Over the past couple of years, the issue of masculinity has become a perennial topic of discussion. Numerous op-ed articles, books (including one by yours truly), magazine cover stories, academic round tables, and a plethora of podcasts have saturated the popular culture.

Academic conferences, coffeehouses, restaurants, bars are just a few of the venues where I have bandied in thoughtful and spirited conversation with others of varied genders, races, ages, religions, and cultures.

As a professor who researches and teaches courses in the field of gender studies with a focus on masculinity, I am often more than eager to engage in spirited and passionate discussion. The conversations could be defined in varied ways, but one thing is for certain — they were/are far from boring!

Intense and provocative discussions aside, the fact (often frustrating) is that when the topic is race and masculinity, the conversations often seem to take a more myopic and predictable direction. Rather than attempt to engage in an original or analytical approach, many people tend to rely on previously held assumptions that they have internalized through media, social and other various cultural spaces.

While such beliefs hold credence, in the case of men and race, such a mindset is almost entirely indisputable. In routine discussion groups where the issue of men and ethnic stereotypes were discussed, the conversations took a predictable direction. It reminds me of the saying “old habits die hard.”

Perceptions of White men feeling entitled, being hypocritical, greedy, boring, bereft of any degree of rhythm and hipness or Black men being perceived as angry, lazy, athletic, combative, having large genitalia, sexually promiscuous tend to be routine assumptions in such discussions.

Latino men share many of the similar assumptions of being violent from other groups as do their Black counterparts including the fact that they supposedly suffer from acute sexism, homophobia and are violent toward women. Interestingly, many Asian men tend to be as diametrically different from their Black and Latino brethren being seen as primarily nerdy, effeminate, withdrawn, deficient in sex appeal and lacking in genital size.

Complexity often defines Arab men as they are largely viewed through the prism of suspicion. More often than not, men of this ethnic group are assumed to be mysterious, cunning, harbor a penchant for violence, are considered unpredictable, temperamental, and potentially violent, and are assumed to be wealthy.

LGBTQ men are plagued with the historical litany of assumptions that they are flashy, fashion conscious, willing to bed down with everything and anything, bed hoppers, harbor pedophilic tendencies and are mentally hysterical.

Men of all races are chided as being assumed as slovenly, obsessed with sports, beer and sex, filled with adventure, poor communicators, highly misogynistic and are disturbingly arrogant.

Needless to say, these are stereotypes and are hardly based in reality. Nonetheless, for far too long, too many individuals have latched on to and embraced such retrograde beliefs. Such pernicious myths have successfully melted and forged themselves into the psyche of more than a few people across racial, gender, economic, cultural, and other segments of our society. Such ideas have managed to firmly etch themselves in the mindset of the larger culture. Just keeping it real.

To be sure, there are many (likely a notable segment) of human beings who have refused to allow themselves to fall victim to such a deeply pernicious and misguided mindset that is deeply steeped in perversely racist, sexist, homophobic, and to a large extent, xenophobic attitudes. Good for them and if this is the category where you fall, good for you as well!

For those of you who are inclined to fall victim to historical and cultural myths by subscribing to such an old, antiquated and outmoded draconian mindset, rather than provide a lengthy, rudimentary, detailed analysis on how you should work to combat such regressive attitudes, I will spare you such commentary, cut to the chase and give it to you straight without pulling any punches:

  • Educate yourself

  • Get out of your comfort zones

  • Expand your social circle across racial lines

  • Free your mind

  • Resist embracing such a shallow mindset

It is embarrassing and acutely dangerous to possess such an alarmingly reductive mindset. Moreover, it is a perversely disturbing form of intellectual laziness. If you fall into this category the first thing you need to do is to start with reexamining and changing yourself. Move into the 21st century! Fast! Now!

BlackCommentator.com Guest Commentator, Dr. Elwood Watson, Historian, public speaker, and cultural critic is a professor at East Tennessee State University and author of the recent book, Keepin' It Real: Essays on Race in Contemporary America (University of Chicago Press), which is available in paperback and on Kindle via Amazon and other major book retailers. Cotnact Dr.Watson and BC.

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