Why I Reject the 'Good Black Man' Label

At the Huffington Post, Javon Johnson writes that he doesn't like the implications for the black community of the title that comes with his conventional success.

Posted:
 
suit_and_tie_black_man_100912_400jrw
Thinkstock

At the Huffington Post, Javon Johnson writes that he doesn't like the implications for the black community of the title that comes with his conventional success.

While I both worked hard for and enjoy my success, I, for so many reasons, must denounce the title of "good Black man."

When comedian Chris Rock quipped in his 1996 hit HBO special Bring the Pain, "I love Black people, but I hate niggas," he effectively fanned the flames of the "civil war" he claimed was "going on with Black people." Mostly concerned with whether Rock was right or wrong, much has been written about this controversial piece in his otherwise brilliant stand-up routine. Certainly Rock is able to exercise his First Amendment rights, but given that the single most defining characteristic of his "niggas" are those criminals and criminally minded dark bodied human beings in this country, and that Black men are both unhealthily and unfairly caught up in what activist-academic Angeles Davis calls the "prison industrial complex," Rock essentially "niggafied" most Black men in the U.S. and declared war on those "niggas" on behalf of all of us "good" Black people.

Rock went well beyond what Evelyn Higginbotham calls "the politics of respectability," or the demand "that every individual in the black community assume responsibility for behavioral, self-regulation and self-improvement along moral, educational, and economic lines." Rock's decontextualized joke misses the deep and complex histories of the ways in which Black men in the U.S. have been and still are criminalized, or simply labeled "bad," as exhibited in Douglas A. Blackmon's Slavery by Another Name and Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow. Even worse, Rock testifies for the "need" of the state sanctioned violence enacted on Black men, good or bad, on every day basis. And, he is not alone on this position.

Read Javon Johnson's entire piece at the Huffington Post.

The Root aims to foster and advance conversations about issues relevant to the black Diaspora by presenting a variety of opinions from all perspectives, whether or not those opinions are shared by our editorial staff.

Like The Root on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

Comments
The Root encourages respectful debate and dialogue in our commenting community. To improve the commenting experience for all our readers we will be experimenting with some new formats over the next few weeks. During this transition period the comments section will be unavailable to users.

We apologize for any inconvenience and appreciate your continued support of The Root.

While we are experimenting, please feel free to leave feedback below about your past experiences commenting at The Root.