Marsha Ambrosius’ “Far Away” + Black Masculinity + Violence

There are three videos circulating that have me thinking about Black men and masculinity and violence.

The first is the new Marsha Ambrosius video, Far Away, we see a story where a young man, who interacts with Marsha, is gay (desires men sexually) or queer (operates outside of the heteronormative ideas of sexual desire). He is beaten by a group of Black men, presumptively, because he is gay and he subsequently commits suicide.

I am delighted that Marsha is leveraging  her major label power to tell a story that needs to be told. This video is powerful because it speaks to the psychological costs of being oppressed because of who you desire sexually, and being open with that desire.

Honestly, I can’t believe the men embrace and kiss in the video. Black men who are intimate with each other simply isn’t allowed in pop culture. I don’t know if Black men can BE intimate with anyone in pop culture for that matter. Yes, they may have sex, but to be intimate, not so much.

In fact, when I saw For Colored Girls in a movie theater filled with Black women in DC, there was a huge range of hissing sounds that came out of the mouths of the women when the Carl character revealed to his wife the Lady in Red (Janet Jackson), that he was bisexual. Yet, the women were quiet during the rape scene between the Lady in Yellow (Anika Rose) and the man she was dating Bill (Khalil Kain). The point that I am trying to get at is that this experience showed me how conservative Black people can be around issues of sexuality.

In a post “On (Black) Masculinity: It’s Fragile + Illusive” earlier this year I wrote about Black masculinity and masculinity in general.

Quoting Global Gender Issues in the New Millennium,

“…Heternormative masculinity is an extraordinarily fragile and unstable construct and identity that leaves men having to prove repeatedly that they have “it”. They are put in constant fear and anxiety that they will be dubbed less than real men and therefore, be demoted down the gender hierarchy and be subjected to greater violence by other, higher men.”

This has me thinking about how men are subjected to violence in way similar to how women are, but under difference circumstances. It all turns on “conform to the way its done” or get smashed. For women its gimmie your number, or imma call you a ______ and slap you. Act like a man or imma sock you in the face and call you a _____. You get my drift?

The second video is the Ted Talk by Tony Porter where he talks about black masculinity. The most relevant parts are:

1:12 – The man box and socialization of men

2:35 – On teaching a 5 year old how to be a man.

4:11 –  On how his father apologized to him for crying in front of him.

6:50 – On deciding whether or not to participate in a gang rape as a teenager.

The “man box” is a powerful way for describing how sexism works, it takes the focus off of individual men and places the focus on social forces (how people in schools, churches, families think about gender roles).

Again, Violence or the threat of violence is used to enforce gender, racial and sexual roles.

Keep this in mind while I talk about the next video.

In this video I just watched today a Black Uncle whoops his presumably 13 or 14 year old nephew with a belt for “Fake Thugging” on Facebook. He then forced the young man to put the video on Facebook. #triggerwarning.

I have long been reluctant to talk publicly about Black parents beating Black children, however, it needs to be done. Honestly, its one of the things that I have been scared to write about and I don’t scare easily.

bell hooks has said Black feminist’s lack of writing about how some Black parents, spank, whoop and beat their children is one of the ways in which Black Feminist have failed Black families.  We analyze domination between men and women and Black folks and White folks and even global violence but we don’t closely analyze how parents dominate children.

This is important.

For the most part globally and locally it is assumed that women will do the lion share of child rearing. Whether or not this assumption is legitimate is a WHOLE OTHER blog post. But because women do most of the child rearing,  disciplinary parental violence is something that I have been looking or a language to articulate.

For me, the violence done to the young man in the Marsha Ambrosius video is similar to the violence done by the uncle to the nephew, why? Violence or the threat of violence is used to get results from a human being, to force them to do something, to dominate them.

Is the violence connected for you?

Why or why not?

Do parents have a right to beat their children? #backtoBackBeatings

Does beating your children teach them that People Who Love You Have a Right to Beat You? If no, how?

Isn’t beating children as a much of a behavior deterrent as sending someone to prison?

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  1. says

    The violence is connected through domination.

    Beating children can deter unwanted behavior but it does not alway work. Prison doesn’t deter some rappers from their illegal activities . . . because their real. 😉

    There are lot of questions here that I’m thinking about more and more everyday. I do not want to control my young boy, just guide, teach, support and nuture him. The last thing I want to do is beat him so I must explore alternative effective disciplinary solutions.

  2. says

    Two short anecdotes.
    Once I witnessed a woman reprimanding some one else’s toddler for crying. She told the kid, “be a man, dont’ cry.” The mother of the child said nothing.

    I plan on teaching my son martial arts, judo and a number of other self-defense skills but stories like this are crazy.
    “New York Man Kills Boy Toddler “For Acting Like A Girl”
    I hear about this often, where a guy says he wants to make his son man up, toughen up because he doesn’t want a sissy or nerd. Then you have stories like this. It is very crippling, folks need to discuss, learn and grow.

    * If I had a daughter, I would teach her the same skills. I believe young girls need self defense skills moreso than young boys.

    THANKS For the video links.
    I’m prepared for the future dicussion about “how to be a man.”

  3. Renina says

    I do not want to control my young boy, just guide, teach, support and nuture him.
    Out of fear of being pummeled by White social institutions/police..etc…we beat our children.

    The issue with that is that in many ways it doesn’t give us strategies for dealing with authority, which we have to continue to do as we grow up and Navigate the world. ANDDDDDDDD I contend that it also teaches us that it is permissible for the people Who Love us to beat us. #ummhmm.

  4. arieswym says

    Out of fear of being pummeled by White social institutions/police..etc…we beat our children.
    The issue with that is that in many ways it doesn’t give us strategies for dealing with authority, which we have to continue to do as we grow up and Navigate the world.


    Annette Lareau makes the connection between beating and physically discipling the children and the lack of skills to navigate the middle/upper-class institutions and how that is a weakness and limitation of the “accomplishment of natural growth” parenting style practiced by poor and working class. Here’s the link to the section of the book where she discusses this:

  5. Renina says

    Great quote.

    The class distinctions are huge. The people I know who don’t spank, who are Black, are middle class.

    Interesting eh?


  6. arieswym says

    Are they recently middle class, as in did the parents rise to the middle class in their lifetime or are the parents from middle class families and grew up in the middle class? And what is the parenting behavior of those who grew up middle class but fell into poverty as adults and are raising their children in the lower class.

    I’d be interested to see the different rates of spanking among those three groups of black parents and look at the similarities and differences in each group’s parenting styles.

  7. says

    “I contend that it also teaches us that it is permissible for the people Who Love us to beat us.”


    I’ve often heard some people say that if you do not get into a loud, angry shouting argument in your relationship then it is not real love. The connection between love and violence is real.

  8. says

    This is interesting.

    I am not an arguer. Full stop. If I am arguing with you I am attempting to control you, and that means my life ain’t right in that moment.

    Once you say words. You can’t take them back.

    Is it possible that we confuse Passion with arguing. Thats really interesting.

    I am HELLA passionate. To the point where a new friend, just kept saying that last week, “You go hard at everything.” And I do. Really interesting.

    Perhaps we need to start distinguishing between the two.

  9. Ashely T. says

    (I LOVE this space 😉
    There is a connection between the dominance of men over other men (or young men) found in ALL of the videos. The idea that in order to be a “real” man one must assert his dominance over other men in a physical way is apparent and tied into all situations. For example in “Far Away” in order to express their disapproval of the homosexual relationship, the group of men (black male society) must beat him into submission or “shame” him. As is the case with the uncle beating his nephew for “Facebook thuggin’”, not only did he need to beat him to show him how a “real man” is he needed to further dominate him by embarrassing him. Thus proving not only to his nephew who the “real man” is but also by proving it to the world. Ironically, participating in the same behavior he beat his nephew for (“showing out” on the internet.)
    My two cents..