Monday, November 17, 2008

What Black Men Think

I heard about this fascinating documentary What Black Men Think on the Voice of America randomly this past weekend. It basically tackles myths and stereotypes that revolve around the "Black Man" in America. The discussion of the documentary started with a startling statistic; 69% of African-American children born today are born out of wedlock. The man behind the documentary Janks Morton believes that the mis-representations of black men have left them marginalized which in turn has wreaked havoc on black relationships. The strain on black relationships has supposedly led to the fragmentation of "the black family" and community as a whole. I have not had a chance to watch the documentary but I find it thought-provoking. I wonder if it explores how Black men perpetuate the negative stereotypes in the media especially through gangster rap. I would also be eager to see if it looks at the role of the crack cocaine epidemic on the fragmentation of black communities which is examined in Crack in America and of course also in my fave The Wire. Why would I be so interested in this documentary? Aside from the fact that recently I have realised I have no clue what black men think..but that is another topic for another posting! The documentary reminds me of one of my favorite books White on Black: Images of Africa and Blacks in Western Popular Culture by a Dutch author Jan Pieterse. This book tackles visual representations of black people through the ages in western pop culture. So you have harmless blacks from the middle ages being servants to Saint Nicholas through to colonial images of savage Ashanti warriors leaving fair maidens (with strangely western features) tied to trees on the coast as human sacrifices. What?! Someone needed to tell these people that the Asantes were miles away from any coastline! But these were the fabricated images that were used to justify colonialism. Oh and the book also has the modern sexualized representations of blacks in western culture. When I say "modern" I mean contemporary for the mid 90s when the book came out! Anyway, excellent book but unlike the documentary does not really explore the impact of these myths and stereotypes on the African psyche or what Africans/Blacks think about these representations. But look at me casting judgment before seeing the film! On another note, maybe the election of America's first Black/African American president may lead to more positive representation of the Black man. Yes indeed. All roads lead to good 'ol President Obama!

6 comments:

wbmt said...

thanks for the write up, and hope you get a chance to screen and review the film soon

Janks!

Nana Yaw Asiedu said...

Abena, I have read this twice, and I have discovered nuances either time. Not sure what to comment on. I will go away, come back and read it for the third time in a while. I guess maybe the situation I am in is because I was looking for a 'neat' conclusion from you, and you brilliantly let it just hang there.

posekyere said...

Meaty Stuff!

I am still digesting and hopefully will be able to get to the point where, the 'why?s', 'how?s' and 'which?s' are answered for myself.

Abena said...

Janks, thanks for stopping by. I am in awe and truly honored! Will definately look out for a copy of the film when I'm in the US early next year.
Thanks Nana Yaw, it is such a vast topic that it is almost impossible to have a neat conclusion...just had to to leave it hanging..
Thanks Posekyere, You are in South Africa right? Now that's another interesting case-study for what Black men think as well as how negative representations of Black people were used during Apartheid...

C said...

Hmmm. I have some materials for your "study" of the image of Africa and Blacks, males in particular. I just found this; you can download the whole thing plus artwork. Through sampling I've found a lot of tracks just sound like American rap, including the use of the vocoder (the thing T-Pain overuses). I like the Prokid and Jozi tracks though.

Abena said...

Thanks C, I did find it very interesting especially since it is urban South African Music (kwaito) and I can understand snippets of the Zulu...*Sigh* only snippets.
The similarities with American rap may be a hint that black males are the same across the globe or more likely an indication of cross-cultural exchanges as a result of globalisation.
BTW: what is up with all these vocoder tracks floating around?