I had a buddy, right?
This kid and I had been down since college. I mean kicking shit like two cowherds in Iowa on a daily basis, for years. He and another mutual friend pulled me out of my dorm building and slapped a red plastic cup in my hand and the rest is history. Of course in our conversations we would talk shit and call each other out whether it was alone or amongst other good friends, and I thought it stayed there.
I was wrong.
Over time, more and more people began to report back to me saying, “Oh well, bruh said this” and “You need to watch the niggas you kicking it with” and “That boy really don’t fuck with you like that.” People who didn’t even know me began to tell me my own flaws. I even got into it with my favorite ex-girlfriend because she kept telling me that he wasn’t really my friend and he kept me around as an accessory and confidence booster.
I was already hurt by the conversations and laughter that occurred behind my back, but I should’ve known something was iffy when he smashed a girl that I loved. I wanted to fight, to talk with my fists. Indulge in violence. I didn’t deal with those emotions, though Instead?
“It’s cool, I see what’s up now. I’m good. I’m straight. I’ll be alright.”
I specifically remember being very young, seven or eight to be exact, and playing inside linebacker for the Woodland Wildcats. I wore #71. I was from another neighborhood so I had to earn my respect, but my natural prowess and aggression secured me a starting position by the end of the first week in equipment.
I recall being in a hitting drill and missing a tackle. Naturally the coaches and my 25 or 26-year-old father came down on me like an anvil on Wile E. Coyote. To this day I loathe disappointment, so in 98’ I started crying uncontrollably and no one knew why. The elder men, all formerly impoverished and obvious products of the inner-city ghetto, continued to yell out questions and phrases that did me no good.
WHAT YOU CRYING FUH?
WE DON’T CRY DOWN HERE. TAKE THAT SHIT BACK UP THE HILL!
CRYING IS FOR GIRLS!
AIN’T NO CRYING IN FOOTBALL!
My young father, who felt embarrassed, promptly jogged off of the sideline and onto the field where he grabbed my facemask. He whispered into the earhole of the plastic helmet and asked me why I was crying. I simply replied that I didn’t know.
I was never afraid to hit anyone and the thunderous crack of pads didn’t scare me. He and I both knew that. He simply told me to “Figure it out “ and to take my anger out on my teammate.
A two or three minute conversation would’ve revealed that the issue was my desire not to disappoint. The root of all anger is helplessness and in that moment I felt helpless to tackle that little boy. I suppressed my feelings and smashed into that child like a freight train.
And I was rewarded for it.
Internalizing emotion has become second nature to the black man and it’s a detriment not only to us, but our entire community.
Honestly, many of us have no previous training in properly handling emotions. We never saw our Fathers, (if we had one) cry, so many of us interpret crying as softness. Showing love and affection as feeble behavior. Expressing feelings as being “bitch made” or “pussy.”
Those of us who are taught have been instructed to behave in a kingly manner. A man cannot fold, cannot crack, never let them see you sweat, a man has to have a backbone like a crowbar. Intellect over emotion, logic always wins, don’t have a sucker attack, so on and so forth.
The truth of the matter is that having emotions isn’t a manifestation of weakness. Not being able to control or work through said emotions is what’s truly weak. Putting your hands on a woman instead of leaving is weak. Abandoning someone you consider a true friend instead of trying to talk through issues so you wont have to deal with feelings is weak. Punching a hole in the wall or flipping over a dresser instead of expressing yourself, is weak.
When spikes of emotion occur we black men should run towards and face said emotions so we know how to handle them next time they arise.
From a social standpoint everything is pointing at the black man not to be vulnerable. Police officers and doctors offer less empathy and worst care because they think that we’re some sorts of super-humans. Occasionally we can’t even properly love and be open with our women. So many of use we were raised on “bitches ain’t shit” and “fuck these hoes” and “love no thottie” because of the fear of being taken advantage of or being hurt. Sadly enough some of our own women have been corrupted to the point where they even interpret our love as weakness and see us as a “sweet lick” or a “trick” and try to benefit from the feelings we have for them.
Black men have to be able to talk through things and get emotion out. If you let feelings fester inside you they will infect you and cause an explosion or implosion. I’ve personally dealt with both. There have to be outlets other than physical activity and some form of media for black men to get feelings out. All we do is cope. All we do is deal. All we do is suppress, move on, keep pushing and charge it to the game.
There’s a lot of shit we black men need to chat about. Who does a straight, 25 year old black man talk to about being molested by a male family member at a young age? Micro-aggressions in the workplace? Hopelessness, depression and failure? All around Emotional trauma?
I’m lucky. I have talent and this outlet. This is how I get my feelings out. My own Mother says that she reads my blog to get to me know me better.
Get well soon, Yeezy.
Make sure ya’ll rise above all this madness out here.
From the West End with Love,
Malcolm J. Heaggans
- The Friday Night Company.