Want to Swaddle Them and Sway to the Black Lullaby: Black Men After the Death of Kobe

Somethin’ about seeing a Black man cry cracks open the outer-layer of my soul, revealing the rawest instincts in me to rush to his side, wrap him in my arms, lay his head on my chest, pat him repeatedly on his back while I rock back-and-forth, and forth-and-back to the Black-lullaby of shh-shh and hum; and hold him so tightly that osmosis will transfer some of his pain to me.   Lord, give me the pain. I’m better equipped.

Houston Rockets guard Austin Rivers and forward P.J. Tucker react during a tribute to NBA star Kobe Bryant before an NBA basketball game against the Denver Nuggets, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020, in Denver. Bryant died in a California helicopter crash Sunday. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Hush up, boy, he’s  been told in one way or another – by his momma snatching him away from the G.I. Joe action figure displayed by the cash register at Walmart; by his daddy immediately after he’s just gotten a whoopin; by his best friend who called him a sissy when he, at 7-years-old, started to whimper after skinning his knee during a game of kickball.  The Black man has been trained to deny his own frailty, to numb himself from his own humanness.  The soundtrack of his life told him that being a man was to be emotionally impenetrable.

I ain’t no punk

So, he covers up any scars, the same way cities and towns cover gang-graffiti – coat after fresh coat of paint until the unsightly can no longer be seen and the building looks like all the rest: solid and unmarked.

But life…

Life will have storms with rains so torrential that it will strip the paint off of buildings, leaving them looking like a prostitute in a sheer dress – a thin, meaningless layer that exposes everything underneath.  Life will have storms that shift the earth and air so dramatically that buildings and the paint on them crack, buckle, and collapse into large, uneven-jagged pieces of concrete laying like undone puzzle pieces on the ground.

It’s rare, but men, sometimes become undone. 

We’ve been witnessing it – since Kobe’s passing –  the public breaking apart of Black men whose tear ducts were filled with grains of sand comprised of unreleased, salty tears. The tears have been so dammed-up, so held back — that they don’t release in drops but in sheets of wetness that cover his entire face – leaving them suddenly shiny and looking child-like.

So, we want to mother them – swaddle them in our arms.  We remember – after far too long – the humanness of our men. We remember that they need love and nurturing.  We needed the reminder; and so did they.

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About Randi B.

Randi is a diversity and inclusion strategist, speaker, trainer and writer, focusing on making connections and cultivating empathy in this diverse world one trip, speech, article, book and conversation at a time.

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