Media representations of the black man have consciously bruised the images of all black men in our society. Whether we are African American, Hispanic or any other race the ingrained idea of a black man is that all are lazy, hyper-sexual, hyper-aggressive, flashy, uneducated, stupid, and drug dealers. Many times these representations that are in television and music cloud our vision and we neglect to see that there are African American men that are progressive and counter many if not all of the stereotypes. The purpose of this elder project is to recognize a black male in society that exemplifies an alternative type of masculinity than what is seen through media representations.
I chose Dr. Roger Simpson, my professor for SWRK 136. I felt that he represented an alternative type of black masculinity and would be a great example of progressiveness. Dr. Simpson was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio. He grew up in an urban area and considered his family to be working class. He lived with both parents and three older siblings. Dr. Simpson found interest in Juvenile Delinquency in high school and began to read numerous books both in sociology and social work. When he began college he decided to study both Sociology and Social Work. After graduating he was encouraged to pursue his doctoral degrees in both areas and he did so. He then went into teaching, but he has also been part of many organizations such as being on the board of a rape counseling center, raising money for food banks and is currently helping to start raise money for an organization that will service the homeless.
Interview questions for Dr. Roger Simpson:
Me: How was your relationship with your father? Did he speak to you about masculinity?
Dr. Simpson: My relationship with my father was overall good. I was disciplined but not overly by him (although I’m sure I thought it was too much at the time). As I grew older I began to understand his struggles with moving up in life and challenges he faced as an African American man. He did not speak to me about masculinity but I believe he felt that what he represented as masculine and manly.
Me: How was it growing up as an African America male?
Dr. Simpson: Since I only know life as an African American male I can only speak to that. I do know that I have had a number of opportunities that other African American males have not had. My education, career opportunities, etc. I know that I have been judged because I am an African American male AND because I am “not like” African American males. Which, of course, means I have been stereotyped.
Me: Did you ever feel threatened or judged when attending college because of your race?
Dr. Simpson: Judged and challenged yes because of what I just stated but not endangered or threatened really. Except when I made a visit to Mississippi many years ago.
Me: Did that motivate or discourage you career wise?
Dr. Simpson: I don’t think I have been discouraged because of those challenges but more so because of my own choices.
Me: Do you have any children?
Dr. Simpson: I have 2 children
Me: Do you talk to your children, especially male, about black masculinity?
Dr. Simpson: I have talked to both of them at various times about males and masculinity.
Me: What are your views on the black male representations that you see in the media and how would you relate or counter that with yourself as well as with your own experiences with other black males?
Dr. Simpson: I think the media representation of black males runs the gamut from thug to presidential. There is, of course, much room to fit in between. I will say that some of the portrayals of successful African American men have gotten better but, some of the images make us caricatures.
As I began my interview with Dr. Simpson I felt a little nervous, for the fact that he was my current professor and I wasn’t really sure what I was getting myself into with this project or the things that I was going to address. Fortunately, the meeting went fine and after a few minutes I felt a lot more at ease. It was enlightening to learn about a person whom you normally won’t learn about, but rather learn from. In my previous introduction I went ahead and shared the things that Dr, Simpson shared with me about his career and I found it inevitable not to see him as an inspiration. He has done great things in helping the community and continues to do so.
There are many stereotypes that follow the black man in our society and in class as well as our readings we learned about brute, sambo, and the thug just to name a few. The brute was described to be a man who was hyper-aggressive, hyper-sexual, and unintelligent. It is evident that Dr. Simpson has countered this stereotype based on the fact that he is not unintelligent. He worked hard to get an education and accomplished his goal despite the challenges and judgment he encountered. He has earned the right to be called Doctor and that does not represent a man that is unintelligent in contrary, he represents a progressive man, a progressive BLACK man.
Secondly, the stereotype that all black men are sambos is out of context. A sambo is explained to be a black man who is lazy and child like, basically stating he is not a “man”. The fact that Dr. Simpson has served in organizations that have helped people in need and people who are struggling with other life threatening problems shows that he is neither lazy or child like. He has also taken it upon himself to help raise money for an organization that will service the homeless reaching out to ones community to help others is a great example of a person who is contentious, not lazy.
Lastly, we have the stereotype of the thug, which is seen as being violent and drug seller. All over the media you see black men playing roles of thugs who sell drugs and kill people. Sadly it doesn’t end there, you have the over representation of thug rap stars who rap about killing and selling drugs. Very few times do you hear a mainstream rapper talking about progressiveness in their music. The stereotype that all black man who are successful are drug selling, killing thug is ridiculous. I consider these media representations extremely oppressive for all men of color. In the American society, men are supposed to be providers. The problem with the representation of black men in the media is that real life black men in society internalize these representations and feel that in order to be successful they must be these things. In contrast, when a black man decides not fall into this oppression and pursues an education he becomes a sellout. It is unfortunate to see that the community many times feed into their oppression.
Dr. Simpson does not fit the stereotype that all black men are thugs who are selling drug and killing people. He is a representation that there is an alternative to the masculinity that we see in popular culture. He has become a successful man through his education and the opportunities that he has created for himself through this education. Simpson mentions himself that he was stereotype for both being a black man and not being “like” a black man. Now we have the dilemmas that not only are black males stereotyped and oppressed by others but also by those of the same race.
Many people today are to taken in by what they see and hear in the media. This causes lack of ability to see that not all black men are sambo, thug, or brute. In every community just as in the black community you have males who are progressive and show us alternatives to what we see through media representations. Dr. Roger Simpson has been a great example of this and so are many other black men in our society, all we have to do is look. Most importantly as a society, we need to stop stereotyping an entire population on a media representation. As mentioned in class by Dr. Hasan. Johnson, “we often negotiate our identities as individuals though media constructions, a media who is trying to entertain a mass audience, not one who is trying to create for us…or to benefit us, or even to simply show an African American worldview.”