By Christina Thompson
Why are black men so stoic?
I don’t know.
Generally speaking, many men have not been told how to process and talk about their emotional experiences. This furthers a sense of isolation, anger, and resentment. A 2016 Indiana University Bloomington study concluded that men who fall into certain stereotypical masculine behaviours have “poorer mental health and less favourable attitudes towards seeking psychological help.” To sum it up, men suffer negative psychological consequences from trying to live up to traditional ideas of what it means to be men. So, many go out into the world with feelings they can’t identify or deal with.
To be a black man in society is to be forced to deal with psychological stress every day. Institutionalized racism, economic instability, and the constant threat of physical danger can do a number on a man’s mental state. When the pressure becomes too much, their pride and years of training often keep them from expressing these feelings. Black men have never been taught how to deal with their emotions. To them, manhood is “how much you can control your emotions.” Being cool and appearing to be in control of your emotions no matter the circumstances, is a persona most gravitate to almost instinctively.
There is also this outdated idea that to be a black man is to be strong, cool and in control. You keep yourself in check. They’re praised for being or appearing void of all emotion except two: happy and angry. Acknowledging pain and showing emotions is considered soft or feminine; weaknesses to be driven out. If they cry they are deemed weak, if they feel fear they are deemed weak. Anxiety, depression, love, anything that is not happy or angry is a weakness. These other emotions are only allowed during “special occasions” like funerals or childbirth.
This refusal to learn how to process emotion is passed down from generation to generation. Who knows really where it started. Our best guess is slavery (that’s somehow the starting point for everything), so let’s make that assumption. Black men had to watch their wives, daughters, sisters and mothers being raped and beaten in front of them and there was nothing they could do. They had no control over their lives and what happened to them. The only thing they could control was themselves. They faced a harsh, brutal reality daily. Maybe being stoic was the way they learned to cope. Maybe this trait has been passed down as a survival mechanism that they think they still need. Maybe this is why black men think that their inability to process and talk about trauma is a good character trait.
Black males try to avoid their own vulnerability and replace it with a sense of masculinity reinforced by society, at least that’s how it seems. Once they are old enough to comprehend, all black males get is: “Don’t be a bitch! Be a man! Real men don’t cry.” When they suffer physical or emotional trauma, “shake that s*** off” or “man up” is the only advice they’re given. You don’t cry, you don’t hurt, you don’t feel.
Featured Image from Mocha Man Style