In both films, we see a binary within black masculinity: religious and secular. Religious characters, though respected by the community, are judged by the more radical black men because of their tie to the white man’s religions because of the overarching belief that this tie to whiteness holds them to a lower standard of masculinity with Duff describing Josie’s dad as “half a man”. However, in both films, men that go against the grain and push back on religion are seen as too radical, and still struggle to fit the status quo expectations of masculinity with the woman in the waiting office remarking that “I wasn’t goin’ long with the preacher at first but now..” The notes speak of moving to a newer different kind of masculinity within the black man that both encourages himself and his community, one that is a blend between the binary versions of masculinity that we see in both films.
As I read, I questioned why must concepts of black masculinity be so polarized, and why must our community cling so tightly to binaries of what a man looks like; we see examples of this when Octavia tells James to “put his collar back down, because “[he’s] not a bum” but a man instead. Is there not room for black men to not always be so tough strong and willing to bear the storm? I also wonder if this binary has an association with the prevalence of violence in showings of masculinity. Whenever there is frustration relating to masculinity in either films it resorts to violence, with the preacher, hitting the intellectual to assert dominance after feeling emasculated in front of the people in the waiting room, and Duff pushing Josie when he is struggling to meet the sociocultural expectations of what black men should be for their families. I question, does this violence resort from the feeling of confinement within the sociocultural expectations of what black men should act like? And is the source of these sociocultural expectations more intra-racial, showcased through Josie’s dad asking Duff “how are you going to support your family” when Duff’s out of a job, or interracial, and caused in response to what white people think of the black community? In the end I question, have we served our black men well, by conditioning such confined definitions of masculinity? My vote is No.