Confessions of a Strong Black Man

Black Manhood  Men

When presented with the task of writing this article, I must admit, I spent several hours contemplating how I would share my thoughts without being misinterpreted or viewed negatively. I agonized about how to perfectly craft a message that would overwhelmingly be received by all. Then, upon deeper reflection, I was reminded of the wisdom of Bill Cosby…”the key to failure is trying to please everybody.”

Anytime you stand for something there will always be detractors. So, I can’t be worried about who I may offend. Rather, my prayer is that my words will ignite a flame in both men and women. So, here goes. My confession…

Every time I hear the term ‘Strong Black Woman’ I cringe. In fact, every time I hear a sistah brag about being a ‘Strong Black Woman’ I get extremely annoyed. I’m annoyed that no other cultural group of women wears ‘strength’ as a badge of honor except Black women. I’m annoyed that the expression of a woman’s strength is often clothed in bitterness and frustration. I’m annoyed that our culture glorifies this handcrafted concept of a ‘Strong Black Woman’ as something that should be celebrated rather than redefined.

I’m annoyed because it lets millions of Black men off the hook. Why step up, as men, and be strong if our women have already sworn a die-hard allegiance to it? I’m annoyed because it keeps women trapped in a prison that they desperately want to get out of, though many have refused to admit it.

What sickens me the most is that the ‘Strong Black Women’ phenomenon is a result of a weakened state of Black men. Our failure as men have created a culture of women who have taken on the roles we have neglected. In countless homes across the nation, women have become the primary protector, provider and nurturer. As a result, a gender power shift has taken place, placing women in the seat of authority.

Many of our men have abandoned their posts as husband/father in the home forcing women to do it all by themselves. They have been forced to be strong and independent; forced to be mother and father; forced to be husband and wife.

The tragedy is that with all of this strength, they are never given the opportunity to complain, cry, be vulnerable, seek sympathy or appear stressed. They are denied the luxuries of emotional breakdowns and failure. Black women who operate under the banner of ‘Strength’ often find it very difficult to get the empathy or compassion they seek. Their strength has overshadowed their gentleness, femininity, fragility and need to be cared for. In essence, they’ve exercised their super powers at the expense of their own happiness.

The amazing thing is that all of this goes away when a male recognizes his true strength and lives out his manhood in the highest degree. Dr. King said that ‘a nation or civilization that continues to produce soft-minded men purchases its own spiritual death on the installment plan.

Our failure as men is that we have placed more importance on our physical strength than on our mental strength. The word ‘strong’ is defined as secure, self-confident, resilient, and durable, while ‘strength’ is defined as the ability to maintain a moral or intellectual position firmly as the embodiment of protective or supportive power.

While a man’s physical strength may not seem very necessary in today’s world, our mental strength is vital. It is at the core of our masculinity. It is the universal code of manhood. It forms the nucleus of our manliness, as it truly makes all the other manly virtues possible. Our strength is the literal power that has allowed generations of men to protect and provide for their families.

When we as men become strong, our women no longer have to be. This is a lesson I learned attending a marriage retreat several years ago. During a session, all the couples were charged with the task of stating something admirable about their spouse. The activity was designed to be used as an ice-breaker before the main teaching session; however, what started out as light-hearted conversation soon became profound.

In a very honest moment, a newlywed couple shared their descriptions with the group. While the husband’s remarks were sweet, the wife’s statement was hard-hitting. She said, “What I love about my husband is that he has proven himself to be a real man and I no longer have to be STRONG.”

Here was a woman who spent most of her adult life raising kids, holding down a job, paying bills, and handling all of life’s responsibilities alone. She played the role of mommy and daddy, protector and provider, caregiver, and was forced to wear a host of hats that didn’t naturally fit. But, once she said ‘I Do’ she was willing to relinquish the reigns and hand them over to someone else.

In essence, she was saying I’m tired of playing the role of “The Strong Black Women.” I want to be taken care of for once. I want to be pampered and supported. I want the tears wiped from my eyes in my moment of weakness. I want to be free to be imperfect. I want to be looked at as feminine and not hard. I want to embrace my strengths but also acknowledge my vulnerabilities. I want to be free to be me and not imprisoned behind bars that define my existence in a one-dimensional way.”

Her statement literally knocked me out of my seat. She found and married a Real Man which allowed her to fulfill her natural role as a women. When God designed man in his image and likeness, clear instructions were given which are found in the Word of God.

I Kings 2:2-13 paraphrased says, “Be strong…and show yourself a man…Keep the charge of the Lord your God.” Likewise, in I Corinthians 16:13 it says, “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” The bible clearly charges men to BE STRONG. That instruction was never given to women. But, the reason why women are so strong today is because many of our men have failed to be.

So, my confession is that I hate the term ‘Strong Black Woman’. It’s such a historically loaded term that partially speaks to our failure as men. However, when men take their rightful place our families change, our communities change and the nations of the world change.

Hasani Pettiford – The Manhood Tour


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