Toxic masculinity: A discussion with a Claflin sophomore

Apr 05, 2018


Demetre' Smith

Alice Carson Tisdale Honors College sophomore Demetre’ Smith, 19, is a Claflin University student trying to live his best life.

Wearing a bright red NBA sweatshirt, camo shorts and what appeared to be a 24-inch chain in 70-degree weather, the Dublin, Ga., native and philosophy and religion major has little to no issue being himself and being comfortable while doing so.

Before running off to the Honors Center to print off some papers before his next class, Smith graciously agreed to talk for a moment about toxic masculinity and how it affects him, his community, and the future of black men.

Q: What non-physical qualities do you think make you “a man”?

A: I don’t necessarily believe that there’s a certain standard or that there’s certain things that you have to do that qualify to make you a man. You could have a woman that goes out and works two jobs, takes care of her two sons, she’s making sure the lights are cut on in the house, if something’s broken in the house she will get down there on her knees and she will fix that. She will change the oil in her car and even though those are things that are normally used to define what it means to be a man, are we going to call her a man now? She’s just a person who is taking care of what’s important to her. And I feel like that, more than anything, is what society looks at in what it means to be a man: somebody who is just taking care of their responsibilities.


Q: What attributes do you possess that agree with the perception of what a “man” is?

A: As far as the qualities I think I possess that make me a man, I believe that the fact that I genuinely care for the people around me without any ulterior motive. Like I don’t want anything else from you besides just the genuine joy of your presence, like you as a person. And because of that, I appreciate you and I’ll protect you. And I feel like a man is described as a protector nowadays. You’re supposed to protect what’s precious to you. So, everyday I try to appreciate my friends, my family, and the people around me more that are helping me out and just [be] there for them because I think that makes me a man.


Q: What issues do you notice as it relates to how black men are raised to interact with black women?

A: There’s a major, major problem with the way the majority of African American males are being brought up, as far as with their foundational home beliefs and their environment. I have a friend and everytime we get to talking about “Oh, gang this” and these different types of things, he’s like “What are y’all talking about? I’ve been privileged my whole life. I have both my parents. They both work good. I was never a bad kid in school. I live in the suburbs. I’m not from the hood.” So, I find that funny sometimes because then you have those kids who are raised not in that environment, not to say they’re in a worse environment, but it’s just different.

It becomes a problem when you have grown African American men who still do not have themselves figured out, like they haven’t figured out why it is they’re really here on this earth, where they’re supposed to go in life, what is it that they’re supposed to be doing to glorify God’s name. A lot of African American men don’t figure that out or it takes them a long time to figure that out and because of that, it transfers to their kids because they don’t have it all figured out. Because when they were young, they had people telling them “Go head, bruh. Do you see her? Look at her a**, bruh.” and, because they were raised that way, they tell tell their sons “Son, let me tell you like this. When you see a woman with a fat a** and she tells you how many men she’s slept with, multiply that by four.” And I just think that’s so stupid and dumb and we just objectify women and we put them in display cases for us and we disrespect them so much and it’s coming from grown African American men and they think that’s cool.


Q: What will you teach your son about being a black boy?

A: If I ever have a little me, I’m definitely going to teach him how to be humble. I’m definitely going to teach him how to truly love himself and to never put himself down but to also never put other people down and to never think he’s better than someone else. Just because you have more money and you’ve done this and that, at the end of the day, you can’t take these things with you. I definitely want him to understand that. I want him to understand that everybody, when they talk to you or when they interact with you, it’s literally just a reflection of how they see themselves. They’re not mad at you because you exercise everyday or whatever they want to be mad about, they’re mad because they’re looking within themselves because they’re like “Dang, I wish I could do that.” I definitely want him to know that he should never be jealous of another person’s success and it should only be used to really push yourself. It should only be used to make yourself better. I’m going to teach him to never, ever disrespect people and really just truly be a kind force. I want him to be powerful. I want him to mean what he says and say what he means.

There’s so many things that, if I personally had a son, that I would teach him. Not because I necessarily want him to come out a certain way, but because I just want him to understand that as a human being, as an African American child, you can do what you want to do and believe in what you want to believe in and you don’t have to be a monster. You’re going to have people look at you weird for doing the things you want to do, but at the same time it’s all up to you to choose to give them that power to let them keep you down. Always believe in yourself.

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