Instead of vilifying Boosie’s actions, we need to put them into a broader context
The rapper bragged about hiring a woman to perform oral sex on his underage son and nephews
Last week on Instagram Live, recording artist Boosie Badazz bragged about hiring a woman to perform oral sex on his underage son and nephews. He confirmed that she not only serviced the then-12- and 13-year-old boys, but also him. The rapper indirectly admitted on his public platform, where he has 8.8 million followers, that he condoned the molestation and statutory rape of his nephews and son.
“What Boosie did would be interpreted by most of us as inexcusable,” said Wizdom Powell, director of the Health Disparities Institute and associate professor of psychiatry at UConn Health.
“He has to take responsibility, but to vilify Boosie’s actions without putting them into broader context would be a mistake and a missed opportunity to have a much-needed dialogue in the village about black masculinity, power and privilege.”
As a woman, I don’t know the pressures of being a black man in this country, nor do I have the task of teaching a young boy what it means to be a black man, so I asked my husband what words came to his mind when thinking of black masculinity. His response: strong, brave, tolerant, hardcore and tough. He made it clear that you can’t be soft. I was not surprised by his answers. He’s not the first person I’ve heard use those same adjectives to describe black masculinity.
— My Mixtapez (@mymixtapez) May 12, 2020
Powell offers the notion that we must first unpack the broader social notions of masculinity and the potential ways they might be internalized by boys and men. “Too many men are seeking ways to measure up against society’s masculinity standards. These include standards that equate the performance of ‘real masculinity’ or ‘real manhood’ with sexual promiscuity or displays of sexual prowess,” she said.
It is her belief that attempts to overcompensate for this largely unconscious fear of not measuring up are at the root of the more harmful enactments of masculinity.
“We should be asking: How did we get here that Boosie felt so empowered by the cult of stereotypical masculinity that he would share it with the world? What’s also problematic to me is how Boosie’s actions reify long-standing stereotypes about black males that tie their worth, value and manhood to their presumed hypersexuality. These stereotypes harken back to a time when enslaved black males and females were forced to breed and reproduce in the presence of slaveholders — a time when rape culture was glorified. So Boosie may be thinking he’s training his boys right when in fact he may be training them in the ways that slave owners and revisionist historians who revere them taught him to.”
My idea of womanhood came from my mother, while my husband gained his understanding of manhood from peers, athletes and father figures. We’ve been groomed to identify masculine, feminine and other terms that describe the idea of gender roles. “Sometimes a person will choose to parent exactly the way their parents did if it’s the only thing they know or they were pleased with in their childhood. Other times, a person will choose to do the complete opposite of what they experienced because they weren’t happy. Nature versus nurture plays larger roles,” said Atlanta-based psychotherapist Charna F. Wilson.
James Peterson, writer and education consultant, said: “This situation is an urgent call for an intervention. It’s a call for us to think critically about what parenting means and what it’s about. From his comments, he feels like he’s helping his son, but he’s hurting his son.
“If black masculinity is just about sex and sexuality, that’s a tragedy for us as a community. We’ve got to have a different conversation on how we expand the notion about masculinity and what masculinity is.” The harmful effects of the negative stereotypes associated with black masculinity not only damage the psyche of the men and boys, but the women and girls whom those practices are projected upon.
It’s the same stereotype that allowed multiplatinum-selling recording artist Clifford “T.I” Harris to announce he did regular hymen checks with his then-teenage daughter to ensure her virginity remained intact. At what point do we come together to shun this standardization of masculinity that has seemingly become a gateway for toxic enactments? How much longer must we subject our children to the social constructs that would give Boosie the ability to treat oral sex like a coming-of-age ritual and T.I. the authority to decide when his daughter is old enough for sexual intercourse?
While T.I. would later apologize and clarify his meaning and intentions, what happens to those young men who saw his comments but are unable to fully recognize the fallacies in this line of thinking, and will inevitably continue this cycle?
“We have to assist young black boys and men with breaking out of the stereotypical ‘man box,’ ” Powell said. “Most importantly, we have to challenge Boosie and ourselves to have action-focused conversations about how we create new models of masculinities that disrupt the single stories folks tell about black men, boys and the women and girls connected to them.”