“I do not expect white media to create positive black male images”-Dr. Huey P. Newton (1942-1989)
In his seminal classic essay, Huey Talks to the Movement, in paragraph subtitled Penis Envy, Dr. Huey P. Newton gives a historical analysis of the political, social and sexual repercussion of chattel slavery upon both black and white men.
Newton surmised that the dehumanization process used in the creation of the slave, removed from him (the slave) the logical and critical reasoning faculties embodied by the brain. According to Newton, this process resulted in a physically imposing, over developed beast of burden, fit only for the rigors of menial labor in the fields.
He further concluded that this process was not so much a destruction of the black mind as it was an absconding with it to the hinterlands of white male authority. This kind of control vested the white man with an absolute autonomy which allowed Newton to label him as the “omnipotent administrator.”
But this process, according to Newton, had a most unintentional sociological consequence. The white man, as the slavemaster, by resigning the black man to the physically grueling tasks of plantation life, had quietly emasculated himself with the same power he used to keep his black counterpart in bondage.
Newton stated that: “The omnipotent administrator……realized that his plan to enslave the black man had a flaw when he discovered that he had emasculated himself. (Therefore)He attempted to bind the penis of the slave.”
Using Dr. Newton’s analysis, it would not be an unreasonable proposition to conclude that white phobia of black male sexuality formed the backdrop of all subsequent rape and miscegenation laws from the foundation of the republic. When viewed in this new light, the perverse ritual of castration during lynchings become chillingly logical.
However, the fear of the black penis was not only expressed in cathartic outlets of white violence, it was also extolled by Hollywood through the medium of film as a subliminal message to reinforce white male domination of black men during periods of social upheaval and unrest.
The 1915 release of D.W. Griffith’s notoriously racist Birth of A Nation, depicted the Ku Klux Klan as a heroic army of white knights, riding to the rescue to save white female virtue from rape by savage black men emancipated during the American Civil War. The film depicted black men in bestial form, seething with lust, prowling about, seeking to de-flower all the young white virginal women of the South. A more honest examination of history proves that the opposite is true.
The film was screened in the White House by President Woodrow Wilson who said “it is like writing history with lightening. My one regret is that it is all so terribly true.” The film caused riots and lynchings all over the South. The NAACP boycotted the film and it was censored in many cities through out the country. It remains to this date an innovation in cinema despite its’ historical inaccuracies and revisions. Nevertheless, the message was clear. Black sexuality must be restrained.
Over the years, Hollywood became more sophisticated in its intentional misrepresentation of black male sexuality. By tying it into gratuitous displays of violence, this distortion was able to be preserved over numerous genres in film and music. Even during the 1970’s, the heights of its most liberal period, such as it was, black male sexuality remained a dark, forbidden taboo. But the 80’s bought yet another innovation in the disfigured fantasies of the white male psyche.
As the 1980’s commenced, depictions of Black masculinity conformed to the androgynous look of the glam rock hair bands like Poison, Motley Crew, Bon Jovi and Winger. But while this image had virtually no effect on the appeal of white male sexuality, Black America was inundated with images of effeminate black men singing and dancing to the most masculine lyrics about love and sex.
While strong images like Teddy Pendergrass, Frankie Beverly & Maze, and Barry White were wildly popular in the community, it looked as though iconic status was reserved for singers who blurred the lines of gender. In all honesty, those artists were supremely talented, but the proliferation of those images neutered the more potent displays of the black male sexuality.
But in the boroughs of New York City, an emerging sub-culture was launching a revolution that would, for a short period of time, shift the momentum back in the other direction. Hip Hop exploded on the scene in the early to mid 80’s with it’s unmistakably gritty urban imagery. It was a reality based genre which critiqued the prevailing socio-economic order of the time. Its epistles on poverty, drugs, and urban despair masculinized an otherwise effeminate era. The culture resurrected the radical ethos of 1960’s consciousness while disseminating powerful black masculine images. As a result, it was largely kept off of black radio.
This suppression tactic had virtually no effect. Employing strategies of guerrilla capitalism in the market, artists took to the streets to distribute their own music out the trunk of their cars. With the use of ingenious networks of local record stores, mixtapes, and mobile distribution, these artists were selling millions of records with virtually no air play. Out flanked, out maneuvered, and outfoxed, the main stream surrendered.
As Hip Hop ascended to the heights of popular culture, it brought with it powerful, and sometimes problematic, images of black male sexuality. These images stood eye to eye as a direct challenge to the monopoly of white male sexual dominance in American society.—————–TO BE CONTINUED IN PART II. STAY TUNED!
TONY MACEO is a senior blogger at the Negromanosphere and the Chief Blogger at Power and Strategy.com. Like and Share the articles. Subscribe to the website. Become a supporter by paypal @firstname.lastname@example.org or on Patreon @ Powerofstrategies. STAY TUNED FOR PART II