Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Panel discusses definition of black masculinities


Tuesday’s Black Masculinities panel dealt with the question “What do Nelson Mandela and Kanye West have in common?” The event was sponsored by the Women’s Resource Center and the department of gender and race studies in association with African-American History Month.

“We wanted to have a really thoughtful discussion about gender during African-American History month,” Jessi Hitchins, assistant director of the WRC, said. “That includes both masculinity and femininity. That’s not a conversation that often happens in context of the intersection of both gender and race.”

Hitchins, who planned the event with WRC Coordinator Eric Patterson, contacted four speakers with “scholarship and activism in the area of black masculinity” for the panel, including Brandon Davis, a graduate teaching assistant in the political science department who said he regularly dabbles in critical race theory and feminist theory, especially how it relates to the state.

(See also “Black History Month events highlight impact“)

“The questions are good,” Davis said. “They deal with black masculinity, both in relation to race and independent of it. I’m interested in talking about how that relates to pop culture, like music.”

Davis was joined by George Daniels, assistant dean of the College of Communication and Information Sciences, Marcus Cotton, vice president of the Black Faculty and Staff Association, and Utz McKnight, chair of the department of gender and race studies. The discussion opened with a talk on the differences between masculinity in general and black masculinity.

“In many ways, in our culture and society, men are expected to be somewhat successful. Black men are not assumed that and are even assumed to have a level of failure. Watching my son go through it, it’s amazing. Watching teachers reacting.” Cotton said. “My son has always been bright. He’s got two college-educated parents. The way he was explaining to us, teachers have a certain number of points they give you, then you have to take an IQ test to get into the gifted program. His teachers gave him so few points he didn’t qualify. He had to make it solely from his IQ test. He’s very well-read for a middle-schooler, but now he’s trying to hide in the classroom because he does not feel the expectation to be successful.”

Hitchins moderated the questions, bringing the discussion around to hit points on various topics, such as what masculinity is, how it relates to academia and its portrayal in the media. Students were given a short section at the end to ask their own questions. Daniels, who studies media messages, briefly hit on the definition of masculinity offered by one author he was reading.

(See also “The routes to reporting assault: Title IX fills voids created in annual campus report“)

“Breadwinning, having strength and dominating women,” Daniels said. “That definition was offered. Black masculinity, in this author’s estimation, was a response to those three roles, but they were different because barriers were in place for African-Americans which try to be a man.”

Another discussion, focusing on black femininity and society, will be held at the same time and place Tuesday.

“Things are complicated.” Hitchins said. “We can’t see something as singular. We need to see things as nuanced, and complex, and contradictory. I think that’s a really powerful thing – to try to understand those nuances.”

(See also “Female African-American authors to be honored“)

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