What’s Sex Got to do with Michael Brown?

If you’ve been keeping up with the news, whether through twitter,CNN,Fox, etc., you’ve heard about the unjustified murder of the Ferguson, Missouri resident Michael Brown was 18 years old. “Mike” Brown was shot several times by a white police officer although he was unarmed. So, how does this relate to sex?

Sex is defined as the biological and physiological characteristics that define men and women. In today’s society, sex is seen as parallel to gender (though technically, that isn’t true) which results in those who appear to be men being labeled masculine and those who appear to be women being labeled as feminine.

Since the 1860s, black men have been viewed as violent, hypersexual, and aggressive. Thus black masculinity has come to be viewed in the same way.  The media’s  portrayal and the continuous criminalization of black male bodies have affected both the livelihood of black men and the attitudes of society. Everyone is entitled to his/her own opinions; opinions are not problematic. However, the issue takes place when these instilled notions that black  men are violent and aggressive are acted upon in manners that result in fatalities as was the case in the murder of 18 year old Mike Brown.

Allegedly, Mike Brown was shot because he assaulted a police officer. However, what I find most troubling about this case is that the officer fired several shots which is in a sense reckless. Why is it necessary to fire 6 shots at an unarmed individual? As a matter of fact, why was it necessary to fire a single shot when I know that officers carry tasers?

I think that this can be explained by examining the history of black masculinity. Though I am not excusing Darren Wilson’s (the officer) behavior, I think that the portrayal of black masculinity played a major role in this murder. Because society has been conditioned to view masculinity on black male bodies as threatening,the presence of a black man incites fear in many members of society. In my opinion, this was the case in the murder of Brown.

Even after his death, the media found a way to continually portray Mike Brown as a “thug”, thus feeding into the notion that black masculinity is indeed threatening and should be policed by other men. In this case, I think that the white officer displayed what we learned to be hegemonic masculinity. Though hegemonic masculinity is normally associated in relation to encounters between men and women, I think that the idea can be applied to this situation as well; men typically like to exercise their power on those beings they view as subordinate and deviant which is they way society has been accustomed to view black masculinity.

Michael Brown was a being that projected masculinity on a black body.  Though masculinity is typically seen as the center of the social norm from which everything else deviates, it is interesting to learn that not all forms of masculinity are accepted. So, what does this say about masculinity? Whose masculinity is acceptable, and what makes certain individual’s masculinity more legitimate and powerful than others’? What form(s) of masculinity is/are acceptable? Further more, who is even allowed to express masculinity?

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2 thoughts on “What’s Sex Got to do with Michael Brown?

  1. This resonated with me immensely because of my own experiences. I thankfully haven’t been impacted by racism through violence, but have experienced my fair share of people placing me into social, and intellectual, categories because of my race. As a black male attending an elite PWI, I often get the question “What sport do you play?” when telling people that I attend Vanderbilt. Some people are taken back, even widening their eyes, when I explain that I am merely a scholar. This is problematic for multiple reasons, and while I could go on a tangent about the implications of their question and expression…lets just say that it does not sit well with me.

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