It’s not a secret that America has a serious issue with Black men in general. Too often it seems the sheer presence of Black men invokes a sense of irrational fear and paranoia from the public in general, and more specifically amongst law enforcement.
When it comes to Black male sexuality—especially their penises—does America hold that same fear? One writer from the “New York Times” seems to think so.
In “Last Taboo,” cultural critic Wesley Morris excellently unpacks the tumultuous relationship that Black sexuality—and genitalia— has historically had with the white gaze. Morris points to slavery and the Mandingo stereotype; the Brutal Black Buck seen in 1915’s The Birth of A Nation; and current pop culture to broadly discuss how the Black penis has either been ignored, fetishized or criminalized.
“The national terror of black sexuality is a central pillar of the American blockbuster. In 1915, D.W. Griffith’s “The Birth of a Nation” envisioned a post-Civil War country run by feckless white abolitionists, nearly ruined by haughty blacks and then saved by the Ku Klux Klan — a mob whose energies are largely focused on rescuing a white woman from a half-black, half-white lieutenant governor’s attempt to force her into marriage. That’s just the plot; Griffith’s genius was at its most flagrant in the feverish surrounding details. The country isn’t even done being rebuilt in “The Birth of a Nation,” and here comes the K.K.K., already determined to make America great again,” he writes.
Morris also points that this type of anger lives with us now: “Look at Gov. Paul LePage of Maine, who, speaking at a town-hall meeting in January, blamed invading dealers for the state’s drug problem — men with such cartoonishly “black” street names as “D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty.” They come north for business, he said, and “half the time, they impregnate a young, white girl.”
He also mentioned Lena Dunham’s infuriating accusation against Odell Beckham Jr. and the weight that come with that.
“In September, Dunham made an irritating paradox of those assumptions when she took public umbrage after the football player Odell Beckham Jr. paid her insufficient attention at this year’s Met Gala, a perceived slight that seemingly devalued her worth as a white woman. It was a 21st-century offense that seems as if it could have been taken in the 19th.”
But Morris just doesn't focus on how whites see Black bodies but how Black men and artists talk about and reflect on their own sexuality from Blackploitation films to TV shows including Power and Luke Cage and the hit Indie film "Moonlight" (that explores Black gay men.
It's refreshing to see a piece that spends a great deal of time fleshing out such an incredibly complex topic.
Read the piece in its entirety here.
(Photos from left: The Game via Instagram, Brian Ach/Getty Images)
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