The memes we cackle at which ridicule these hoteps may be hilarious, but the high numbers of followers and subscribers they garner suggest that many of us are still struggling with our “strong Black male” problem.
I give Black men a lot of leeway. My mother taught me to. She viewed men as emotionally weaker in need of being coddled. I have made efforts in recent times to try to decolonize my dating habits. My conversations with down low men of color can be quite free-flowing. Still, I would never compel a Black man to be open about our relationship in the way I would demand of a white partner. I know too well the impact it would have on their life.
The Black men I sleep with are best friends with the South London equivalents of Charlemagne tha God and DJ Envy. Their families would withdraw their love from them and the cloud of homophobia would blight their skies irrevocably. I find sex with them hilarious because pillow talk is peppered with conspiracy theories, slut shaming and advice I have no intention of following. I give a lot of ‘baby mama’ advice which more often than not just boils down to me telling them to listen more and give them more money.
When I kiss them goodbye on my doorstep I feel my stomach wrenching because I know the world won’t see their intellect and their promise but will definitely see my harmless lovers as potentially criminal. I worry of them ending up dead or in prison.
In her interview with Charlie Rose in the early 00’s when talking about writing the male voice in ‘Song of Solomon’, Toni Morrison commiserates having to inhabit the minds of men living small, sheltered lives. For all the bravado and masculine posturing of the modern hotep I cannot help but concur with her observation. I use the definition for hoteps from urbandictionary.com which cites them as:
“Black men who are only concerned about matters of social justice when it comes to black men and have little or no regard for the health and well-being of other members of the black race unless those people can serve to uphold their misogynistic societal ideas.”
I have a funny relationship with our most popular hoteps who are the gatekeepers and supreme court judges on what constitutes a solid black straight male identity. Hemmed in by cages of behavioral expectations which stop them from experiencing the bliss of #blackboyjoy because it’s way too easy to get called the still mortally wounding label of ‘gay’. An accusation of ‘gayness’ is the ultimate kryptonite to hoteps.
Dr. Umar Johnson espouses a virulent homophobia based in specious pseudo-science about the mental deficiencies of same-sex desire. Still, I remember when I drank his Kool Aid and swooned at the idea of a school for Black boys. This was before we knew he swindled so much money from folks, snake oil merchant that he is. Dr. Boyce Watkins is the Tupac to his Biggie. Even he inspired me by extolling the virtues of ‘economic empowerment’ to think of how I could bring a business off the ground with my skills set. Yet the thought remained with me throughout “Are we really going to liberate ourselves with capitalism as the shining star to freedom?”
How about the just about Tariq Nasheed? As a film producer and media personality his work ethic is prodigious and his mission is clear. Yet, in a recent video on YouTube my laughter stopped cold when he accused anyone who questions O.J. Simpson’s innocence as ‘cooning’. Survivors of interpersonal violence in relationships are used to our perpetrators having a solid defense team in courts and communities who are unswayable in the face of incontrovertible evidence. Nasheed’s violent anti-feminism and misogyny hardly seems surprising.
Even those with the sheen of their literati endorsement such as Ta-Nehisi Coates, can leave us wanting a lot more intersectional analysis. Listening to the audiobook of “Between the World and Me” I was less than impressed that the dissipation of his anti-queer prejudice was dealt with way too briefly by meeting queer people of color at Howard University whose humanity, dynamism and intellect were undeniable. A paragraph or two at most. They, and we, deserve more.
I come to this conclusion with the help of psychotherapy. As Black peoples, we have to unpack our Daddy and Messiah complexes. There is generational trauma deep in our collective unconscious. In truth, we are still grieving. They took Marcus Garvey, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Fred Hampton, Steve Biko, Patrice Lumumba and so many others. With the Prison Industrial Complex locking us up and killing us quicker and more efficiently than ever, we seek leaders of that ilk, and that is understandable.
Related: DEATH TO “RIDE OR DIE” TROPE: WHY IT’S TIME FOR US TO ABANDON AN UNHEALTHY MODEL OF BLACK LOVE
However, our selection process is faulty: the days of Big Black Leaders as prophets and preachers, ready to whip up the diasporic masses into frenzied action may need to be relegated to the past. In these days of problematic faves we are questioning the notions of purity, respectability, gender and biological determinism. Is it really so natural for us to keep looking for strong male leaders to lead the charge?
The memes we cackle at which ridicule these hoteps may be hilarious, but the high numbers of followers and subscribers they garner suggest that many of us are still struggling with our “strong Black male” problem. Take it from me – a Black trans woman guilty of wasting too much energy and time on hoteps who are desperate to keep our dalliances secret – recovery is possible. Go ahead and delete their numbers. To be honest, the best revolutionaries have gone back to letter writing.