One of the things that I have come to notice over the last few years is the uplifting of the effeminate and the downgrading of the masculine among our young men by their mothers–and others.

Case in point: the remake of ‘The Karate Kid.’

Why is the Black male lead in cornrows–which makes him look like a girl?

Now, there will be some who think that I am making much to do about nothing, but hear me out.  In our media-driven age, image IS everything.  From You Tube to Facebook, to the Blackberry, we are consciously driven by what we see.  Furthermore, since many of our Black actors and actresses are not in charge of their own production houses or distribution networks, image matters even more.

From time to time, I’ve had the discussion about ‘…how Black folk look in the media…’ with various individuals.  I find it quite tragic that Denzel Washington and Halle Berry won Oscars for roles that degrade our people.  For some, the check may be more important than the image–but how Black folk are viewed in the mainstream is how other races WILL see us.  Until those Black folk IN the entertainment and political ranks get some guts and STOP becoming ‘working props’ for institutional idiocy, the stigma of degrading our people will continue.

The clean up must start among ourselves.


While in the classroom, once upon a time, I had a male student ‘yell out’ that he was ‘Black and proud’.  Of course, his GPA was somewhere below a D level, and he had disciplinary record as long as my leg.  I just HAD to smile at his sheer ignorance.

Long ago, a local doctor in my town commented on the youth of the eighties.  To paraphrase:  “It’s not enough to be ‘Black and proud’.  You have to live an upright life and have your individual actions ‘back up’ your words.”

His wisdom seems to have bypassed some in our current decade.

Now, I have never been a fan of cornrows for boys.  I am less of a fan for the diamond earring (a.k.a. ‘stud’ or ‘studs’) in the earlobe for boys.  I am least of all enamored with a young man who has cornrows AND earrings.  Then, there are the associated ‘sagging’ pants, tats, and color scheme associated with gang life.  There’s just something creepy about stuff like that.  Nuff said.

The sad thing?  Parents who think that it is ‘cool’ to let their sons go about the town looking like throwbacks to preschool–with the emotional stability to match.  Of course, you can’t correct young people today, let alone their parents, because feelings are so ‘easily’ hurt.

Let me clue you to something, parents:  If you won’t correct your own sons (and daughters), don’t expect those of us in positions of authority to do your job.  We’ll just let your son slide on down the tubes and give our wisdom to those young men who not only want it…they’ll do something with it once they receive it.

Is that Black enough for you?


I realize that we are only talking about a small universe of knuckleheads that won’t get with the program.  Unfortunately, the mainstream press uses that ‘small’ universe to represent ‘us’ to the larger universe, further locking in a stereotype.  Many parents haven’t learned the lesson about ‘Black pride’ that our elders tried to get through to them:  Lessons which other races have not only learned, but capitalized upon.

Let me give you a ‘for instance.’

Modern Latino music, when it first burst upon the scene in the mid-eighties, could not gain acceptance into the mainstream.  Did the Latinos stage a ‘sit in’?  No.  They understood basic economic thought.  The worked with EACH OTHER.  They pooled their money and talent and did their OWN music awards in their OWN electronic and written media.  The result?  Eventually, the established music hierarchy ‘discovered’ Latino music.  Soon, all Latino music was held to be ‘cool’.  Now you have ALL actors and actresses (who want to make a buck) learning how to speak Spanish, because the Latino culture OWNS its image!

Say what you may about my example; many of us will have to admit–thanks to Latinos being; a) proud of who they are, and; b) stressing an education to their young men–more of them are going to college and know how to carry themselves in public.

They have mastered how to keep their own image in a sea of stereotyping.  More importantly, their young men are STILL represented as being young men.


To my young brothers:  It’s not who can yell the loudest or waive a gun in the streets who is counted a man; it’s the brother who has the skills AND the wisdom to W-O-R-K!  Your Mama may think that you are ‘cute’ at 3-4 or 5 with those cornrows in your hair.  Maybe you were.  But, at 13-14-15?  Nope…not cute but pathetic!  Among the brotherhood, you won’t get much training or sympathy because you haven’t be emotionally strengthened to deal with the ‘knocks’ that life has in store for young Black men in general, and MEN in particular.  When an employer sees you coming in the door with cornrows, no matter how many brothers who are ‘on’ the job with them–they have stopped their financial progress.

Cornrows spell out ‘Do Not Promote Me’ in big, loud letters, no matter how cute they may look on a screen or a video. You don’t look like the work culture, and you won’t be given the respect that you are due.  Economics and respect go hand-in-glove.

The style of Black hair used to be the fro.  Now, it’s low, lean and clean.  On the campus, the classroom or the job, MEN dress to impress, period.  MEN have the skills to ‘back up’ their work record with their style and pride.  No wannabes need apply for a man’s job in a depression–until they grow up, take a good look in a mirror and determine who they are–and whom they want to represent:  Adulthood–or adolescence.

Young brothers: your economic future hinges upon the answer you choose.

RAMEY is the Pastor of The Forward Church, Indianapolis, Indiana. THE MANHOOD LINE appears on fine websites and gracious blogs around the world.  To correspond, email  © 2010 Mike Ramey/Barnstorm Communications.

8 Responses to “MEMO: FROM BOYS INTO–GIRLS?”

  1. Amen to that !
    Pastor Ramey, in a very real sense, Booker T Washington preached this same message a century ago, but too many black “leaders” back in the day, (and even today) felt they had to discredit his life and legacy to gain acceptance.
    We are working hard to change that perception, so that Booker T’s message of personal responsibility, economic independence, and good moral character will finally take root … even among the ‘knuckleheads’ (great term, Mike).
    I recently published a booklet, “Booker T. Washington – American Hero” send me your mail address, and I’ll get some to you right away.

    • Agree with you, Ron! Buzz me at my email so I can send my snail mail address. I know MORE than a few teens that have need. PS: Washington was ahead of his time; and so is Gary Johnson!

  2. “Long ago, a local doctor in my town commented on the youth of the eighties. To paraphrase: “It’s not enough to be ‘Black and proud’. You have to live an upright life and have your individual actions ‘back up’ your words.”

    This is the truth right here!

  3. Ed: Glad to see the brotherhood is up EARLY this morning. Appreciate the comments. Seems we have to re-introduce truth every ten years or so. To rephrase a quote from Gil Scott Heron: “Truth is no rerun, brother…Truth is LIVE!”

  4. I don’t think Charlize Theron degraded white people or South Africans by playing a terrible person in Monster, so I don’t see why roles portrayed by Denzel and Halle should degrade all black people. I also think the lead actor for the Karate Kid has had long hair in every movie and didn’t want to cut it, so the concession was cornrows.

  5. dude you are truly off the rocker, corn rows bro, something that comes from african history let me give you a little info bro.

    Cornrow Curves Cross the Middle Passage
    “The slaves that worked inside the plantation houses were required to present a neat and tidy appearance… so men and women often wore tight braids, plaits, and cornrows (made by sectioning the hair and braiding it flat to the scalp). The braid patterns were commonly based on African tradition and styles. Other styles Blacks wore proved to be an amalgam of traditional African styles, European trends, and even Native American practices (Byrd and Tharps 2001 pp.13-14).”

    From Civil War to Civil Rights
    In the 1950s, the revolts against colonialism in Africa and the stirrings of a new cultural politics in America inspired alternatives to straightening techniques. Black artists, scholars, and activists began to look toward African styles. One of the first to make a trip to Africa was artist John Biggers. He realized that the cornrow styles he had seen growing up in North Carolina were actually survivals of African tradition. In his book of drawings that he published from this trip he writes: “Many West African hair styles are worn by Negro women in the United States, including this one—“cornrows.” The hair is greased, combed, and tightly plaited. The ends of the hair that fall upon the neck are tied by a string. The comb has been carved from hard wood” (Biggers pg 99).

    Im a 31 yr old husband and father of 4, a deacon at my church, work with children and I have corn rows… oh yeah i have earrings too. But India Arie said it best I am not my hair. People like you degrading our culture are the ones that make it bad for the young brothers who are good kids but have braids because they are stereotyped.

    • Reall? Well, everyone is entitled to their opinion! However, ‘cornrows’ didn’t exist in the African American community prior to the 1980s…or at least not in the mainstream. Now, braiding the hair of young black men does go as far back as Buckwheat and the ‘Jim Crow’ era of American entertainment. As a matter of fact, it could be said that putting Black boys in braids in the USA goes back to the Slavery era to attempt to feminize them. I don’t have time to compare brainpans. What I do know about the Bible? Jesus and the apostles didn’t wear earrings or braids. Since we are under the New Covenant, and the OT is still ‘on time’ about ‘blurring’ the sexes…I would suggest you read your Bible, and follow it.

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