Just warning you now this is a long one... I think this subject is largely overdone. How often do we talk about it? How many more times must we rehash the same old thing over and over? But, like many of you, I can't resist an opportunity to weigh in on it. Maybe if we say it enough now future generations can FINALLY stop debating what it means to be a Black man. Anyway, I'm also a Seattlelite. As some of you who are familiar with the area already know there aren't exactly a lot of us up here. I associate with all of 3 other Black people (counting my fiance). I spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to reach out to other like me - Black folks who are too smart for their own good and not content to act out the various stereotypes solely because BET told us to. When I surf the tubes on the internets I occasionally look for stuff about my people and their struggles. I happened to find this old series on the Washington Post... http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/metro/interactives/blackmen/blackmen.html ... and noticed they had a link where you could weigh in about what you thought it meant to be a Black man in America. I couldn't resist the opportunity to run my virtual mouth about it. Here's what I wrote: ----- Being Black and male in the US means being truly free. I don't mean free in the sense of "I can ride on the front of the bus if I want" or "freedom to vote." We experience a cultural freedom no other group in this country can fathom. Popular media - mostly run by whites whose only interaction with Black people is forced on them by Affirmative Action laws passed within the last 20-30 years - has no idea what our freedom really is. Eldridge Cleaver hinted at what the dominant culture thinks our freedom looks like. Most non-Blacks think our freedom is the freedom to sleep with anything that walks, to make loud music where we rant and rave violently, to dress flamboyantly, to act disproportionately macho and to generally be scofflaws. But what else would you think if all you knew about us is what you could download from iTunes? I laugh at my white friends who think I don't act Black enough because I don't wear baggy jeans and ride around in a SUV while smoking copious amounts of weed, loading my Glock so I can make random strangers do the 9mm shuffle. All they know about being Black is what some other white guy told them and that white guy is as ignorant as they are. Our freedom is the result of being forcefully separated from the various cultures and traditions which shaped the lives of our ancestors prior to the African Diaspora. Without a few thousand years of cultural norms to tell us how to talk, how to dress, what to aspire to, etc we have become a mass of individualists bound by a common pain. We can't claim that our ancestors were part of the British royalty and came here with a land grant from the Queen. We also can't say that in order to gain acceptance from our Chinese grandparents we must marry only within our race and only if they are from a specific region of a country 4000 miles away. For all our well documented and often lamented losses we, as Black people, have gained the ability to infinitely reinvent ourselves as we see fit. As Black men, that means we can re-imagine what masculinity means to us and we don't need to check with anyone else to see if that's an ok thing to do. We can run around with weird looking perms, wear 4-inch high heels and sequin jumpsuits and nobody would dare think we are gay. Think I'm kidding? Look at Prince (or maybe Al Sharpton but he doesn't sport the jumpsuits). We can be gun wielding intellectuals respected in the international community, patriotic soldiers, religious zealots, crazy painters, or permutations of all these things and still carry a "thug" attitude even if it seems to totally contradict everything else we do. Who else can behave this way without their peers thinking they have lost their minds? Since we ascribe to no single political agenda and no specific cultural tradition we can cherry pick what we believe and how we manifest that belief in our everyday lives. And because it is our own choice and not something forced on us by centuries of "do it this way or else" almost all of us only do that which excites our passions. Sure we get beat up by cops, live in crappy neighborhoods, and the whites who control all the government money divert funds to their happy little schools in the lily white American suburbs. I would still rather be free and have to fight for everything I have than have it all handed to me like some people in this country and be a brainwashed cultural sycophant. So go ahead and pretend that all Black guys are the cartoon characters portrayed on the evening news and in the entertainment industry. We are laughing at you because we really are free and you aren't. --- Opinions? Questions? Expressions of hostility?