Beware this Black man in a tailored suit.
Unbeknownst to him, he screams to the world, “I’m more man than Black”.
That tailored suit is all that he possesses— it is not armour with which he uses to protect himself in the fight against colonialism. It is a mask used to disguise his own incompetence and inadequacies. It is an appeal to the oppressor not just to be seen, but to be seen like them.
It is his entry pass into the boy’s club, it’s what gets him the seat at their table. For this is a man who loves the patriarchy more than his people.
When he wakes, he thinks not of how he might use his seat at their table to call for the redistribution of power. Instead, he wakes to wonder what tie should be paired with the crisp checked shirt beneath his navy wool linen blend sports jacket?
“Which cufflinks should I wear today?,” he ponders.
If he is lucky, he already has acquired the white wife to make those hard decisions for him. She too is an accessory which acts to uphold the sense of masculinity that he is seeking – a masculinity that is not his. But he wants not what he has or what he is; his notion of Black masculinity is as unfamiliar to him as is love for Black women. For him, to be man is to be a white man; which can only be evidenced in having secured the love of a white woman.
While his tailored suit places him in closer proximity to whiteness, it does not threaten to destabilise it in any way. The greatest threat that this Black man in his tailored suit poses, is to the Black woman. For she cannot wear his suit, she cannot envelop herself in his same armoury to get access to said table. Her seat, should she get one, has been won through effort, achievement, qualification, actual merit (many, if not all, of the things he lacks). Instantaneously she challenges him, rather than inspires. She is a mirror to him, reflecting and revealing his inadequacies and inferiority back at him, unlike the white woman who fashions his tie each morning.
The greatest threat that this Black man in his tailored suit poses, is to the Black woman. For she cannot wear his suit, she cannot envelop herself in his same armoury to get access to said table.
To be clear, I am not speaking to the Black man living in my neighbourhood, because this Black man in the tailored suit doesn’t live here. He made it out a long time ago and has made sure never to return to the roots that he claims. I am not speaking to the Black men in the tailored suit of my father’s generation in which that suit restored a sense of dignity that had been so brutally ripped from him. I am not speaking against the prospect of social mobility for my brothers; rather I am suggesting that this Black man in the tailored suit be seen for what he is— a cautionary tale rather than aspirational goal. Afterall, his betrayal is not just to Black women, but to Black people.
Beware this Black man in the tailored suit.
That man who is more man than Black enacts a Blackness that is as performative as his masculinity.
This performance is witnessed in his overuse of ‘deadly’ and ‘gammon’, his appearance at GARMA, and the Aboriginal flag pin he wears in NAIDOC week. He is almost always the ‘Aboriginal’ representative at the big people’s table in white institutions, yet he makes sure that those around him know that he really isn’t like those *other Aboriginals*.
He will make small talk about his overseas vacations, the children’s private school and the famous people he casually hangs with— while his ancestry helped get him a seat at the table, he knows that it is those *other things* that keep his seat warm. He will insist that he has never “played the race card” and of course he hasn’t, the patriarchy has worked well for him.
He will insist that he has never “played the race card” and of course he hasn’t, the patriarchy has worked well for him.
His whole life is a performance piece, an excruciating performance piece, much like an episode of the Office. He is our Michael Scott, except it isn’t funny.
There is a violence in his incompetence and brutality in his everydayness, one which must never be understated.
He is the one that will be appointed to the positions of power in Black affairs, often without qualification – such is the power of that tailoring. This Black man in the tailored suit possesses little intelligence but holds plenty of power. Each and every time he will exercise said power by exacting his revenge and self-hatred upon the Black woman – because he loathes the idea that she might climb one rung higher than him.
He will be hailed as the leader, the hero and the hope for our people, heck, if he is particularly eloquent he will be revered as “our next Martin Luther King Jr” despite the fact there is nothing transformative or emancipatory in his thoughts, words or actions. But he will smile for them and take their applause while squishing the heel of his shoe more firmly upon the necks of Black women.
Sometimes on casual Fridays, he will unshackle himself of his tie and loosen a button.
Beware this Black man in a tailored suit.
Dr Chelsea Bond is one half of the Wild Black Women radio program (with Angelina Hurley) on Brisbane’s 98.9FM. She is an academic and writer, focusing on content about Black women, for Black women. Follow Chelsea @drcbond
Wild Black Women will have its television debut 4 December, 9.40pm on NITV (Ch. 34).
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