A Word of Thanks to the Black Men Who Taught Me Self-Hate

Black-woman-smirkThere have been few constants in my life. But, as I was reflecting today, I remembered a daily, weekly, monthly occurrence throughout my childhood that often left me questioning my self-worth. It was the continued assault on my womanhood – and personhood – from Black men growing up that left me susceptible to violence and predation in high school. But, rather than writing a somber letter of charges against them, this is a letter of thanks. Frankly, without their commitments to patriarchy, misogyny, and sexism, I might not have had the inspiration to be where I am today.

Growing up extremely tall meant that I was always picked on and bullied by boys. While some of it was particularly brutal, those instances are not of concern here. Rather, it was often men in authority who worked the most diligently not just to bully me but to undermine my accomplishments, overshadow my talents, and diminish my light.

Some of my earliest encounters with patriarchy and gendered-hatred were at church. There were always deacons there to remind me that boys didn’t like “manly” women. There were musicians to inform me that I really wasn’t that pretty so I should take whatever I could get in a male companion. Then, there was the drummer whose ire toward me I never understood. When I was eleven-years-old, he pulled me to the side to let me know that I wasn’t as talented as I thought I was. He told me that a girl named Nesha, his girlfriend’s daughter and fellow member of our church, was prettier than me, could sing better, and was better suited for modeling (we were both tall for our age so of course we were in competition with each other, right?). He, a grown ass man, wanted to ratchet down my expectations for myself…at eleven. years. of. age. I’ll never forget how awkward and uncomfortable I felt that he approached me this way. And, to this very day, I don’t engage him at all.

These attacks continued through junior and senior high school. In junior high school, I had a campus security guard tell me – when I reported to him that I was concerned for my safety because two girls had threatened to jump me – that someone as big as me could “handle themself.” He shrugged me off. Even though the twin girls had been taking my money, bus tickets, and lunch for weeks, there was nothing I could do. The day they actually came to school to jump me with a bat, a bag of nickels, and a male cousin, a new friend invited me to exit the school through the back gate. If not for her, I might have been hospitalized.

The one instance I remember most and probably had the most negative impact on me occurred in front a classroom full of my peers.

“You’re never going to college. You’re not going to understand this stuff. So, why are you here wasting my time and your time?” my Black male Calculus teacher randomly interrupted his class lecture to ask me.

It was my junior year of high school and Mr. Harris was basically telling me I wasn’t about shit. Granted, I had some issues in school, but he had no interest in developing me academically. Instead, he wrote me off, forced me to drop his class, and black-balled me when I later tried to become an Algebra tutor (a position I was more than qualified for given my high marks in both Algebra and Geometry). Then, as I approached my senior year, I dealt with the sexualized attacks, coercive rape, and predation from school staff and their friends.

This isn’t to say that there were never any Black men who had my back. To the contrary, I grew up with a brother who would murk anyone who attempted to harm me. I had step brothers who coached me through some very difficult times in my life. I had a father who taught me important lessons like, “If they don’t like you, who cares? They can’t whoop your ass.” And a host of dear friends who I will never be able to thank enough.

I also had people like Darrick Smith, an educator and dope individual who nicknamed me “A+” after seeing one of my report cards. I had leaders like Rev. Rowden who reminded me that success in life wasn’t just predicated on what others thought of me but what I thought of myself. So, while the positive Black men in my life often felt outnumbered by the negative, they buoyed me when I struggled with the very targeted attacks I experienced.

In a way, I am grateful for the Mr. Harris’, the drummer guys, and the school staff and administrators who undermined, diminished, exploited, and/or assaulted me. In an odd way, while I am aware that no one deserves to go through that treatment, I also know I wouldn’t be who I am today without it.

So, thank you Black men who went above and beyond the call of duty to remind me that your insecurities, misogyny, and internalized hatred were more important to you than group uplift, solidarity, and ensuring a more promising future for Black people in general. And, thank you for writing me off. You made it just that much easier for me to see the invisible threads stitching me down, holding me back, and limiting me from my full potential. I have made a daily effort to cut them away ever since.

Photo Credit: BlackHairiInformation.com

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Jenn M. Jackson

Jenn M. Jackson, PhD is a co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Water Cooler Convos. She is a native of Oakland, CA. Jenn is a radical Black feminist scholar who believes none of us are free until all of us are free.

11 Responses

  1. Ms. says:

    That was deep, and well-written. I don’t date black males myself. Yeah, they put me through hell growing up too. The behaviors I saw in the black male early in life turned me to dealing with them. Their behaviors, I’m sad to say, are part of the main reason why they are being executed daily in the streets by these white cops. Black men get smart-mouthed and sassy with police authority, and they get their heads blown off for their troubles. BM cannot get along with anyone on the planet, including other BM. It’s just a fact. They are the smallest minority in the country and I strongly suspect their numbers to decline even further in the coming years. If the black man was a nicer person, he wouldn’t be in this situation.

  2. D Jackson says:

    Be careful with your language. Indicting the entirety of black men is not only offensive, but it is also erroneous. If your perception of black men is that they just “don’t get along” with anybody and are somehow worthy of getting killed because of how one might speak to a police officer, you seriously need to take some time to evaluate the source of your opinions. I understand that you’ve been treated badly by black men in your life, and I sympathize with that. But there is a way to express your very valid feelings without crucifying all black men.

  3. Freed Slave says:

    I co-sign 1000%! I finally accepted black males for what they are and avoid them at all costs. Never been more at peace!!!

  4. Freed Slave says:

    Why does she have to be careful? That’s just the point, the black man cares about offending anyone or anything he sees fit. Your comment wreaks of a weak black male.

  5. D Jackson says:

    She needs to be careful because indicting the entirety of any body is just reinscribing prejudicial thinking that has surely be placed onto you to someone else. Not all black men are the same. That should be obvious. And if you think otherwise, you should have your head examined.

    This of course is not to cape for those that do dirt. There are plenty of black men that do wrong things. Just like there are plenty of humans that do the wrong thing. But ignorant generalizations don’t help anybody.

  6. Freed Slave says:

    No not all men are the same, but all men are still men. God bless!

  7. Step Daddy says:

    Black women love playing the victim role

  8. Step Daddy says:

    You will be back

  9. Step Daddy says:

    Would you feel this way if your father, uncle, brother, cousin, husband, etc were killed by a racist white cop?? Cops are ALSO killing Black Women as well so I wouldn’t talk if I were you. Korryn Gains was talkig smart to the cops & look how they did her, they blew her away. So you need to watch what you say about Black Men because without Black Men you wouldn’t even be here.

  10. Step Daddy says:

    She is damaged goods, she is useless to any man ESPECIALLY a Black Man

  11. Sam in MD says:

    Wow! Reading this made my mouth drop and eyes wide. Crazy that people can be that cruel. I appreciate you sharing your story. I think just other people reading this helps. I also appreciate that you turned this into compassion, self care and strength. One personal lesson I learned is that black pain does not always come directly from white sources.