Back in 2016, Vanity Fair ran a super endearing, idealistically beautiful black and white portrait of actor Michael B. Jordan and director Ryan Coogler. The picture sang praises to the imagery of successful black men, strong jaw lines, clear skin and damn good beards.
Following the release of the image, however, Jordan, Coogler and Vanity Fair received unexpected and unwarranted criticism, all for featuring two black men in an embrace. As the story goes, putrid comments of rampant homophobia from predominantly black men and women ensued.
Straight black men and women need to be held accountable for how they uphold heteronormative and homophobic precepts - especially how they respond to black male intimacy.— Jermaine (@jermainedesign) December 17, 2017
Otherwise, we'll continue to see more ridiculous responses like the ones we got to this picture. pic.twitter.com/3IqGRjboEO
They ranged from, 'The demasculation continues. I hate this pic!!" to "Of the hundreds of photos taken during a shoot ... This is the effeminate image the Vanity Fair photo editor selected to display to the world. No self respecting heterosexual males pose like this naturally."
In short, reading these comments hurt me. As the black daughter of a black father with black sons, I can attest to the fact that never in my life had I seen my father embrace his sons– with no doubt in my mind, due to the homophobic, fearful and insecure ideologies similar to those showcased above.
The black family archetype in America has been burdened with the struggle of needing to be publicly and privately hyper-masculine, straight down to the women as well. 'Weakness' has been made to be avoided at all cost and unfortunately, that has included the embracing of black men by black men.
This, in short, is a deterent to black culture, where so much vibrancy exists, but still, so much toxic masculinity and so much stigma.
I'm inviting all Black men to join me to help dismantle the stigma surrounding Black male intimacy (platonic and otherwise).— Jermaine (@jermainedesign) December 18, 2017
Share a picture of you embracing a male loved one and use the hashtag #BlackBoysEmbrace.
S/O to @gianorama for inspiring this idea. pic.twitter.com/BzoAF83V2R
The image and comments were made viral this week once again by Michigan-based graphic designer and illustrator Jermaine Dickerson, a.k.a. @JermaineDesigns. After posting the backlash, Jermaine devised a plan to combat these notions of hate, fear and insecurity by developing the hashtag, #BlackBoysEmbrace.
According to Jermaine, #BlackBoysEmbrace was, "inspired by @gianorama to combat the toxic masculinity expressed by black people when black men display a certain level of intimacy." He reminds us, "black men should be able to show all kinds of affection without being stigmatized– whether we kiss our sons or each other."
Jermaine invites us to share images of black men embracing one another whether it be platonically or otherwise, in order to begin rectifying the harm done by toxic masculinity and rampant homophobia displayed throughout the black race. For many of us, these were images we didn't even know we needed to see until now.
Y’all need to understand showing affection is a type of vulnerability many men are missing out on and unknowingly passing on to their children. #BlackBoysEmbrace is showing me what I never in my life got to see my father do, scarcely have I ever seen my blood brothers do.— Kimberly B. (@nolosiento_) December 20, 2017
— leslie (@leslieahenda) December 18, 2017
i love this. black people have a long way to go in dismantling toxic masculinity. often comes from a place of wanting to never again feel victimized/weak, translates into brutally stifling vulnerability of any kind. we can do better. #BlackBoysEmbrace https://t.co/wl5nLNwZo4
We don’t often see Dark Brown (aka Black) men being non-sexually intimate unless we’re at funerals. Even family, friends and frats have quick “don’t hold on too long or we’ll look gay” greetings. We’ve got to hug past the stigma.— Queen Dalia (@QueenDalia) December 18, 2017
y'all, #BlackBoysEmbrace is watering my fields, feeding my cattle, and deep conditioning my hair— what that D[ata] do (@meadowlion) December 20, 2017
With the conversation started for us by great samaritan Jermaine, we can see images many of us have never seen before. Black men embracing one another, joyous, happy and okay– not only in their sexuality, in their extensions of affection but in themselves.
With an understanding of how disruptive seeing a lack of affection by black men in families can be, we can now begin working on ways to further combat these harmful stigmas while thoroughly enjoying the fruits of what the hashtag has produced, below:
Before Nile was born, platonic male touch was pretty much non existent in my life other than violence. And it was so normal to me that it took having a child to realize how physically and emotionally isolated I was - and am - and learning not to be.#BlackBoysEmbrace pic.twitter.com/WhLynDVA22— Nasty Ness (@ShunsuiSozosuke) December 18, 2017
Only current one I have in my phone, but I truly believe it's important to show my son and my 3 daughter's love through healthy physical touch like hugs and special handshakes. #BlackBoysEmbrace pic.twitter.com/ks0v2MTZ3O— Not owned by Disney... yet │4th Wall (@TheAceblade) December 18, 2017
The visualization of Black male intimacy inspires hatred not just among White supremacist, but also among cishet Black men and women who believe that because they’re Black, they’re absolved from being oppressors and abusers of privilege.#BlackBoysEmbrace pic.twitter.com/hs1lfyVgz2— Jermaine (@jermainedesign) December 20, 2017
I show my boys love non-stop. My pops was the same way with me because his wasn't. I'm gone keep doing it until they tell me to stop. Then Im gone do it some more #BlackBoysEmbrace pic.twitter.com/TV1wusYDGC— Malcolm P. Reed (@CoachReed1) December 20, 2017
Loving, accepting and embracing other men of color is a radical act. I will continue to RESIST. #BlackBoysEmbrace #BlackBoyJoy #BlackBoysBreakTheInternet cc: @brownboysnetwork pic.twitter.com/eNiTiwpFCl— Daryl Stewart (@TheDarylStewart) December 20, 2017