Four, Forty-Four: On Black Masculinity, Emotional Maturity and Vulnerability

By: Terrence A. Merkerson

“Hov did that, so hopefully, you won’t have to go through that…”

-Jay Z, Izzo (H.O.V.A.), The Blueprint (2001)

So, while the dust around Jay Z’ 4:44 album has begun to settle and we’ve had time to adequately digest the content, I have noticed that many of the message points revolve around four topics: blackness, inclusion, financial independence & infidelity. The least of the four discussed, particularly amongst Black men, is the messaging around infidelity. So, in today’s class,🙃 we are going to discuss and/or introduce some themes around black masculinity, in connection with relationships, fidelity, reconciliation and emotional maturity.

What Beyonce’s Lemonade meant for Black women held a completely different meaning for Black men. In many ways, Lemonade signified and celebrated a reclamation of Black girl pride, affirmation, self-care, and resilience. That effort was accomplished in the spirit of finding the strength in vulnerability, a tool that Black women have used for centuries. My grandmother used to tell me, “you only as strong as you are when you weak” (shit’s deep, bro…) and I find that to be entirely true. One of (the many) points of relational contention between Black women and Black men is how differently we manage our relationships with vulnerability. Black men, we don’t do it.

Being openly vulnerable is perceived as a weakness for Black men. It would indicate that we actually care about something beyond ourselves and our platonic, non-threatening relationships, which typically do not hold vulnerability in any form as a sustaining requirement. It defies “Man Code”. It defies our “Cool Pose”. We love (or at least we believe we do), but only in a very constricted and rigid capacity. Our love is complicated by emotional ineptitude and immaturity, miseducation and the historical circumscription of the Black man. These factors have directly contributed to the emotional and relational incompetence of Black men. Unfortunately, our emotional and relational development is predicated on trauma we inflict upon Black women. Essentially, we learn by f*cking up and the victims of our f*ck ups are, almost exclusively, Black women.

Conversely, Black women innately feel responsible for protecting Black men, at times placing Black men’s safety and security above their own. Black men know this. We KNOW that shit and often (with or without conscious) we abuse and take advantage of it. In compliance, Black women oblige these behaviors, in a perverse combination of false optimism, in their desire to have their love reciprocated through reconciliation, and their responsibility to protect Black men and their emotional security. This creates the expectation of forgiveness. Basically, Black men f*ck up, Black women expect Black men to f*ck up, Black men expect Black women to forgive them when they f*ck up, then Black women forgive Black men for f*cking up, in hopes that they won’t f*ck up again. It’s cyclical.

There is culpability on both sides here, but it is Black men’s inability and unwillingness to commit that fuels this cycle of dysfunction. It is not so much Black men’s inability and unwillingness to commit to Black women, it is Black men’s inability and unwillingness to commit to our emotional development. It is easy and comfortable to “not feel” or be emotionally maladjusted. It allows for Black men to navigate through romantic relationships with an emotional numbness, adversely as Black women navigate through those same relationships with emotional acuteness.

So how do we address this? Black men must assume the responsibility of our emotional health from Black women (they carry enough shit in their bag already). By doing so, we can access a deeper understanding of love, care and emotional responsibility (and maybe sow fewer lemon trees in the Eden that is the Black woman). I would imagine that the Daddy Lesson’s would sound a lot different under those circumstances.

Black men must concede to the idea that in order to heal ourselves and our relationships, we must learn to feel in a way that we are not conditioned. Most importantly, this NEEDS to be a proactive, rather than a reactive undertaking. It should not be an act of reflection and remorse. We must confront our predispositions far before they become the hardship of a Black woman. We must relinquish our fear of vulnerability and dispel the fragile masculinity that has been our inheritance. Through this, we can find our truest and most beautiful strength, which will make us better lovers, partners, fathers, brothers, sons and most significantly, it will allow us to be better, stronger men.


Terrence A. Merkerson is the Founder & Creator of Avenue Fifteen. Terrence earned Bachelor’s Degrees in both Political Science and Gender/Race Studies from the University of Alabama. Terrence also completed Graduate School at the University of Alabama, earning a Master’s Degree in Communication and is currently pursing a Master’s Degree in Business Administration at Louisiana State University.

He currently resides in Charlotte, NC.

Social: Facebook @tamerkerson | Instagram: @tazmk


One thought on “Four, Forty-Four: On Black Masculinity, Emotional Maturity and Vulnerability

  1. Pingback: On ‘4:44’, maleness, and the performance of the public apology - The Black Youth Project

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