Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 874
“The pain is in the eyes,” Madhubuti writes, of young black men who are “lost and abandoned . . . sons of Afrika, once strong and full of the hope America lied about . . . now knee-less, voice-broken, homeless, forgotten. . . .” Writing with a bitter candor, Madhubuti...
(The entire section contains 874 words.)
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- Critical Essays
“The pain is in the eyes,” Madhubuti writes, of young black men who are “lost and abandoned . . . sons of Afrika, once strong and full of the hope America lied about . . . now knee-less, voice-broken, homeless, forgotten. . . .” Writing with a bitter candor, Madhubuti concentrates his anger into the forcefully rational tones of a classical rhetorician as he begins his consideration of black manhood with a historical evaluation. Using considerable statistical evidence, informed opinion, serious scholarship, and incisive observation, Madhubuti draws a grim picture of a bleak reality that is familiar but nevertheless disturbing. This is the foundation for the critique that follows—an indictment of both the white policy of “terrorization” and cultural destruction and an unsparing, rigorous examination of the failures within the African American community that have prevented any real attempt at amelioration. “I am among these men,” Madhubuti declares, and it is his pain and love for his own community that compels his honest and unsettling evaluation.
He is insistent that “poverty is slavery” and that chattel slavery has been transformed into the enslavement of economic helplessness. Because he is convinced that, though there are “some white men of good will,” the majority of white people will not undertake “life-giving and life-saving corrections,” Madhubuti contends that any solution to these problems must come from the African American community. Since American history is a record of white supremacist policies pursued from a Eurocentric standpoint, he argues, African Americans must be responsible for their own survival. As a first step, Madhubuti feels it necessary to dispel the nonsense espoused by people such as the tycoon Donald Trump, whom Madhubuti quotes as having claimed, “If I were starting out today, I would love to be a well-educated Black because I really believe they do have an actual advantage today.” Madhubuti also criticizes the defensive delusions and hypocrisies of the so-called leaders of the African American world. Madhubuti believes that various black celebrities, hustlers, church figures, and other prominent people have encouraged a mind-set that is selfish, sexist, and dependent—a “Negro’s philosophy of life.” It is the deadly conjunction of a racist attack on black people and a cult of personality fostered by hustlers ready to sell out their heritage, Madhubuti argues, that has turned black men into “beggars, thieves, or ultra-dependents on a system that considers them less than human.” For Madhubuti, the loss of manhood is literally a loss of self, and the goal of his book is to redefine “Black Manhood.” Madhubuti recognizes that, deprived of money and power, black men have been tempted by what he calls “unlimited negative options” that are “incorrectly defined as freedoms”; at the crux of his definition, however, is a reconsideration of the potential for black men to achieve a measure of power and control without reliance on the white world.
To begin, Madhubuti recalls the “Afrikan” society (which he spells with a “k” to signify a “redefined and potentially different Afrika”), which might serve as a guide in terms of cooperation and support among members of a family and a community. One of the most striking features of his concept of manhood is his respect for and admiration of women as partners, and he sees no contradiction between a man’s fulfillment of his function as a “warrior” and his fulfillment of his responsibilities as a father and husband. The title chapter is echoed and extended in the chapters “Before Sorry: Listening to and Feeling the Flow of Black Women” and “What’s a Daddy? Fathering and Marriage.” The defining characteristics of manhood, Madhubuti writes, include such qualities ascultural and moral integrity, competence, psychological security and stability as a Black man, sensitivity to the needs of one’s people, a strong work ethic, a culturally-based mindset, an unquenchable thirst for knowledge (truth), a winner’s attitude toward life, an insatiable love for Black people (especially the children), revolutionary unpredictability, and an unstoppable willingness to struggle against any odds for the liberation of Black people.
A true man, Madhubuti writes, can deal with enemies and can help to make a home into a refuge, a source of strength for the most basic component of a solid social system, the immediate family. Madhubuti continually refers to an African model in the essay “Twelve Secrets of Life” and uses it as an idealized vision of a workable society. The culmination of this consideration of partnership is the poem “A Bonding,” an epithalamium celebrating the kind of relationship that Madhubuti is encouraging.
Throughout the central section of the book, Madhubuti’s tone gradually shifts from that of an objective, although righteously angry, lecturer to the more personal, softer mood of someone in conversation. As he concludes the book with several examples of “positive male reality models,” including Malcolm X (“Our Shining Black Prince”), Hoyt Fuller (“the fired-up conscious individual”), and Bobby Wright (“the constant swimmer, the energized professional”), he moves toward an almost prophetic eloquence, celebrating with poetic power the lives of three men who exemplify the qualities he has been espousing. The sense of personal involvement, of a man speaking from the heart, is appropriate for the author, who has previously written, “My fight is to be an inspired example of a caring, healthy, intelligent and hard-working brother.”