Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2019-10-02
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage



In Consideration of Black Masculinity Author examines the fears and fantasies
by D. Kevin McNeir

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

In the history of Western civilization, the issue of race has often been the linchpin upon which family feuds were started, states and the nation became divided and fortunes were made or lost. Carefully woven into our nation's folklore and stereotypes are images of the Black male body--a representation that simultaneously invokes great admiration and abject fear.

Now, in an impressive interrogation into the problems of the Black masculine identity as developed over a 200-year span, Maurice O. Wallace, assistant professor of English and African and African American Studies at Duke University, in his book Constructing the Black Masculine, negotiates murky waters in examining the historical efforts by Black men to reconcile the relationship between maleness and blackness.

And from his research of representative texts and contexts from 1775 to 1995, Wallace concludes that the Black man has always been held under suspicion and subjected to an onerous sort of public gaze by white's eyes.

"This gaze has tended to spectacularize or read more or less into Black male bodies." Wallace said. "In some cases the body has been over-sexualized and at the same time regarded as less intelligent than the white male. In effect, the Black male has been reduced to a creature that is more body than mind."

In order to pursue this thesis, Wallace examines the writings and lifestyles of prominent Black men in American history: Prince Hall and Martin Delany--founders of the Freemasons; Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington; authors Richard Wright, James Baldwin, Melvin Dixon and Frantz Fanon; and dancer Bill T. Jones. And he states that despite the different periods in which these men lived, race constituted a defining feature of their national manhood.

"Who, after all, can deny the endless and unspeakable power of so many desperate white schemes as American slavery, Jim Crow, the lynch mob, urban dispossession, and, most recently, the prison industrial complex to unman (read: dehumanize) the African-American male?"

In other words, according to the author, as a result of the high profile of race in Western civilization, and the Black man's lowly position in that hierarchy, the Black male body has been reduced to the fears and fascinations borne out of our country's cultural imagination.

He begins with men like Hall and Delany, early race men, who appropriate the classic style of George Washington in their style of dress--powdered wigs, knee breeches and coats.

"African-American Freemasonry represents one of the first attempts in American history to settle the spectragraphic predicament--pursuing the impulse toward self-made manhood and the black masculine ideal," he says.

In other words, Freemasons, as well as Douglass, hoped to counter the image of the Black body as interpreted under the gaze of white Americans.

"One ... way that these men attempted to counter the first attempts at racial profiling--by challenging and subsequently presenting a different appearance than those that were the norm in the mid- to late-18th century--the fugitive slave where great attention was given to his body parts."

Wallace points to a memorable scene in Douglass' autobiography in which he strikes back at his overseer, describing the event as an explanation of "how a slave is made a man."

And as the author moves to consider the works and life of Booker T. Washington, he suggests that Washington was more subversive than he is given credit.

"He would never be described as a radical figure, given his philosophy and action, but he was much more complicated than the castigation of him as an Uncle Tom--a closer read refutes this claim made by many historians.

While Baldwin and Jones live public careers in different decades of the 20th century, Wallace suggests that both feel the intense gaze of white eyes--like other Black men before them. But their response is something never before employed.

"They flip the script on the gaze of the white public and expose the imagination of white America," Wallace said. "In both Baldwin's literature and the choreography of Jones, both men show how the public gaze dehumanizes and objectifies Black men. Jones is fascinating in his dance performance, often presenting stereotypes with which he knows his white audience can relate--only to overexaggerate and flaunt that stereotypic view right before their eyes. Baldwin does the same thing in his writing--making it clear that he knows he is being watched. But Baldwin asserts that at the same time, he too, is watching the watcher."

So, what is Wallace's conclusion about Black masculinity?

"It is a sort of improvisation that the Black man undergoes," he says. "They manipulate their own bodies, they understand their own body consciousness and they improvise on a less than flattering public view of their masculinity."

New productions of knowledge and new productions of power--that is what Wallace says the Black man continues to search for--a new ontology of sight, one which liberates slave from master and master from himself."

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


Gay News

LGBT HISTORY MONTH Authors and activism: A history of LGBT bookstores 2019-10-02 - "It was unbelievably fun," Ed Hermance said about his time operating Giovanni's Room, one of the first queer bookstores in the world. "You ...

Gay News

BOOKS Former NFL player talks football, politics and Madonna 2019-09-18 - Ryan O'Callaghan made headlines two years ago when the former NFL defensive tackle came out as gay, making him one of the league's ...

Gay News

Banned Books Week on Sept. 22-28 2019-09-02 - Libraries, bookstores and schools place a national spotlight on the freedom to read during Banned Books Week, Sept. 22-28—a time when the American ...

Gay News

MOMBIAN Pushing for inclusivity in children's books, one publisher shows how 2019-08-21 - Orca Book Publishers of British Columbia, Canada, is an independent publisher with the goal of offering "reading material that represents the diversity of ...

Gay News

Artemis Singers to join Women & Children First Bookstore Block Party 2019-08-05 - CHICAGO─Artemis Singers,, Chicago's lesbian feminist chorus, will perform songs from 2 p.m. - 2:30 p.m., Saturday, August 24, 2019 at Women & ...

Gay News

NATIONAL Court briefs, flag burned, Amazon books removed 2019-07-10 - The Human Rights Campaign ( HRC ), Lambda Legal, Out & Equal, Out Leadership and Freedom for All Americans announced that 206 major ...

Gay News

BOOKS Tan about town, 'Queer Eye' guru pens new memoir 2019-06-26 - The title of Tan France's new memoir, Naturally Tan, refers to the Queer Eye star's aim for authenticity—a mindset that once eluded the ...

Gay News

BOOKS 'In the City' author talks storytelling, Stonewall 2019-06-26 - Taylor Saracen always had a passion for storytelling. Her parents warned her writing was not a lucrative profession so instead she chose teaching, ...

Gay News

BOOKS Assisted-reproduction book's author hopes to help LGBTQ parents 2019-06-26 - Kim Bergman has helped bring more than 1,700 babies into the world throughout her 30 years working in the assisted-reproduction field. She and ...

Gay News

BOOKS ON STONEWALL Indecent Advances, The Stonewall Riots, Out in Time 2019-06-18 - Indecent Advances By James Polchin $26; Counterpoint Press; 256 pages The Stonewall Riots Edited by Marc Stein $35; New York University ...


Copyright © 2019 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.







About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.