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

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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 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 Or don't. Whatever.

  • Val

    It’s ironic and sad that low expectations by the larger society have been co-opted by some of us. White Supremacy is a heck of a drug. Some Black folks are strung out on it and don’t even know it.

    • “Some Black folks are strung out on it and don’t even know it.”

      It’s similar to how some women have bought into and even enforce s.e.x.ism and patriarchy.

      Hate works best when it can be projected externally and internally.

      • Jennifer

        “It’s similar to how some women have bought into and even enforce s.e.x.ism and patriarchy”

        Breaks my heart a little every time I see it. I just wanna be like, “Girl. What happened?!”



  • Queen@

    I’m saving this to post every time someone comes with the

    “This why we can’t win.”
    “Crabs in a bucket.”
    “You don’t see [insert race they aren’t around enough to form an opinion] pulling each other down.”

    • Jennifer

      Recently heard someone say “a bucket isn’t the crab’s natural habitat. Of course they behave that way.” That’s my new response to that mess.

      • Abby

        That’s brilliant.

      • Yahmo Bethere

        “Crabs are supposed to swim in the sea!”

  • Queen@

    Hot off the presses…. did I miss this discussion? #FAMU

    Amazon Is Developing An Alt-History Show Called ‘Black America’

    Created by Will Packer, the show will imagine a world where black people control the South.

    • Jennifer

      I’m so excited…to see how wypipo respond to this plot.

      • “M”

        Oh, honey.
        The way you phrase the question tells me you already know how they’ve been frothing and raging.

        • Jennifer

          I collect their rage and serve it in my best tea set. It’s refreshing.

    • Brooklyn_Bruin

      them folks went off on Parker, when McGruder has always been the lesser talent.

    • Brother Mouzone

      It won’t get greenlit, and if by some chance it does, it’ll get pulled quickly if it hurts wypipo feelings.

  • BM, Superman

    Black men have been dropping the ball since slavery.

    • Hsquared

      Now make a negative blanket statement about black women and see if you make it out alive.

      • BM, Superman

        Honestly you get much less rushing women compared to men.

        • Brother Mouzone

          Not here.

      • Brother Mouzone

        That’s against the VSB rules, bruh. Blanket? It doesn’t even have to be a blanket statement. It you try constructive criticism of just a few, you’ll have to claw your way out. Talk about how terrible Black men are and you will earn favor. It’s called the reward system. It has spilled over into every aspect of society. Guess who got an NFL coaching job just days after going at another brotha? Yeah, the same guy who was voted most hated man in sports 2 years ago. Criticism of Black men is the ultimate reward card, visa don’t have sheeeit on it.

    • Brother Mouzone

      Yep, it’s all on Black men. Nobody or no other entities since slavery, just Black men.

      • BM, Superman

        I’m mostly kidding but black women tend to have a large and underappreciated role in black movements.

        • Brother Mouzone

          They do have a large role, but I think they’re also appreciated by us. If mainstream media doesn’t appreciate their role, that’s another thing.

  • BrothasKeeper

    Excellent piece, Damon. This process of defending the indefensible can be summed up with the term “hating”. We as a society have an incredible desire to express our individuality, and in so doing, we have become so hypersensitive that constructive criticism has become unbearable and unwelcome.

    The term began as “player hater” and was used to refer to someone who questioned the social predilections of another in regards to dating. Somewhere along the way, “player” was dropped, and “hater” was the remaining catch-all term applied to anyone who was perceived to question another’s (usually) deleterious motives. Now, because people want to defend their egos so vigorously, anytime someone’s individuality is examined, judged, or disputed in any form, the H-word is hurled. Individuality has been preserved, and now I can walk out of the house dressed like Russell Westbrook.

    I would venture to say that “hater” is the second most awful word in the English language, behind “ni66er” (with the hard R).

    • esa

      player hater just took me way back. that was fun ~*~

      i never thought there was a correlation to hater, since there was such a time lapse between the terms. hater, as far as i can see, is an outgrowth of the normalization of narcissism. such personalities struggle with any response that isn’t abject adoration. their responses are extremely defensive and grandiose. they out here waving red flags, doing semaphore.

      side note: Russell Westbrook has a photo book coming out with Rizzoli this Fall ~*~

      • BrothasKeeper

        “….hater, as far as i can see, is an outgrowth of the normalization of narcissism. such personalities struggle with any response that isn’t abject adoration.”

        Yes. Players are narcissists, and they thrive on the adoration of the opposite theckth. Their defense mechanism is that grandiose acting out that they project towards thst opposite theckth. They’ve also been a regular component of society for a long time, from Narcissus himself to Casanova, Valentino, Lord Byron, Hugh Hefner, Cleopatra, Catherine the Great, Mata Hari, etc.

    • NonyaB?

      “Social predilections of another … deleterious motives”

      *Peeps this lexical juxtaposition like a snifter of brandy at teatime*

  • In a similar vein, how come bright engaging black men don’t talk to each other with anywhere near the same frequency on social media?

    • BM, Superman

      Because lol like most intellectuals I spend most of my time reading.

      • If you say so

        • BM, Superman

          I hope you know I’m kidding.

          • I’m bad at reading man

            • cysinblack

              Words or social cues?

    • esa

      social media attracts introverted personalities. it also alters people’s perceptions of how to engage in real time and space by creating the mediation of life through the recording of it.

      • I agree. I also see women regularly engage with one another. Like how often have we seen Tracee Ellis Ross or Ava or Issa or even any woman with a large following reach out and talk to other women? I can’t say I’ve ever (not literally ever) seen men do that.

        • LMNOP

          Do men engage with women like that, or just not with anyone?

          • I’ve seen some high profile men do it with women when there are more interesting topics of discussion.

        • Hugh Akston

          There are many reasons for this though

          But it does happen though not a wide scale as it needs to be

        • esa

          i would caution making generalizations based on appearances. particularly when using people who have teams for such purposes.

          i follow Jelani Cobb. completely enjoy his level of engagement. to me that’s closer to the original question you brought up, if the frame has shifted to a conversation of online engagement.

          • I mean I just don’t want to put high profile, but non celebrity, twitter users names out there like that. I don’t want to come off like I’m telling them how they should engage with people or anything along those lines

            • esa

              Jelani is a star ~*~

              but i am unclear if you are speaking of exchanges in person or on social media, or both. i wouldnt suggest we’re discussing how people should act but rather investigating our observations of life.

              • just social media. Too busy listening to my awesome Sonic music to know how people converse in the 3D world

                • esa

                  my best insight would be to look at your observations and see whether you are trying to confirm or question them.

        • grownandsexy2

          I think gender socialization has a lot to do with how we relate to each other. Women, from birth are taught to be more open, more social. Boys, not so much. Boys are taught to be stoic, . . . . . their lack of emotional expression, a hallmark of masculinity which spills over into other areas of their lives.

    • I’m not claiming to be “bright” nor “engaging” but I talk to my boys as often as I can.

      As far as just random dudes I find it hard to become friendly with other men, black or otherwise, as a grown man.

      Social media may have the same affect on “friends” or who we converse with as it did on dating and meeting people.

      • BM, Superman

        Really? Why?

        • cysinblack

          Because adults are rooted. No reason to form new bonds with someone unless you absolutely have to.

        • Since the age of 28 or so hanging out with random dudes just seems like a task.

    • Epsilonicus

      Because it’s better and more effective to talk to your problematic friend face to face

      • I don’t even mean in terms of educating one another. Just like talking about ideas or topics of the day. Men don’t seem to talk to each other outside of conversations on sports, jokes, and maybe some politics.

        • Epsilonicus

          We definitely do.

    • Baken Greese

      I don’t know about social media, but I do know they they had a yearly event where bright engaging black men gathered…it went by the name of Players Ball.

  • BM, Superman

    Defending a rapist like Cosby doesn’t beat white supremacy, it only enforces it. Or as the prosecutor told OJ’s black lawyer “Getting Simpson off doesn’t stop white cops from killing is in the streets.”

    • Mary Burrell

      “Because you know Cosby was gonna buy NBC they just trying to bring a black man down.” I always roll my eyes when I read this regurgitated crap from apologist.

      • grownandsexy2

        If I had a dollar for every time I heard that . . . . .

    • Hsquared

      Enforces white supremacy? Please elaborate. I once saw a video of a white woman telling a black person that whatever behavior they were engaged in was the reason “why white people are racist”. I would’ve liked to hear her expound on the point she was making.

  • cakes_and_pies

    Thank you! I’m vocal because I want some of y’all to do better.

  • iByron

    “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…”

    I love how even when taking Black people to task, you still don’t let white supremacy off the hook. Kudos.

  • heyheyno

    Everything I’ve been think for the last five years.

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