- ‘Really, Really Messed Up My Life’
- Quick Start to Healthy Weight Loss
- Black Men Can Beat Prostate Cancer
- Health Screenings for Older Black Men
- Healthy Man of the Month for July 2016
- HIV Testing is HIV Prevention
- Your ‘Mental’ Endurance
- Bisexual Health Priorities
- Entertainment CEO DonJuan Clark
- New Drug Helps Men with Melanoma
Can A Bruh Get Some Love?
A few weeks back I hosted a reading in the city I grew up in. I told my friends. I created an event page on Facebook. I did two radio interviews. And in the end, the event was moderately successful. The audience seemed engaged. A couple of unexpected faces showed. But what struck me was how few of my male friends even bothered to acknowledge the invitation let alone show up.
I know I chose the writer’s path of my own free will (though neuroscience would argue otherwise). I know mine isn’t a new story. Musicians, visual artists, writers, and film makers can all share similar experiences. Moreover, as a man I know I’m supposed to suck up my disappointments and keep smiling. And I will, trust me.
My friends are men of character. They respect me as I do them. But I’ve also been thinking about men and our relationships with one another for some time now and it’s clear that we don’t know where to begin when it comes to supporting each other’s accomplishments. Rather than genuinely assist one another, I think we typically display three kinds of dysfunctional support: Symbolic, Tough Love and
Recently, one of my friends said he wanted to buy a dozen copies of my new book. This is the same friend who never fails to mention that he has several copies of my previous books in the trunk of his car. It’s a point of pride for him. Does he read them? Does he share those extra copies with others? If I go to his home, will I see the books on his shelf?
Tough Love Support
During the Q&A segment of the reading an older man raised his hand. I called on him expecting a question. Instead, he launched into a personal attack the particulars of which I won’t get into here. When he finished, I asked if he’d read the book. He said he didn’t have to. He already knew what it was about. As I was signing copies, the same man approached me with an extended hand and a cheerful smile. He said his remarks weren’t targeted toward me personally. They were a challenge to my generation. In his view we aren’t living up to his ideals. His criticism was a call to action.
Hot Air Support
More often than not Hot Air Support is unsolicited, accompanied by a business card, an exchange of “information” and a pledge to “connect”. For example, the night before my event one friend asked the time and place five separate times. In each instance he sought me out, asked for the details, gave me a pound and pledged his imminent attendance. Did he show? Have I heard from him since?
I’ve always admired Oprah’s relationship with her friends. She doesn’t simply tell them they’re great behind closed doors. She shows the world how great they are by opening doors for them. Black men have always struggled to cooperate with one another. We know how to pick each other apart, make empty promises, even feign support. If we can’t see how how we benefit, we ignore. If we don’t agree, we
criticize. If it seems like too much effort, we don’t bother.
The history of black men in America is steeped in scarcity (of money, time, space, respect, appreciation, pportunity, etc). For many of us, getting ahead has meant being uprooted from our communities. Those who’ve learned to navigate the wider society succeed. But part of that assimilation process conditions us to regard one another as rivals first and foremost. The truly successful American male stands alone atop the world.
Recent studies have shown that people with lasting, meaningful, and supportive friendships live longer and healthier lives. The myth of the rugged individual is just that, a myth. None of us makes it our own. We all need support. And if we can’t find it in our friends, who, then, are we to turn to? And if we can’t find it in ourselves to make time for one another, then what is the point of the friendship?
Real support is more than words and empty gestures. It is acknowledging one another. It is making one another a priority. It is connecting one another to resources. It is talking one another up. It is helping one another get paid when possible. It is trusting one another and believing the people we choose to call our friends are truly capable of greatness.
Dax-Devlon Ross is the author of several books, co-publisher of Outside the Box Publishing, LLC, and the editor of the HNIC Report, a daily blog covering political issues. Mr. Ross is a sought after speaker and consultant who resides in New York.