In late 2016, world renowned author and life couch Iyanla Vanzant welcomed six Black men into her “house of healing” on the popular OWN series Iyanla: Fix My Life. The three part documentary tackled sensitive and probing subjects of anger and the past when examining the lives of these men. The series broke ground in more ways than one when shining a light on these Black men breaking down walls of apathy built at the hands of abiding by a fragile and lethal agenda of Black masculinity.
Having emotional barriers is not something familiar to all men but it is a particularly harder struggle for men of color. Often, because Black men are held to a hybrid standard of masculinity, one created in the image of racial fear and ignorance, these men are not given the tools to respond to experiences that impact them in ways that prompt emotion. It has proven that a concern over the Black male psyche had finally turned a new corner.
Considering the events that occurred such as the skyrocketing numbers of unarmed Black men killed at the hands of the police and news of celebrity rap artists Kid Cudi and Kanye West’s emotional state exploding on social media, many have begun to examine Black men and to what decree society allows them to express themselves in a healthy and constructive way. Kid Cudi broke new ground when he went public on his bout with depression and time spent in rehab. Other male artists such as West and Pharrell Williams voiced their support for the rapper’s stand, culminating in the popular tweet, #YouGoodMan.
Black men have long been at the epicenter of societal labels such as “aggressive” and “unstable.” Black men represent a significant amount of the population in both prison and unemployment. Black men seem to be invalidated in their emotional exchanges when dealing with anger and betrayal. These claims seem to circle the idea that Black men do not have a platform that allows them to be angry or sad, at least not one of their making.
Backlashes of the killings of unarmed Black men over the last couple of years have certainly caused an internal stir within the minds of Black men everywhere. From articles in Ebony magazine as well as other publications, forums have been opened where building an emotional bridge has become the new language when dealing with the Black male psyche. If anything, more emphasis has been placed on providing contemporary “outlets” for Black men that can and will be created in their own image.
In challenging the role that emotion plays in their lives, or rather the role it has been assigned, Black men are finally being allowed to express themselves.