The Bridge: Diary of a Mad Black Man

By Darryl James


I don't think it will surprise anyone to hear me say that I'm a mad Black man right about now.

I'm angry that the image of Black men in America is once again, under attack.

There has been one new stereotype added to the paradigm over the past few decades-the Black man in drag, currently re-emerging, headed by filmmaker/actor Tyler Perry.

The Black man in drag is one of the new coons. It’s hip and chic and the stereotype is comfortable for all who may have fear of a strong Black man. For white people, the stereotype presents a non-threatening Black male who won't stand up to racism or start a revolution. No one has to oppress him, because he’s self-castrated.

The stereotype is also comfortable for women who have had nothing good come from relationships with Black men because a castrated clown won’t tell them what to do, won't beat them and will sit down with them as nearly one of them. Perhaps they find comfort in this new role of the sensitive male gone too far--so far that he has become the woman. Literally.

What is that showing us? It is showing debauchery and the base level of entertainment.

And it ain’t even good.

It’s a bad knockoff of Flip Wilson’s Geraldine, which was an anomaly during a period when at least we attempted to protect our own image. But currently, no one is protecting anything. We offer up our women to be degraded in garbage over beats called Rap music, and we offer ourselves up in any available vehicle.

Tyler Perry ain’t killing nobody and his work ain’t as bad as other material, but is not ground breaking culturally revolutionary material. Let's call it what it is: This is a grown man running around dressed as a woman.

And, dig, if you will the release of Martin Lawrence's drag queen gig "Big Mama's House, II," during the same time period.

Even the most popular comedian today, Dave Chappelle recoiled when they came at him with the dress, which he acknowledges is always a part of the plan for Black men in entertainment.

Jamie Foxx wore the dress as Wanda long before Oscar consideration. And Martin Lawrence first played "dress up" on his very own sitcom, playing an ugly, ignorant woman that Black women should have beaten him for.

But no one will beat him or Tyler Perry, and really, more people will be angry with me for writing this than will even take issue with the celebration of Black men in drag on the silver screen.

It's not that I expect every Black film to contain images the likes of Malcolm X or Muhammad Ali, or for Denzel Washington, Lawrence Fishburne, Will Smith and Mos Def to star in everything, but since we are spending the dollars to make the difference, we should at least expect something more dignified than what we have been getting.

The excuse for any film debauchery is always that different stories and different characters won’t do the same numbers. That has only become true because the nation, including the Black portion has come to expect something simplistic and non-threatening to deal with when it comes to our images on film.

And the super-irrelevant anachronistic NAACP looks foolish each year slinging so-called "Image Awards" to people who are crapping on our image.
Everyone from grandmothers to college girls have the Madea DVD collection, but the most significant and scary portion of Perry’s audience is Black males.

The fact that Black men have lined up to see a self-castrated Negro clown is evidence of something else I'll be writing about soon--the effeminization of the Black man. And let's be very clear: This is not about bashing gays, but purely about the diminishing and effeminization of the Black male.

While some may cheer for Perry’s success, making claims of what it may portend for other Black films, I weep for what it portends for the Black male image.

At the end of the Civil Rights Movement, the new push was for Black women by Black women to end their own oppression, but what of the Black male, relegated to specific extremes of hypermasculinity or emasculization near eunuch status? What of the Black boys who are taught by Black women to hate/despise their fathers? What of our new culture of Black male effeminization? Perhaps it's time for Black men to take up a movement of our own, specifically to define ourselves and to protect our community.

The pursuit of such a movement would not be juxtaposed to Black women's dance with feminism, as both the male and female psyches in the race have been harmed from sexual misidentification and oppression. Some of our sisters are shouting from the rooftops that strong Black women are a threat, even if only to Black men, but the simple truth is that strong Black men have always been a threat to many people in this nation, including some of our own people who would rather embrace the likes of Madea than any nouveau Malcolm X.

But as we examine the race's difficulties and try to exact solutions, we must first examine the images that today's young Black men are emulating.

At one end of the extreme in the diminishing of the Black male image is the movement of men into the thug mentality, as desired by even some of our most sophisticated females ("I want an educated man with a little thug in him"). Grown men who have never had a fight in their lives are claiming to be thugs, dressing like gangsters and talking like street thugs, looking silly and setting horrible examples for the emerging generation of Black men.

At the other end of the extreme is the effeminate Black male, which includes the Black man in drag as well a the emerging Black "Metrosexual," who may or may not be gay, but is certainly not a man’s man. Yesterday’s father would beat Junior for dressing that way and for wearing makeup and yesterday, Junior would not have paid any attention to the softer societal trends unless he was really gay, and perhaps, not even then. Yet, today, we see the re-emergence of previously horrifying Black male images.

Certainly, the Black female image is also under attack. But as we see an emergence of consciousness among younger Black women, who seek to protect their image, Black men must stand up and do the same.

We need to protect ourselves and then come together to protect each other. We already know that no one else will.

For evidence, witness the Academy Awards of 2006, where the Black image sunk to a low only witnessed at the beginning of our relationship with Hollywood. The empty-minded, talentless wretches who won an Oscar for Best Song paraded themselves around the stage as pimps and hoes, followed by Queen Latifah, who asked: "Why wasn't I included in that?"

While the blind-minded were celebrating, the real pimps were laughing at the Negroes who are being codified and ensconced into the Negro images that are most acceptable--pimps and hoes.

Those images were no more clearly embraced than at this year's Academy Awards, as a Black woman sang about how hard it is out here for a pimp, while a bunch of prideless clowns paraded around the stage.

But, really, I want to tell those morons that it's not that hard out here for a pimp. It's just that you're not the pimp. Listen closely, and in the background over your shoulder, you'll hear the real pimp shouting "Whoop that trick!"

Maybe you’re asleep or just too high too feel the pain.

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Darryl James is an award-winning author and is now a filmmaker. His first mini-movie, "Crack," will be released in March of this year. James’ latest book, "Bridging The Black Gender Gap," is the basis of his lectures and seminars. Darryl James can be reached at djames@TheBlackGenderGap.com., and back editions of this column can now be viewed at www.bridgecolumn.com.