You Good Bro? No, I’m not.
That’s the answer to that question for many of us black men, but we’re often shut out and dismissed if we even attempt to not be okay. We are told that our masculinity is fragile. As if masculinity involves such a supernatural state in which emotions are absent, and mental health issues are non-existent. In the recent reporting of Kanye West’s cancellation of The Saint Pablo tour, questions about the state of his mental health arose within different social media and news outlets. Which leads me to ask, who are we to question the mental state of another human being?
This is nothing new though. Not too long ago, Kid Cudi checked himself into rehab & writing on his Facebook:
“Its been difficult for me to find the words to what Im about to share with you because I feel ashamed. Ashamed to be a leader and hero to so many while admitting I’ve been living a lie. It took me a while to get to this place of commitment, but it is something I have to do for myself, my family, my best friend/daughter and all of you, my fans.”
I don’t know any of these two personally. Who I do know is myself, a regular 23 year old Nigerian-born immigrant and recent college graduate. I’m not a celebrity, but I’ve had my own encounter with mental health. I will speak on my own perspective as a black male.
This began for me in the early parts of my life. I’ve written more in detail about it in a previous blog: https://kidseun.com/2016/06/04/thefivepageletter/.
Growing up I didn’t have much. My family struggled to make an honest living, and I never enjoyed the finer things in life. For that reason alone, I was teased. I had absolutely no confidence in myself, and zero self-esteem. I don’t know if anyone ever felt as if they were dead to the world, but that’s how I felt. As I grew older and I started working hard to earn things for myself, I realized that although my financial situation changed, my mental didn’t. This is where the problem deeply rooted itself. From the outside, everyone thought that I was ok and happy. But in the inside, I was dead. My heart was numb, and I just went about life as if my obligation to society was to simply exist.
By college it got worst. I played football for the University of Illinois as a walk-on. This was the most conflicted part of my life. To the coaches and team, I wasn’t good enough. You get told every day that the one thing you’ve put your blood, sweat & tears into, meant absolutely nothing. But to the outside world, I was just another privileged athlete. Even though I was paying my way through school like the average student, I couldn’t possibly have anything to complain about. I was and will always be grateful for the opportunity, but it was nothing but a crutch.
See all my life I was always associated with a sport, football. By fall 2013, that crutch was removed from me. I was no longer an athlete. The one thing I could use to identify myself was gone. I slowly slipped back into that state of zero confidence and added insecurity. This time alone however, gave me the ability to find myself. My true self. I had to get to a point where I looked to myself for my own validation. I looked to myself for my own answers of who I was. I’ve done so well in this, that current members of the team, family friends and even strangers come to me to talk about their issues in private. Because they are in the same boat that I was.
See it has nothing to do with being a celebrity, or an athlete, or a student, or anything like that. It has to do with being a human being. David Wong told us, “There are two ways to dehumanize someone: by dismissing them, and by idolizing them.” The truth of the matter is, we all play a role in the dehumanization of the Negro. We idolize these people, and the moment they begin to act human, we dismiss them. This isn’t just a problem for black males though. Earlier this year Kehlani was hospitalized after an apparent suicide attempt. She’s a celebrity, she couldn’t possibly be suicidal, right? She couldn’t possibly have her own demons and her own battles.
Whether it’s your dead-beat uncle, or a celebrity, we must start taking mental health seriously. With that being said, don’t speak on issues you know nothing about. Be blessed.
“Our dehumanization of the Negro then is indivisible from our dehumanization of ourselves; the lost of our own identity is the price we pay for our annulment of his.” -James Baldwin