Racism and Hyper Masculinization: Rap music as a case study

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First of all, I would like to indicate that, as a man of African descent, structural racism has surgically targeted me through the riflescope of a particular form of racism, that of Negrophobia.

It is thus through the prism of this specific form of institutional racism – which I have experienced in my very body and soul – that I will address the theme of “racism and hyper masculinization».

However, I’m aware that this syndrome can express itself in an identical or different way in other racialized communities, since their very spine has been and continues to be distorted and pressured by the weight of neo- or neurocolonization.

This is why it is critical for me to insist in a preamble on the fact that it is not my intention to either deny or minimize the reality of other forms of structural racism. On the other hand, i will naturally attempt to shed light on the foggy area of hyper masculinization through the lenses of the experience I have acquired within the community to which structural, institutional and popular forms of racism have confined me: I am of course talking about the black community.

With this aim in mind, I will illustrate my point against the backdrop of rap music.

If  » the devil’s best trick is to convince you that he doesn’t exist”, then it is a trick also commonly used by structural racism. In order to do so, the latter deliberately prompts us to get the consequences mixed up with the causes, diverting us from any thought process that would actually incline us to investigate the substance rather than the form, thus distracting us from the root of all evil it represents.

Concerning the recurrent question of black men’s hyper masculinization in the rap movement, caution would demand to thoroughly X-Ray it with our critical minds before jumping to conclusions and deliver a verdict.

All precautionary measures taken, these X-Ray images will undoubtedly and instantaneously exculpate men of African descent. They will prove that the same white power that has used and exploited them, has assassinated their masculinity in cold blood as well, before forcing black men to assume the garb of its white patriarchy. Hiding its hideous face behind the reassuring mask of “human rights”, this racist, sexist and classist system has long mastered the art of turning the victims of its oppression into ideal culprits.

But if one really wishes to seize the complexity of this sleight of hand, he needs to learn how to look beyond the deceptive appearances and go back in time when European countries such as France and England established, notably in the Americas, the Western and Christian slavery system.

Need we point out that rap is this enfant terrible of a music genre, forceps delivered in the 70s, by an African American youth unjustly confined in ghettoes by “white Amerikkka”? It is indeed difficult to understand the rampant phenomenon of hyper masculinization in the rap movement without questioning what has led these black men to take refuge behind this grotesque posture. All this knowing that the root causes to this problem necessary lie hidden under the still-smoldering ruins of slavery which, as an institution, strove to annihilate the African heritage/identity of their ancestors.

It will then be easier to understand that under the multisecular pressure of white supremacy, the African “masculine identity” has not resisted to the “trial of racial, social and gender domination” that has been savagely imposed to it.

Feeling directly threatened in his authority and his masculinity, the white man, who   proclaimed himself “master”, simply proceeded to the systematic “castration and effeminization of black men”. Cowardly entrenched behind an utterly repressive legal and military apparatus which he used as claws to chain geld black “males”, he made sure to be the sole “phallus-bearer” within the “Concentrationary Universe” he created in his likeness.

As the one-eyed man with an inferiority complex, who is aware that only in the land of the blind can he be king, the white man did everything in his power to insure that he be the only phallic epitome possessing the key to “the (legal, executive and colonial) power”. A power that was the only one capable of guaranteeing his total supremacy over black male slaves.

Concerned with reinforcing this form of epigenetic emasculation, this “white man” claimed from the vantage point of his “criminal” authority that “children’s education and domestic authority would fall upon black women”. He thus dreamt of forever locking up black men in the prison of their sole “physical strength (both corporal and sexual), inherited from a supposedly generous anatomy, essentially reducing them to their strict penial capacities.” A penis that his legal arsenal had strategically taken the precaution to rip off to avert potential threats.

Suffice it to say that this analysis (not to say psychoanalysis) alone “could explain how [male] African slaves and their descendants have been dispossessed of their power and thus of their phallus by the masters”. Concerned with dividing and ruling, “the violence of colonial and sexual domination” savagely exerted by the white power “would have [strategically] castrated[black] men while, on the contrary, putting a relative authority in [black] women’s hands” (particularly the transmission of values, in a colonial society, to children).

Indeed, as highlighted by Angela Davis in “Women, Race and Class”:

“Much has been made of the slaveholders’ definition of the Black family as a matrifocal biological structure. Birth records on many plantations omitted the names of the fathers, listing only the children’s mothers. And throughout the South, state legislatures adopted the principle of partus sequitur ventrem — the child follows the condition of the mother.”

In other words, “a [flawed] matriarchal structure has been imposed to the black community that marginalizes it from American society, considerably slowing the evolution of the group and crushing black men. The situation also affects the vast majority of black women”. **

All this to say that if the enslaved Africans, who had been deported, were “legally” reduced to the status of “pieces of personal property” thus amounting to “nothing at all”, the black man, to whom the slave system has strictly refused to recognize a family role of any sort, logically became even “less than nothing at all”.

Indeed, from birth, the black man’s offspring, “the fruit of his love” automatically became a piece of property that belonged to the master who had savagely emasculated him with his perverted system before amputating him of his mission as a father as well… A mission which he is blamed for having no instinct to assume today.

Therefore subjected to this kind of paradoxical injunctions and to this completely fragmented image of themselves, the young black males, ambassadors of rap music in the 70s, unconsciously tried to become men… as their fathers had tried before them.

Deprived of positive role models (especially after the eradication of the Black Panthers), most of them made it up as they went along. With no frame of reference, since the experience of slavery had cut off their ancestors of their mission by severing the intergenerational transmission line, they made many mistakes.

To cultivate the illusion of being men and no longer some “less than nothing at all” pieces of property, they therefore put on a performance. Using the opportunity given by rap music, now under the spotlight, they cover their bodies with designer clothes and show off their prohibitively expensive bling to artificially display a sense of self-worth that has been violently stolen by white supremacy.

Desperately trying to deceive with surface appearances while being utterly dispossessed of power, they drive large luxury SUVs (sport utility vehicles) and always parade themselves in fancy houses, radically contrasting with the widespread miserable living conditions into which a segregationist colonialism has confined them, for a lifetime.

To top it all off, in an attempt to show that they have succeeded in taking back what was stolen from them by white patriarchy, they expose black women and their bodies made of generous curves in outfits that often fail to hide their bare intimacy. In this way, they unconsciously use them as footboards to rise above their situation, hoping, one day, to be able to defy the same white power that has constantly been holding their heads under water.

But despite those desperate attempts to break the demasculinizing/emasculating spell that has continuously been cast upon them by white supremacy: “it is difficult not to perceive, in those performances, a masculine attempt at inverting the stigmas of poverty, social failure and racial domination on the one hand and an attempt at reversing the original castration of slavery on the other hand.

Money, material assets and women seem to be displayed in order to compensate for black men’s identity breach/fault, who thus would find a way to stronger position themselves on the chessboard of social relations pertaining to class, race and sex by “remasculinizating” and borrowing – here as well – the usual system of concepts that was used to emasculate/ demasculinize them.”

However, we shouldn’t rule out the fact that in so doing, some black men may unconsciously make black women pay for having been used – unwittingly – by the white power so as to divide and therefore better rule over us. For that matter, “Elsa Dorlin and Myriam Paris [2006] have very well demonstrated how the slave and colonial society was built upon an undertaking of dehumanization and animalization of slaves, structuring the effeminization and demasculinization of [black] male slaves while masculinizing [black] female slaves.” The latter “faced male slaves who were neither able to satisfy their sexual needs nor were they able to protect them from their predators” since white supremacy had endeavored to strategically reduce them to the strictest condition of their impotence.

Besides, if we analyze this pattern through another systemic angle, we could also theorize that if some black women turn their backs on black men as a conditioned. , it may be a way to unconsciously make them pay for having failed to protect them against their persecutors and rapists who had oftentimes fathered their children.

When we know that this traumatizing story is deeply buried somewhere within our subconscious, we come to realize to what extent the mere existence and sustainability of a single black couple is in itself a prodigious act of resisting white power. For we have to overcome the insuperable barrier of hatred erected by white supremacy in the vast field of our colonized minds before we can love each other.

My point is that even though it is undeniable that the “cross effects of racism and gender domination […], undoubtedly generate in most men of African descent “a reinforcement of macho masculinity”, the latter is but this counterfeit version of white patriarchy – a pseudo patriarchy. In other words, although this pale imitation has the smell, taste and appearance of. By the way, if we update Kwame Ture’s theory: patriarchy is not just a question of attitude, it is a question of “power”.Indeed, who can argue against the fact that only white patriarchal power is systemically programed to crush in its path black, colored and white women as well as black and other racialized men who are unfailingly considered enemies to emasculate?  Contrary to what appearances, manipulated by this power, delight in showing, those black and other racialized men represent a threat to the racist hegemonic masculinity of white patriarchy.

In conclusion, the standard-bearers of hyper masculinization on the rap scene are, in the worst case scenario, the useful idiots for a cause the goals of which they are not aware, and who are used cynically by a system which creates diversion.

In no case will they ever be the master craftsmen or the allies of that white, racist, sexist and   classist patriarchal power that has so savagely emasculated them.

Here is the reason why, rap music, once emasculated or amputated from its revolutionary essence, is but a hollow shell, devoided of all meaning, a mere pretense or a posing pouch.

It illusively allows black men (and potentially black women), using the appearance of visible signs of material wealth, to paper over the invisible cracks of an identity that was left fragmented by a white, racist, sexist, classist, and capitalist power.

Nonetheless, “serious doubts can be expressed as to the truly structuring effect of this material compensation” ————  After colonial slavery,  colonialism,  neo-colonialism, i can but welcome you to the era in wich our minds have become the main domain of colonial expansion: the era of « neuro-colonialism ».

Le pacificateur (#BrigadeAntiNégrophobie)


translation : Kossi and Diarapha

* To become a man again in post-slavery and matrifocal West Indian context
**   Angela Davis, Women, Race & Class, p22/23

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