New Black Man

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Author Mark Anthony Neal argues that the definition of a “Strong Black Man” be redefined. While acknowledging due respect to the virtues of traditional black male leaders and heroes, Neal discusses many of the shortcomings of these individuals, as well as the message they send to the community at large. His primary concern is that the advances of these movements are discounted due to the messages of misogyny, homophobia, and lack of fathers playing roles other than providers for their families.

Neal's autobiographical tone demonstrates the sincere level of respect and passion he has for the feminist and queer theorists he cites throughout the book. He also reveals his human side as a heterosexual man with great appreciation for hip-hop music. The actual degree of success contemporary black males face is subject to considerable debate. Neal mentions the years of books published heralding the accomplishments of Michael Jordan and Colin Powell in order to serve as black male uplift literature. However, other pundits make their living criticizing the lack of progress and causes of the lack of productivity for the black man. Neal disputes the frequently voiced concern that black feminism is denigrating black males and discusses the realities of “black male privilege.”

Neal straddles the line between speaking of the virtues and problems related to the hip-hop scene. Of course, there are severe problems with R. Kelly's sexual abuse and exploitation of under-aged girls. Yet Neal offers his confession that he appreciated Kelly's music before the problems came to significant public scrutiny. Neal also mentions that many of the traditional black heroes suffered from significant human failings such as violence against women, marital infidelity, and hate speech.

Throughout New Black Man, Neal's prose drifts interestingly from traditional professor to accessible hip-hop language. Neal presents a very interesting combination of the complexity that is the New Black Man.