On Black Men and our emotional health crises, verse 3: a couple bars on the way forward

Long story short, our wellness as Black men requires that we disrupt the emotional and fantasy systems that require us to choose to be one or another thing, but never so many things that the systems are disrupted. Our wellness mandates that we be anything other than binary, for binary existences for Black minds and souls place us first and always on the conveyor. Those choices make us only a sacrifice for this colossus of a society which needs our bodies and belief for its fuel. And know, the predator never mourns the bones. And so, our wellness is dependent upon the ways in which all of those who are our family, and we and us, and our loves and lovers, and teachers and neighbors, choose to be present and destabilize this, and those choices. All of them. Our wellness requires that we see femininity and masculinity not as honorifics, but as present on the same human spectrum, and potentials for all of us. Our wellness requires the cry and the shout, which has already been waiting to surface, and the refusal to adopt their ways as anything other than means of passage, not purpose or person. Our wellness is contingent upon a reframing of the holy trinity being child/woman/man, in that essential order, and in speaking our humanity out in the tones in which we live them, not only in violent assertion, there is room for that, but in a patois and in rhythms meant for us all, family. Truly, we must reject it all. All of it, and decide that there are a series of paintings and constellations and sculptures and prayers crafted by our ancestors that started our build, given to us to continue, and to hand over to those after us. We were never meant to ground ourselves here, not us, we, Black first, but male too. Never. We were, are, given the task of becoming, continually, and that has been stripped and abandoned, and must be taken up again. We must teach our children to embrace all of the selves they hear in themselves, and speak back to them, and grow them. We must weaponize their becoming, and let them terraform this world with that understanding, those many selves.

But so too, the short story long…

In the work that I have done with students, and with myself, and with patients and organizations, will always inquire about what we have learned together. I ask that we test our shared understanding, attended to, or threw away, our agenda, and what we aim to make of our way forward. What, by necessity, have we elected to cut through next. I often suggest that while feeling refreshed and affirmed is more than enough, the soundest and truest continued growth comes from the steady meditation, work and reframing. I would hope that you would agree that we can do a bit of that forward looking, believing, and thinking, here. I would imagine, somehow know, that we are all prepared for it, and for it to continue in earnest well past this space.

And so, when I think of a port for us to pull up anchor and sail off from, and for the emotional garments we may leave at shore when we elect to do so, I most readily fixate on the blade of binary existences that we as Black men so tether ourselves to. While we exercise the imperative to expand the bounds of human expression and creativity and purpose, as gifted to us by our ancestors, we wed our beings to the forced choice.

Much of this is a direct extension of learning, the human condition, and some degree of desperation. We have learned that there is safety in those identity 1s and 0s. We have been taught, shown and molded toward knowing that those such as we must be readily and easily defined, or so many others, driven by need, pain or an agenda of their own will define us, typically by our failings and deficiencies. We, Black men, have never been a remarkably simple bit of arithmetic for our human family, and the frustration that so many of them feel is pronounced in the violence with which they conceive of us, command our bodies to see to their pleasure and the cages they guild for the exhibits they ready for us.

There are teachings, and learnings, and godlike structures and freedom and next selves, and time shifts, and running Sankofa, just outside of those binary space, right there waiting for us. There are fully realized versions there. And we know this, because we know of the misery visited on our very persons due to the sketching of binary identities over our skins. We have determined that to be male is to be heterosexual, and to be cisgender, and melding these means that we must identity as our sexual selves first, and it is this very intersection which has threatened the sexual supremacy of those apex predators and led so often to the breaking of our bodies, first in their fantasies, and then by their wills and hands. We have been subject to this for so long, that it has become a readily accessible script in our psychology, and we carry out the abuses upon ourselves. To our way of thinking, so often, to be any joining of the things that make us inherently what we believe we are, is to be powerless. To be White and male, and virile, and threatening enough to change the emotional space and temperature in any space you choose to occupy, is to be powerful.

And so, to be any way feminine, or balanced, or loving, or mindful, or spiritual, or…any number of supposed human evils, is to be weak, and to be weak is to be a victim in waiting. And so, we should see, how that library of fallacies leads us so truly to building an altar on the bones of fully forming Black men and boys, those we chased from their potential becoming, those who we chastised and scarred until they cut away the selves that so offended our sensibilities.

It goes so far as to color our faith, should we see it. So many of us, truly. That binary belief. Heaven or Hell. Heaven only should you do this. Hell should you not.

No word of those spaces in-between. No word of a nirvana, or of communing with the Aziza, or Valhalla should we live bravely and die a good death. No. Simply choose the path provided for you rightly from birth.

There is madness and misery in these 1s and 0s, for such as we.

What if we meditate out loud, for endless moments, on our existence as men? Suppose for an instant that the garish clothing, and sacred, worshipful, robust pronouncements of our being here are meant to extend to our expressions of our fullest selves? What if the secret to it all was throwing away the bounds?

They, whoever they may be, and you feel them to know them, will not see to your salvation simply because you choose one or the other. It is your continued existence, skin and all, and their vile supremacist psychology and all, which they struggle with.

And so, a way forward. Simple truly. Violate the bounds. Refuse the choices. Refuse definition and categorization. Strip away the sense that your sexuality be an anchoring point. Burn away all conventions and disrupt the beliefs that tether you this place.

Craft an emotional space to nurture the version of you, Black and male, which needs to cry out, and dance, and see that loving a brother, in whatever way you choose to see and know that love, is human, and necessary, and there is no shared bit of humanity fit to judge that, or any, love you build toward yourself and those of your family.

Craft an emotional space where you, over time, may meditate on becoming another being, one more evolved and alive than this one. One can celebrate that the prior you was a skin that needed to molt and shed.

Ultimately, see, and teach, that you are not purely what they believe you are. You aren’t even truly what you have forced yourself into believing you are. You are Black and male, and as always, are a burst of color, spilling, perfectly everywhere. You have lived in a time and place where they have led you to believe that you must clean all of that up. It was no mess, and will never be. Topple over and cover those space every chance you have. Obsess over the patterns as they cover canvas. That is you, always.

Be not afraid of this. as fear has led us to this choice or that. Le us pull back, aim, and let fly with our beings over all of the choices. That is the first of our way forward.

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I am a Clinical Psychologist, husband and father, Professor, lover of all things Star Wars, Wakandan refugee, TEDx performer, and believer in human potential

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Napoleon Wells

Napoleon Wells

I am a Clinical Psychologist, husband and father, Professor, lover of all things Star Wars, Wakandan refugee, TEDx performer, and believer in human potential

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