Prompt #3

I agree with Armengol’s thesis. Baldwin uses the perception of gay men as “less manly” to highlight the idea that black people are less human than white people. For example, when David sleeps with Joey, his thoughts highlight a fear of being gay:

“The power and the promise and the mystery of that body made me suddenly afraid. The body suddenly seemed the black opening of a cavern in which I would be tortured till madness came, in which I would lose my manhood” (9).

David associates “manhood” with heterosexuality. Joey is a threat to David. He sexually awakens David, and helps him realize his attraction to men. Likewise, Joey is likely a man of color with dark, curly hair, dark eyes, and dark skin (8). After their encounter, David and his schoolmates pick on Joey until Joey moves away. David picks on Joey to deal with his own insecurity about his masculinity. In the same way, in the culture we live in, blackness can be seen as a threat to whiteness. An online article discussing the preference of “African-American” to “Black” comments

“Perhaps Blackness really does conjure visions of insurrectionary dark-skinned people ready to revolt against the violent machinations of whiteness” (Brittney Cooper).

Blackness is different, and for so much of history, it has been less than whiteness. The idea that white people may not be the majority forever is threatening. People with their own unrestrained identities are perceived as dangerous if they deviate from the norms of society.

David finds solace in the idea of having a family.

“I wanted children. I wanted to be inside again, with the light and safety, with my manhood unquestioned, watching my woman put my children to bed…I wanted a woman to be for me a steady ground, like the earth itself, where I could always be renewed…It only demanded a short, hard strength for me to become myself again” (104).

Being a husband and father enforces his masculinity both to himself and to other people. Yet, being publicly gay and pursuing a life with Giovanni (or any man) deviates from social norms and thus, destroys his perceived masculinity.

Blackness may be perceived as hyper-masculine, but it is also seen as animalistic. According to one study,

“Instead of faces, participants saw a list of stereotypically White or Black names. Then they viewed a video with a gorilla in it. Only 45% of the participants exposed to the White names noticed the gorilla. But 70% of the participants who saw the Black names noticed the gorilla” (Alison Perlberg).

People subconsciously perceive Black people as more “ape-like”. Black people are (seen as) closer to animals than white people, which enforces the idea that whiteness is superior. In the same way, gayness is shunned in order to promote existing notions of heterosexism.

-M

African American vs. Blackness source: http://www.salon.com/2015/03/04/it%E2%80%99s_the_blackness_that_scares_everybody_why_white_people_favor_african_americans/

Ape association survey source: http://gender.stanford.edu/news/2011/continued-dehumanization-blacks

 

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