I have been thinking a lot lately about Black men in America, and it is a coincidence that it just so happens to be Black History month. The Black men that I have been thinking about are the so-called “professional” ones, the ones who have the great careers and drive. The ones who have to be the best at all times.
“The best” is a phrase that keeps plaguing my mind. These are the Black men who often give up their family lives, who are never home because in order to continue to afford the big house or send the children to that nice school they have to work 80-plus hours per week. These are the men who are graying as early as age 35 and looking like 60 when they are only 40 years old.
For a second I had to stop and ask myself why. Why does this keep happening to our men? Then one day it hit me: In order for this Black man to be accepted and not envied or feared, he has to speak a certain way, dress a certain way, and also be in a certain tax bracket.
Then at this time and only this time is he looked to as a standup guy. However, these men’s White counterparts can simply be car salesmen, mechanics, and they too are looked up to as upstanding and hard-working. But when Black men are in those same career fields, they are looked at as lazy and uneducated. People often say they only know how to work with their hands — and the list goes on.
However, when these Black men become directors of Fortune 500 companies, they not only have to prove that they are the best but they have to prove it daily. There is no room for error at this level; there can be no mistake. These men have to be in tip-top shape at all times.
Not only do they have to understand their jobs, above all they have to fight the daily negatives like prejudice and racism. Thinking from a human perspective, that is just not possible. There is no human who is perfect or can be perfect at all times.
Then comes the balding in the middle of the head, the gray hair, and the lack of time spent with the family. At what time do these men reap the benefits of their hard work? I mean truly sit back and enjoy what they fought so hard to get?
The answer I don’t really know, and I’m not sure I ever will. I think that varies on a person-by-person basis. However, what I do plan on doing is continuing to encourage these men.
I plan to let them know that they are today’s heroes, to let them know that their work is not in vain and that every day they are out their fighting they are turning a dream into reality for that kid that they may never see. These are the dreams our past generations fought for, and this is the reality that we will continue to carry on.
So thank you, my dear Black men.
Julia Toles welcomes reader responses to email@example.com.