While there is beauty to be found in every heavenly body here on Earth, it's pretty safe to say that God does some of his best work when it comes to designing Black men. His craftsmanship can be found in every continent country in Africa, in Europe, the Caribbean, and in almost every square inch of the Americas. H.T. Kealing, in his statement on the virtues and failings of race, described us as having great endurance and stated that our physical traits were fundamental, and as belonging to the race everywhere in Africa as well as America. Don’t mistake that quote as praise because Kealing was a white man of his time, so all of this can easily be followed with the assertion that he was complete trash. However, we still like to acknowledge people when they’re right.
Our morphological traits grant us the right to be called some of the most durable beings on earth as our exaggerated lips and broad noses speak to our ability to disseminate heat, and our dark skin and nappy hair give us more protection from ultraviolet radiation than our less melaninated cousins. Our lateral and muscled bodies are ancestral gifts that include bone structures more dense than those of our white counterparts as they last longer and are subject to lower incidences of fractures. Additionally, though it has been among the wildest of speculations, the popular myth about our endowments have been proven by science to be fact. While our bodies generally don’t function any differently when compared to the bodies of others, we certainly have some advantages and wanted to highlight them as we spend this month’s Front Page bringing light to the beauty of the black male body.
Black men come in many different shapes, shades and sizes, and boast some of the most unique features when compared to other classes man. However beautiful we might be, many of us have still fallen victim to the color complex trappings of colonialism, a mindset that we, despite our centuries-old attempts, have yet to rid ourselves of. Our darker skinned Beaux brothers are assumed to be dangerously aggressive and navigates throughout life being told how handsome they are for a dark skinned man, that he’s too dark to be someone’s type, or that he should avoid sunlight or anything else that would make him darker than he already is. Our fair skinned Beaux brothers are assumed to be passive and submissive, which melds perfectly with the presumption they wield exceedingly inflated egos, senses of superiority to other blacks, are extremely vain, narcissistic and have a strong aversion to any form of strenuous physical labor.
We allow this colonial infection of the mind to pit us against each other almost to the point of us performing real life reenactments of Good And Bad Hair [* insert deep sigh here]. The only way to cure this lack of appreciation for all shades is through continued positive reinforcement and representation. Positive reinforcement in itself is already a challenge for us as we continually strive to normalize our black, gay existences, but we’re making strides in our efforts to create and maintain visibility. Evidence of this can be found in the visibility of brothers such as Don Lemon, Billy Porter, Lee Daniels and John Amaechi. These men pretty much cover the spectrum as it pertains to skin tone, and their continued presence contributes to the representation required to keep us on the path of progress as we continue to challenge Eurocentric norms of attractiveness.
The how to providing positive reinforcement isn’t super revolutionary and simply requires for us to dismantle skin based self-consciousness through praise. Let Chris know how amazing his light skinned ass looks in red, or complement James on the way his midnight black complexion glistens in the sun. Now, because we know that there’s going to be someone who reads this and says “ WhAt Do EyE lOoK LIke jUst ComPliMeNtInG RaNdOM DuDEs,” there are always opportunities to show love without being a creep or insincere. A little positive reinforcement goes a long way and promotes a healthy sense of pride and confidence in self. There’s not a single one of us who can read this and think that we are beyond needing to feel worthy, which is why we should always do our best to make others feel the same way. Remember, we’re working on providing positive reinforcement and not on making anyone feel any more self conscious than they already might feel.
Last month’s Black, Gay and Gifted feature was focused on SIN, a Beaux who uses his talent to bring attention to the beauty of the black and brown male body. One of the main reasons we featured him, outside of his talent, was because his art reminds its viewer that black and brown men are glorious in all shapes and sizes. Have you ever held your breath in awe while watching a thick man walk in your direction? These thickly built pieces of art are in vogue for some, but for others they’ve always been in style. However sought out they may be now, the appreciation for the thicker Beaux hasn’t always been as demonstrated as it is now. Our attachment to the Eurocentric beauty standard used to keep us from publicly acknowledging our love and affection for the bigger Beaux, but its safe to say that all bets are off in 2019—because thick thighs are our here saving lives. Of course we realize that this wasn’t always the case and that growing up shopping in the big and tall section probably wasn’t something a lot of big boned Beauxs were able to see the beauty in as children, and, because children can be little dicks, the bigger Beaux the more likely that his childhood memories are rife with size and weight based insults. This, coupled with with crash dieting, being told what “a person of your size” should or shouldn’t wear and not being seen as attractive or sexy, can be taxing to say the least.
Some of us would love to think that the slimmer Beaux is a stranger to being judged because of his size, but he’s not. There exists an (awful) ideal that the perfect male body is athletic with broad shoulders, defined arms and has a tight midsection. Flat stomach notwithstanding, the thinner Beaux often finds himself lacking the definition. Despite popular belief, there are plenty of smaller Beauxs who dream of bulking up in order to meet the standard definition of male attractiveness. He’s likely to have been told that he “looks hungry”, that he “needs to eat something”, or that he looks “sick”. Let us tell it, there is a difference between fat shaming and skinny shaming, but both are a thing and need stop, because while we might say or do things in jest, we never really know the impact it has on the person we’re directing it towards.
We do so much damage to ourselves in our attempts to position ourselves in the intersection of perfection. This is why we have skinny Beauxs who want to bulk up and thicker Beauxs who want to slim down. The grass almost always appear to be greener on the other side, but the only real difference isn’t in the grass, but the shit we use to fertilize it. We are ALL guilty of having a perfect size in mind, and at times it can be hard to tell if these sizes are something we’ve concocted of our own free will, or if we’ve been socially conditioned to do so. We can change our bodies anytime we want, but we can’t change the negative experiences we’ve had because of how our bodies look. We will always encourage growth, because anything that isn’t growing isn’t alive, but at the same time we must always be careful to ensure that the changes we want to make to our bodies are for us, and not for others.
Part of doing better is acknowledging the physical beauty of ourselves and of others. It also calls for us to know that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. We don’t often consider the sacrifices that Beauxs with “the perfect” bodies make to maintain those “perfect bodies”. Adulting is already hard enough without having to maintain a vigorous workout regimen along with healthy eating. Some will tell you that it's a lifestyle- and it is- but living without the freedom to eat whatever you want, whenever you want, should never be in style. And how painful might it be to be considered underweight or to look at every morsel of food as the enemy? These are just some of the things we need to address or consider for ourselves and to those we side eye because we think they’re too big or too small.
There is beauty to be found in every Beaux, despite his size, and if we are to claim the role of being our brother’s keeper, then it is our duty to serve him up with as much positive reinforcement as we can. In this way we refuse to allow him to put himself down, work to prevent him from internalizing negative messages about his shade, size or shape, and continually challenge the Eurocentric beauty standards that have only served to keep us down. The believer (in those who chose to believe) in us should serve as a constant reminder that God doesn’t have a good track record of making mistakes, and that we are in the bodies we’re supposed to be in.