african man oneafricangirl
One of Uganda’s professional swimmers (credits: oneafricangirl.com)

I ‘googled’ up the meaning of the ‘brown’ (the colour) today and the displayed results put a smile on my face.

Brown, the color of earth, wood, stone, wholesomeness, reliability, elegance, security, healing, home, grounding, foundations, stability, warmth, and honesty, is a natural, neutral color that is typically associated with the seasons of fall and winter. The color brown is a warm color that stimulates the appetite.

That wasn’t what I expected to find. Africa has an entire collection of elegant and warm people, male and female. Brown people… as sweet as chocolate… I do know that not all Africans are brown,, but for today…I’m just ‘gonna love on’ the brown people.

The African woman has carried on the rich legacy of our people. There’s so much to be said about an African woman, she is beautiful, elegant, a symbol of strength and a whole lot more. The image that many associate with the African woman is the one of her carrying one child on her back as she struggles to balance a food basket on her head. How much we appreciate the African woman is a story for another day… I know I stand in awe of her strength.

But what about the African man?

That brown African man?

Who knows who he is or what he has done?

Who feels for him?

Who appreciates him?

Who writes countless stories about all that he has gone through and shares the tales of his experiences?

I wish I knew.

As a child, he is pushed to spend more time with his father and the other males in the community because they all believe the essence of who they are will rub off on him and create a man’s man. They batter him any moment he shows a mere connection with his emotions or starts to hover around his mother. The African man is not supposed to cook or help with any household chores; he is not supposed to hang around the kitchen. He is not supposed to talk a lot. He is not supposed to participate in the upbringing of his children unless it’s to punish them or pay for their schooling. But the really upsetting one is the African man doesn’t express his feelings. So what does he do? He sucks it all in as he attempts to lead his people.

He has to fight for the respect of his family and peers and showcase battle scars that his audience are more proud of than he is. “Pain makes you stronger,” they tell him so he is forced to take in all the harshness and the pain life throws at him without crying out or talking about it, as initiation into manhood. Social and cultural expectations mould him like clay into a hard shell with a ‘pulp’ center; pulp that doesn’t know how to break through to the surface.

Eventually, he evolves into someone who doesn’t know how to express himself, someone who doesn’t know how to get in touch with his emotions. These rules get so embedded in him that he can’t easily break out. During his teenage years, we start to get a glimpse of who he is… or isn’t. We see his transformation, from playing on rooftops as a child to adult encounters in bars and clubs. His appearance, right down to the trendy hairstyles, changes before our eyes. His manhood starts to set and he slowly slips into the man he is supposed to be. However in the bid to mould a man, has society failed to define who a man is in the wake of changing time?

Societal expectations then dictate that a real man is determined by ridiculous external factors such as the amount of money he earns or makes, the power he holds in a community, penis size (believe it or not!), physical and academic accomplishments, the number of women he has, which women he has children with and so-forth. Sadly, you can see people admire a man that upholds some of these ridiculous factors.

So what happens when a woman gets up-close and personal with him? When she starts to closely get involved with him, the realization that something is missing kicks her hard in the gut. And that’s when the finger pointing begins and the endless complaints about how emotionally detached he is. “He is so distant, I don’t know how to reach him on an intimate level,” she says. Have we stopped to consider that he doesn’t know how to foster that emotional connection, let alone enjoy it without feeling like his manhood is deteriorating?

We don’t even realize that cultural expectations contributed to creating and defining him. It’s so easy to judge him for being promiscuous, to shun him because he is too aggressive when he wants something and to hate him for his arrogance. It’s so easy to wash our hands of him but cultural expectations did bake his nature. Society took out his warmth.

Dressed up in Kente. (credits: chi)

Hey, brown earthlings; let the African man know that strength has nothing to do with painful, ugly scars. Let him know that it’s ok to feel pain and talk about it. Teach him to express himself because it doesn’t take anything away from him. Show him how to be empathetic…

Let him know that every man is different… special… and is not defined by ridiculous societal expectations. Let him know it’s that diversity that makes the world an interesting place to live in. Let him know that the right woman will love him regardless of his income or the power he yields in a community.

Let him know that it’s ok to be vulnerable

Let him know that he doesn’t have to prove his worth by being promiscuous

Let him know that the size of his penis doesn’t define his manhood

Let him know…


Changing the narrative. Telling my African story

11 thoughts on “LET HIM KNOW…

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