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?

“Niggers, Fags and John Mayer, Oh My”

The reason why Black women’s sexuality and pop culture is one of my research interests is because I know that when you dominate someone sexually, you dominate them physically and spiritually as well.

No one was put on this earth to be dominated, all humans
are intrinsically valuable, so I/we resist.

Before I get into John Mayer, I need to provide some background
on why I am writing this. I have an investment in writing about this because I had a turning point in 2006, while blogging about Don Imus and raising my hand in my Evidence class to counter a comment that a White male colleague made about the victim in the Duke rape case.

In thinking about John Mayer, I see how much I have grown as a thinker and a writer. This piece is another turning point of sorts. In some ways I found my blogging groove when Don Imus called the women on the Rutgers Basketball team Nappy Headed Ho’s.

What I knew then, that I didn’t have the courage to say is
that its not cool when Don Imus, Snoop, Wayne, or Common
call’s Black women 50 Million ho’s. It took me a LOOOOOONG time to be able to criticize hip hop publicly because so much of my blog life was wrapped up in that world. I know now that I Love Hip Hop BUT, I Love myself more.

To be silent when Black men refer to us as 50 million ho’s implies that because they are Black they have a right to call us that shit and they don’t.

I don’t want the police harassing and beating on them,
I don’t want them harassing and beating on us. Full stop.

Might don’t make right, as my momma says.

Now that I have provided some context for this post,
lets get into how John Mayer kinda stepped into it with his Playboy

The John Mayer Playboy interview as a whole is about, his childhood, his relationships, dealing with becoming a celebrity. The last third is where he gets into, race and sexuality, homophobia and white supremacy.

I am going to focus on three aspects of his interview:
his fascination with pornography, his usage of the term nigger and fags,
and the ways in which his interview is a treatise in how whiteness

In the book Race Matters, Cornel West, provides a historical context for John Mayer’s comments and a framework for Black and White sexuality. West writes,

“Americans are obsessed with sex and fearful of Black sexuality.The obsession has to do with a search for stimulation and meaning in a fast passed, market driven culture; the fear is rooted in visceral feelings abut black bodies fueled by sexual myths of black women and men.”

“The demthyologizing of black sexuality is crucial for black America because music of Black self hatred and self contempt has to do with refusal of many black Americans to love their own black bodies- especially their black noses, hips, lips and hair. Just as many white americans view black sexuality with disgust so do many black Americans- but for very different reasons and with very different results. White supremacist ideology is based first and foremost on the degradation of black bodies in order to control them. One of the best ways to instill fear in the people is to terrorize them. Yet this fear is best sustained by convincing them that their bodies are ugly, their intellect is inherently underdeveloped, their culture is less civilized and their future warrants less concern than that of other peoples.

“White supremacist ideology is based first and foremost on the degradation of black bodies in order to control them.”

What an incredible statement in light of the fact that John Mayer said that he has a “David Duke dick.”


MAYER: “By the way, pornography? It?s a new synaptic pathway. You wake up in the morning, open a thumbnail page, and it leads to a Pandora?s box of visuals. There have probably been days when I saw 300 vaginas before I got out of bed.”

“MAYER: When I watch porn, if it?s not hot enough, I?ll make up backstories in my mind. My biggest dream is to write pornography.”

What does it mean when a “successful” White mans biggest dream is
to “write” porn?

What does it mean to see 300 vagina’s before you get out of bed.? I get it, its a Playboy article, so he may be hamming it up. Still.? It must be acknowledged.

In Empire of Illusion, Chris Hedges, has an incredible chapter on the convergence of pornography and technology. Hedges writes,

Porn has evolved from the airbrushed misogyny of glossy spreads in Playboy and smutty films sold in seedy shops. It is corporate and easily available. Its products today focus less on sex between a man and woman and increasingly on groups of men beating off on a woman’s face or tearing her anus open with his penis. Porn has evolved to its logical conclusion. It first turned women into sexual commodities and then killed women as human beings. And it has won the culture war. Pornography and the commercial mainstream have fused. The publicity for the pron production company Wicked could be lifted from a Victoria Secret catalog.

MAYER: Someone asked me the other day, ?What does it feel like now to have a hood pass?? And by the way, it?s sort of a contradiction in terms, because if you really had a hood pass, you could call it a nigger pass. Why are you pulling a punch and calling it a hood pass if you really have a hood pass? But I said, ?I can?t really have a hood pass. I?ve never walked into a restaurant, asked for a table and been told, ?We?re full.?”

I am not sure that he is saying here, however, the issue with a lot of Black people was that he used the term “nigger.” For me it was all the subhuman terminology that was problematic.

At first when I read it, I thought it was a critique absurdity in the ways in which race and gentrification functions and the fact that hood passes’s have to exist in the first place. Rereading it,? I concluded that I didn’t? have reason to believe that he is enlightened enough to have such a sophisticated critique.

White Supremacy

PLAYBOY: Do black women throw themselves at you?

MAYER: I don?t think I open myself to it. My dick is sort of like a white supremacist. I?ve got a Benetton heart and a fuckin? David Duke cock. I?m going to start dating separately from my dick.

I found this to be profoundly interesting because of the access that men and general and White men specifically have always had Black women’s bodies, historically.

In one sentence he illuminates, sex, power, race and how they have converged between Black women and White men throughout history.

White men and Black men have had a very specific kind of relationship in US history because the ways in which our bodies have been tied to White male wealth. Adreinne Davis writes in the essay “Don’t Let Nobody Bother Yo’ Principle”? “Wealth was not transferred from Blacks to Whites, as scholars have noted, but in addition, was transferred from black women to white men. Hence the economics of slavery were gendered and raclialized.

Desiring Black Women

PLAYBOY: Let?s put some names out there. Let?s get specific.

MAYER: I always thought Holly Robinson Peete was gorgeous. Every white dude loved Hilary from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. And Kerry Washington. She?s superhot, and she?s also white-girl crazy. Kerry Washington would break your heart like a white girl. Just all of a sudden she?d be like, ?Yeah, I sucked his dick. Whatever.? And you?d be like, ?What? We weren?t talking about that.? That?s what ?Heartbreak Warfare? is all about, when a girl uses jealousy as a tactic

“Kerry Washington would break your heart like a white girl.”
Implied in this statement is that Black women are not desirable.
Only White women can break hearts.
The only way a Black woman could break a heart is if she is like a
White woman. Wow.

After reading this I thought of Beyonce’s appeal and how the Black
women that we see fall within what T. Sharpley Whiting has termed the “ascriptive mulatta” she isn’t Black, she isn’t White, she is mixed, with Eurocentric features and extremely attractive.

Black women, do not get shine in main stream media. To this end
one of the reasons why we enjoy seeing Michelle Obama is because she is curvy, brown skinned and you rarely see a beauty like hers centered in mainstream media. In fact there is such a hunger for seeing ourselves in mainstream media that some of us get upset when rappers make videos featuring only light skinned women. This happened this week with Wale’s new video his song Pretty Girls, and Drake’s video for best I ever had. More on Pretty Girls here and here.


PLAYBOY: Among the things we?ve read about you online is this: You?re gay. Have you ever kissed a man?

MAYER: The only man I?ve kissed is Perez Hilton. It was New Year?s Eve and I decided to go out and destroy myself. I was dating Jessica at the time, and I remember seeing Perez Hilton flitting about this club and acting as though he had just invented homosexuality. All of a sudden I thought, I can outgay this guy right now. I grabbed him and gave him the dirtiest, tongue-iest kiss I have ever put on anybody?almost as if I hated fags. I don?t think my mouth was even touching when I was tongue kissing him, that?s how disgusting this kiss was. I?m a little ashamed. I think it lasted about half a minute. I really think it went on too long.

I found it interesting that much of the Black response yesterday dealt only with the “John Mayer doesn’t like black girls” or “John used the word nigger” but not the fact that he used the term “fag” and that his dream is to “write porn.”

Multiple interlocking oppression’s can be hard to name and deal with.? I get it.

But I’m calling spades. There is a theme of subhumanity operating in this interview that and? I believe that this says something about both our world and human relations.

John Mayer’s usage of these terms reminds me of George Yanceys conception of how whiteness works.? In Feminism and the Subtext of Whiteness, ?whiteness goes unmarked? yet ?it assumes to speak with universal authority and truth.? He goes on to say,

Whiteness assumes the authority to marginalize other identities, discourses perspectives and voices. By constituting itself as the center, non white voices are Othered, marginalized and rendered voiceless.

John Mayer’s fascination with porn, his casual usage of the terms Nigger, Fag and the fact that he called his penis? “David Duke” leads me to believe that he is a profoundly troubled man. It also reminds me how whiteness operates by naming yet remaining unnamed.

I would imagine that one of the reasons that Black women have responded strongly to what John Mayer has said, because he has confirmed some of our suspicions,? and has stated explicitly what mainstream media says implies all the time: which is? that? Black women are not attractive and they only are to the extent that they are look like White women.

Trust. I understand that most of us don’t evaluate our beauty through the eyes of whiteness, or the levels of self hate would be even higher and depression would be higher as well.

We do our own thing. #blackgirlsarefromthefuture

However, it is shocking, when someone like John Mayer, who is in a powerful position in society and who is? member of the dominant group in society comfortably uses loaded racialialized,? sexualized terms in national publication, albeit a porn magazine.

What kind of society produces a John Mayer?

Now let me keep it even.

What kind of society produces an R. Kelly?

What will have to happen for us to hold R. Kelly and John Mayer
to the same standard?

Link list – Black Women Bloggers Respond to John Mayer:

Black Snob: WTF John Mayer Gets Creeptastical in Playboy Magazine
Jezebel: Its Impossible to Have Benneton Heart and a White Supremacist Dick
The Tuskegee Experiment: Nigger and (Dumb White) Guys
What Would Thembi Do:? Johhn Mayers Lies and the Brown Nipple Theory
Womanist Musings: My Dick is Sorta Like a White Supremacist