As Hip Hop rose to prominence, for the first time in American culture, the enviable designation of alpha male rested in a darker pigment. A male dominated art form, rap music mirrored the hedonistic practices of corporate America, as well as the licentious behavior practiced in urban working poor communities all across the country. Rappers stood toe to toe with their white counter parts in the higher echelons in the boardroom.
Ironically, while hip hop reigned supreme in the streets, with the exception of a few radio stations in major urban communities across the country, hip hop had virtually no radio play. Not even on Black Radio. It was often distributed in a conglomeration of songs from multiple artists known as mixtapes.
However, when the mainstream invaded the culture, it ceased to be a neighborhood phenomenon. As artists began to sell millions of records, major labels descended on them like vultures. Signing them to usurious contracts, record labels expropriated the majority of the artists’ wealth through publishing, distribution, manufacturing as well as the repayment of huge advances for album budgets. As a result, while many of these rappers were making timeless masterpieces of an era, they could never seem to avoid the cruel fate of obscurity after their careers were over. Even though they made the labels millions of dollars, their incomes were usually not much more than your basic garbage man or UPS driver.
Through the ownership of their master recordings, record companies possessed a powerful vehicle of residual income which appreciated exponentially, while the artists were usually starving or bankrupt back in the neighborhoods of their youth (if they were lucky). Thus, record companies resumed the role of omnipotent administrators while the artists were living the lifestyles of modern day Caligulas. The ultimate image of American machismo to many female admirers, rappers became the living embodiment of hyper-masculinity even as they were under economic peonage to the labels.
But even in these dungeons of indebted servitude, there was a silver lining. Because music takes on a kind of deification in American pop culture, many rappers became gods to young people nursed on videos from the MTV Generation. Programs such as Yo MTV Raps, Rap City, and Graffiti Rock brought the power of black male sexuality right into the living rooms of white suburban families————Or more specifically young white girls.
But as the old saying goes: if it sounds to good to be true, it probably is. And this unlawful trespass on the wombs of white girls would not be allowed to stand. Thus, the counter-attack commenced on movie screens and TV sets all over the world.
Since the 1970’s, effeminate depictions of black men had been widely promoted and accepted by the dominant society.
But in the era of blaxploitation, such depictions were usually the exception and not the norm. But as the 20th century came to an end, black men seem to be bombarded by a barrage of feminized imagery. Hollywood seem to have an uncanny ability to depict the most masculine black men in the most feminine roles. From Wesley Snipes in To Wong Fu from Julie Newmar to Tyler Perry’s Madea, Hollywood appeared to have an insatiable appetite for effeminate black men. No one was spared; not even Steve Urkel
In all fairness, this phenomena did not occur in a vacuum. For over 40 years, the LGBT community has been waging a non-stop war against marginalization in western society. The recognition and acceptance of their humanity has been a primary objective of the Avant Guard. The community has burst forth from its island of exclusion to commandeer its place in the kaleidoscope of American popular culture.
The plethora of celebrities coming out of the closet has been accompanied by an epic public relations campaign for same sex marriage as well as, the removal on the ban of homosexuals serving in the armed forces. The LGBT community has been on nothing short of an unholy jihad to obtain recognition of their sexual orientation.
It was this recognition that compelled actor and singer Billy Porter to wear a dress to the 2019 Oscars. Porter alleged that the purpose of wearing the dress was to challenge conventional norms of masculinity. He even went so far as to state that: ” When you’re black and you’re gay, one’s masculinity is in question.”
Although the latter is true, the former is not. Black masculinity has never been in question in America. If anything, it has been something that America has deeply feared. So much so that it’s depictions concern white men to the point of extreme hysterics. The stereotypical depictions of black men in entertainment range from the nihilistic rage of gangster rap to the signifying coolness of its predecessor, blaxploitation.
If there is any stereotype that black men willingly accept it is the stereotype of the hyper-masculine, sexually satisfying, alpha male. This caricature has been the salvation and the albatross of the black male existence for generations. While this caricature has, at times, been problematic, the imposition of effeminate black images as an affront to homophobia is a battle for the dominant society, not the most powerless and disenfranchised sector in the American body politic. Despite rampant allegations to the contrary, homophobia in the black community has never been equivalent to the rapacious cruelty practiced in White America.
While there has been a generous sprinkling of teasing and chin checks, more often than not, the chin checks are usually given to the heterosexual chin checker by the homosexual chin checkee. Thus, the attempt to open the minds of black men to the humanity of homosexuals is to answer a call that has already hung up. The homosexual has affirmed his right to be respected with a litany of black eyes, loose teeth, and broken noses.
Black men in dresses is an old story from an old book with an old motivation. It is a motivation steeped in the penis envy of a man with a childish fantasy of total supremacy. It is a flat line to a group of men whose masculinity is already on life support. With pride we use to utter the words of Tony Montana who said: “All I got is my word and my balls.” But we are locked in mortal combat with a society that ignores one and castrates the other. And now we are losing them both.
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. Support on Paypal @ firstname.lastname@example.org or on Patreon on Powerofstrategies. TILL NEXT TIME, I’LL HOLLA!