worst parts of internalized racism. ”

      That kind of internalizing is hazardous in the face of all ills. Racism, patriarchy, economic and religious oppression, and so on. Yet, it’s often adapted so easily and passed down.

    • BrothasKeeper

      The soft (hard) bigotry of low expectations.

      • charisma_supreme

        Ppl often raise themselves to the bar set before them. Idk why ppl seem to set a low bar for Black people, but it’s always insulting to me. Especially when the low standard bearers are other black folks

    • Rastaman

      I am not against having standards and raising the bar of excellence but how does that help us when the majority goes around moving the bar to meet whatever standards they want to set. I.E. Trump, our standard for a POTUS is Obama, their’s have been Bill Clinton, George W Bush and an Orange Baboon. They keep winning and we keep losing because we expend a lot of energy holding our folks to standards upheld by no one else. Here is what I learned about America, all great wealth is built on crime. Those crimes are numerous and many of those criminals are American icons. We are the only ones playing by the rules and we are steady losing and losing badly.

      Kelly, Cosby, etal behavior towards women are nothing to be praised or admired. Lavar Bell is a bore and Umar Johnson is probably a charlatan but how are they different from many other American icons so revered by the majority. We are out here still playing checkers and the game is 3-D chess. They still winning and we keep losing.

      • They are different because they are one of us. And we have to set our own standards and most importantly hold people to them.

        • Rastaman

          In the word of my old HS Econ teacher: “All things being equal”
          Meaning I would be in total agreement if we were operating on an even playing field. I am not on here telling young people that how these men conduct themselves is how they should aspire to live their lives. But I am going to take a big picture view and stop viewing this through some pinhole. A holes and scumbags have been winning since day one in America, why are we so focused on the ones who share our complexion?
          Do we believe if we police them, somehow racist whites are going to change how they treat us or we are going to magically make the rest of America follow our lead.
          I am not saying I have the answer but I am puzzled as to why most here thinks they do.

          • iphone300

            Do we believe if we police them, somehow racist whites are going to change how they treat us or we are going to magically make the rest of America follow our lead.

            I think a lot of black people think like this.

          • For me, that is a reason to keep the bar higher, not excuse it being lower. We have to do better than them or risk becoming them.

      • Duff Soviet Union

        I really don’t think “they’re no worse than some horrible white men” is the great argument you think it is.

        Ignoring R Kelly’s garbage is not going to end racism or it would have already ended by now.

        • Rastaman

          If that is all you concluded that my argument is about then that’s all you want to see. Must be nice looking at the world through a pinhole.

    • Brother Mouzone

      Yep, and calling each other niqqas is the ultimate bar lowering. The same man behind Insecure, is the same man that called the first Black president “My niqqa” at a white house event. I guess that’s why they wear that slur out on the show.

      • Larry Wilmore is a creative genius. Instead of criticizing his word choice, look at what he has been successful at.

        • Brother Mouzone

          Because he’s had success, he can’t be criticized for that nonsense? I’ve heard that same sentiment with people excusing R.Kelly.

          • Not remotely the same. Using the the n-word isn’t child molestation.

            • Brother Mouzone

              Come on dude, really? You get the jist.Backing actions based on how successful a celeb is as if the success trumps all. R-uh was used because he’s the example of a celeb we just talked about recently.

              • Yeah. I get that. But Kels committed crimes. Larry Wilmore, for better or worse has kept it all the way black. His using the n-word was a part of that.

                • Brother Mouzone

                  Is calling the Black president “my ni66a” the way to keep it “all the way Black?” Ok, noted.

                  • No. But refusing to to put on airs in front of White folks always will be.

                    • Brother Mouzone

                      Yeah, that’s the way to do it

  • Add Rick Ross’ stanking ayus to this list.. Creepy ba$tard! And his concerts aren’t selling out…. finally folks are listening!!

    • miss t-lee

      He’s been saying rapey sh*t since that champagne line.

    • NonyaB?

      That guy is stank, inside and outside!

    • truthseeker2436577@yahoo.com

      Karma doesn’t play.

  • miss t-lee

    “Ultimately, this defense is what happens when you’ve allowed what the world expects of Black men to exist as your standard. You start believing the hype — insisting that A Black Man Doing A Thing is so isolated and rarefied that it’s worth excusing all the terrible just to preserve the talent.”

    Yes.

  • Hugh Akston
  • Darkchloe144

    Loving every syllable, Daymoan! The itch to share this on Facebook is overwhelming me, but I must resist. I don’t need that kinda stress in my life. Twitter it is, lol. I’m beyond tired of being called one of the “brainwashed” just because I don’t like Lavar or Gorilla Grog. Just barely get by when talking about Robert and Pill, their “problematic” nature is harder to defend.

    The argument I’m used to is that these mediocre males, that happen to be black and “strong” [read: loud and obnoxious], have a platform, are spotlights in the media, influential enough where criticism contributes to white supremacy. Nevermind the BS, they’ve done this and this and such and such, so they deserve support.

    Noooo. Not from me, call me whatcha want.

    • Tam
      • cysinblack

        Still disappointed he chose a white wife.

        • miss t-lee

          We’re not losing any sleep.

          • Worried about the wrong sh*t.

            • miss t-lee

              Okay?!

              • Lavar got with the person who could tolerate his foolishness.

                • miss t-lee

                  Exactly.
                  He seems like a spastic toddler, God bless her.

        • Tam

          Why is that an issue?

          • cysinblack

            I have this attitude only when black men go white.

            • Why?

              • cysinblack

                Petty against YT.

                • You’re a weird cat, bo. That means a lot coming from me.

                  • cysinblack

                    Observation or compliment?

                    • The former.

                    • cysinblack

                      Why does it mean a lot coming from you? Are you atypical in your circle?

                    • Not really. All of my friends have vastly different personalities and roles within the circle but we have a commin baseline oddball level.

                • Tam

                  I am sorry you do not have more important things to be worried/concerned about. Sometimes we have to lose a few for the cause, and he was not worth the effort to keep

      • Darkchloe144

        How could I forget this masterpiece? Bwahaha!

      • Alessandro De Medici
      • He is the perfect black avatar for #trumpsamerica

    • Val

      Nice avi! Did you draw that? Hi, Chloe!

      • Darkchloe144

        Hey, Val, thank you :)
        No, I took a picture and messed with it with the photo effects on my phone. Lots of contrasting, sketch effects, brightness, etc. I do that a lot because its fun, tho the fact it conceals my identity somewhat is a plus lol.

  • NonyaB?

    “Ultimately, this defense is what happens when you’ve allowed what the world expects of Black men to exist as your standard”.
    AKA when your self esteem is externally derived instead of via internal validation.

    “Excusing his fuckshit and defending him as some rare and precious jewel of Black manhood and Black fatherhood implicitly agrees with the worst stereotypes about Black men and Black fathers. … when I can personally name, right now without Google, (at least) 40 real actual Black men with real actual PhDs who are knowledgable about race and racism and unafraid to confront Whiteness and aren’t misogynists and homophobes and haven’t used GoFundMe donations to buy Muscle Milk and Bigen”.

    Preach! *Lays back and cackles in advance, awaiting the foaming hordes, now that you’ve rung the hotep alarm*

  • Wizznilliam

    To be honest though… We ALL do this to some extent. I get that these particular examples are generally considered scum of the Earth by most people, and for good reasons. The people defending them though for whatever reason relate to them in some kind of way. And if someone attacks someone that you somehow relate to it is like a personal attack. They might as well be calling YOU the scum of the Earth.

    If other people who the majority of the people here relate to is criticized in ANY way, true or not, then the claws will come out from the majority of people here. The short list of untouchables: Jesus, Serena, Obama (both), Maxine Waters, Beyonce, Oprah, Denzel.. Pretty much any black that can go by one name, etc.. The list is probably long.

    • Val

      Your first three are in perfect order too. Lol

      • Wizznilliam

        LOL.. Yea. I wasn’t even trying either. Probably if I would have said Maxine after Oprah I probably would have got the Top 5 in order. I read a LOT of comments around here.

    • Michelle

      When it comes to criticizing both Beyoncé and Serena Williams that bothers me is how people cannot criticize them without resorting to misogynistic, anti-Black and ableist-infused insults and barbs. If a person doesn’t think Beyoncé’s music is their cup of tea, then that’s fine and valid. But I have a problem, when people call her out of her name or they make assumptions about her fans’ level of intelligence/social class/upbringings. Then there’s criticism about Serena Williams. There’s the transphobic comments. The racist/colorist comments, etc.

      • Wizznilliam

        Yea.. I think that is mostly true. I can’t really think of any valid, serious criticisms of either of their public lives.

  • Mel

    Thanks for this. I also hate: Well(fill in low life bad actors name here) did it so.. And the worst: Those girls/women knew what they were doing/ getting into. Also lots of people assume how they’d act of they were sexually assaulted and they really have no clue.

    • heyheyno

      Yes, yes, yes

    • Jennifer

      Yout first hypothetical line always grinds my gears. Why would we ever want to emulate the behavior of (fill in low life bad actors name here) anyway?

      • Mel

        Just a dumb AF and desperate excuse as to why we should look the other way or as Damon said ” have low expectations “.

  • Alessandro De Medici

    Funny and sad at the same time, that a good chunk of us would rather trust R.Kelly with their teen daughters than creepy santa at the mall in December.

    http://inews.bg/pictures/732092_375_282_4x3.jpg

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