Sunday, December 7, 2014

There’s More to Being Black Than Sports and Sex Appeal

Is it true what they say about black men -- that we kick ass on the court… and in bed? According to a message in my Grindr inbox this morning, the latter, in particular, would be a definite definitely.

"Blacks rule whites drool"

I love a good rhyme scheme, but I couldn't stop myself from cringing when I read that one. Should I have taken it as a compliment?

The general consensus about compliments seems to be this: Take them and run. Usually, I would, especially if said compliment singled out some personal detail that applies only to me: my eyes, my smile, my way with words. When you compliment/comment on my race, though, you're not singling out anything that doesn't apply to millions of other men. Maybe you haven't even noticed my eyes or my smile because you've been so blinded by my black. Who needs lust like that?

But this isn't just about my objection to putting people into boxes labeled with colors or the myth about black men that has become the bane of my gay existence. Yes, I'm sure those whites are drooling because of how big we are (or are supposed to be), but I had my say on that subject in my book.

Today I'm looking at the bigger picture and wondering why black and sex seem to be so intrinsically linked in it, even in the eyes of many white people who would never dare to utter anything as crude as "Blacks rule whites drool." Why must being a black man always seem to have a sexual connotation? Is that all there is to us: our sexuality?

Yes, I know everyone gets objectified regardless of skin color, but I wonder if the objectification of white men ever makes blatant mention of the color of their skin. Does any white guy have to keep collecting compliments for his entire race? All the blanket black appreciation doesn't betray even a hint of discerning selection. It's like any black man would satisfy all chocolate cravings.

Here's a general rule of thumb that has nothing to do with my ego: If replacing "black" with "white" in any racially charged supposed compliment would make it pretty much universally offensive, don't say it. Could anyone get away with "Whites rule blacks drool"? So why is it OK to say the opposite?

The more I thought about it, the more I thought about that uncomfortable scene in a recent episode of How to Get Away with Murder. During an argument, the white husband of Viola Davis's character basically tells her that their 20-year relationship has been based on the fact that she's always been just a piece of ass to him. Given the black and white context of the story (it just had been revealed that the white co-ed he'd been screwing was pregnant with his baby at the time of her murder), it was a shocking moment of interracial truth, with a black woman assuming the role of the sexually objectified, just like it used to be on the cotton plantations.

I don't know if Azealia Banks watches TV, but if she's into Murder, God only knows what went through her mind when she saw that scene. A few days ago she attacked her fellow rapper Iggy Azalea on Twitter, and while I think Azealia needs to learn some Twitter etiquette, she did make one interesting point in her explosion of black rage.

For those who have spent the past several months living under a rock, Iggy is a white female rapper from Australia whose musical posturing co-opts black culture more flagrantly than Elvis Presley's ever did. Oh, and she dates a black guy (NBA star Nick Young). As it turns out, Iggy's romantic status sparked the most interesting part of Azealia's rant.

"Don't just be down to ride Black Dick..... If you with us you WITH US!!!!"

And also...

"its funny to see people Like Igloo Australia silent when these things happens... Black Culture is cool, but black issues sure aren't huh?"

While I wouldn't presume to know what social causes Iggy privately supports (for activism does not necessarily need to be loud and public), I can see where Azealia is coming from. Her sentiment echoes one of my biggest problems with color-coded and sex-obsessed white gay admiration. They just don't get it… or us. The guy in Tel Aviv who told me that I'm blessed to be black last year comes immediately to mind every time I consider the horny and the clueless.

I'm not saying that white people need to embrace black culture to the extent that they live it more than I do. I'm not saying they have to assume black history as their own (though a white American who's dating a black person probably should have at least heard of the Harlem Renaissance, even if he or she can't name one prominent black artist from the period).

I'm not saying they have to take a pre-determined stance on white cops killing unarmed black men in the United States. I'm not even saying that they have to listen to rap and R&B. After all, I was raised on country and came of age with rock & roll.

What I am saying is that it's time to change the broken record. Give us recognition for something else, please. It's not just about our sports prowess, our size, our sex. We're so much more than that. As with people of any color, we're multi-dimensional. Constantly singling us out because we're sexy implies that there is nothing else worth noting about us, and I happen to know there's so much more to me.

To expect us to take those sexually/racially charged compliments and run (preferably into your bed), to suggest that we should not want to be appreciated for more, to suggest that we should be glad that you're noticing us in the first place, can be just as bad as ignoring us entirely.

If you can't say something nice without it being all about race (and sex), then it's just as well that you don't say anything at all.
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