Photo by William Stitt, @willpower via Unsplash.com
Wiz Khalifa opened his mouth and his toxic masculinity came tumbling out. During an interview with The Breakfast Club, Khalifa shared some interesting thoughts on the proper way straight men should consume bananas.
“If you bite a banana, you sus. Niggas gotta break the banana in half. Pause.” As Charlamagne challenged this mandate, Khalifa remained staunch. “You gotta break it in pieces, bro.”
In case you’re missing the implied message here, Wiz is suggesting that eating a banana, a phallic shaped object, is akin to having a dick in your mouth. And that’s gay. And gay, as we’ve seen, doesn’t just speak to your sexuality, it speaks to your character--hence his use of the word “sus,’’ like suspicious.
After I heard this little bit of news, the only thing I wondered was how did Amber Rose marry this man? The decision to commit herself and have a child with a man whose hangups around sexuality and masculinity are stunted, latently homophobic, and completely irrational spell trouble for a woman attempting to connect with a man for the long-term.
Sadly, this banana convo was just one of many red flags I’ve seen from Wiz Khalifa. I assumed their relationship was in trouble when Amber shared that she’d never seen him sober. It was a fact that Wiz corroborated.
“I don’t do anything sober. I wake up. The first thing that I do is get high. It’s not possible for me to do anything sober.”
Thankfully, he did say that he was sober when he proposed to Amber. But the idea that he moves through life in an altered state likely means that he’s using weed to numb himself from some things. Instead of dealing with and addressing his emotions, he’d rather suppress them. And while every man might not use weed, to do this, it’s common practice. Suppressing emotion, masking vulnerability, particularly in public spaces is perhaps the most essential man law. So essential that if violated, your status as a man is jeopardized. I don’t know if you’ve noticed but masculinity is a currency. In our world, with men controlling the narrative, hoarding the money, exercising the most power, it is costly, both socially and economically, to betray your masculinity.
Since masculinity is valuable and America is in the business of propagating and selling ideas, masculinity has been associated with coolness. It’s cool to have power. It’s cool to tell the story, to have the money. It’s cool to be the man. In fact, the phrase “the man” is still, after decades, synonymous with the penultimate cool. And anything that wasn’t masculine--hyper-masculine, toxically masculine, wasn't cool. It was “corny.”
It’s no secret that Black folk have a corner on cool. There are books about it. White people, for centuries until today, have been trying to monopolize and commercialize it. When Black folk, men and women alike, have been restricted from other economic, social and political arenas of life, we could always turn to the commodity that had been less policed: Masculinity...Cool.
No one ever sat down and explained these concepts to me. But it doesn’t mean I hadn’t gotten the message. And while I had been warned about men and their ways, I was still able to recognize the ones who were “cool.” They were the rappers who talked about women like objects, the basketball players at my school who used word sparingly. They were my uncles.
Growing up and until today, my uncles embody cool. There was a smoothness to them, a suave, a dignity that I really can’t overstate. It was partially material. They had money, which I can recall seeing in bankrolls. But more than that, it was in the things they said...and didn’t say. I equated their silence to mystery. You know, the strong-silent type. And my uncles were strong. You could see it physically and even if you couldn’t, you’d hear about it in the stories they told. The men they’d beat up in defending their family--my family’s honor. Cool.
My dad, the man my mother chose, was also cool. But not like my uncles. When my dad gets around people he’s comfortable with, he talks, impassioned and quite a lot. I can’t ever recall my family struggling but if my father had money like my uncles, I never saw it. And while I knew my father was not a pushover and certainly not one to be trifled with, there were no stories of him fighting as an adult man. If there was a scale of cool, my uncles were Denzel Washington and my dad was Spike Lee. (Not in appearance but persona.)
It wasn’t until I got older that I realized that a lot of what I perceived to be cool was rooted in misogyny and toxic masculinity: strength, violence, suppression of emotions.
The thing about hiding emotions is that they never really go anywhere. Instead, they hide in a pressure cooker, where they’re heated, steamed, boiled, and pressed, until eventually they come exploding out, burning the person who’s closest. And for Black men, the person who’s closest is often a Black woman.
The older I became, I saw the ways in which the Black women in my uncles lives paid for the price for their cool, their masculinity. It should come as no surprise really that the same uncles who were cemented in my mind as fly had perpetuated all types of atrocities against women, from physical violence to dismissal and degradation in speech, to adultery and womanizing, to abandonment and neglect in physical and emotional absence.
Meanwhile, my father and his brothers surrounded themselves with women like my mother, who often or occasionally made more money than them. These women spoke up and out more. And I noticed the men spoke quite a bit too. Expressively. Sometimes these men cooked. Sometimes they fixed their wives plates. Sometimes they cleaned while the women lounged. (A concept!) It looked like reciprocity, equality, partnership.
My cool uncles love my father. He’s a gregarious person. And they admire and appreciate the way he’s loved my mother, my sister, and myself. But I know for a fact that they also thought he was different. I would bet money that they regarded themselves as cooler than him. Maybe they even found him "corny." But maybe “corny” men make the best husbands.