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Great to See Men Being Their Brothers' Keepers

by Todd A. Smith

 

 

My Brother’s Keeper: Survival is not Healing


I am not a psychologist; therapist or counselor and I do not pretend to be.


But it does not take a professional to see that some Black men have never probably learned how to deal with the trauma and pain of life.


Therefore, many Black men need a reality check because survival does not equal healing and seeking help does not make a person weak.


Over the last week, several mental health care crises have affected several prominent African-American male celebrities.


After making anti-Semitic comments in an interview with Professor Griff, formerly of rap group Public Enemy, and Nick Cannon’s subsequent apology, the successful television personality, comedian and rapper received backlash from the Jewish community as well as the African-American community.


Comments that Cannon made on social media after some in the African-American community called him a sell out, had many of his fans believing that the star was contemplating suicide.


Superstar rapper and producer Kanye West allegedly had a bipolar meltdown leading to his controversial run for the presidency in the midst of promoting his upcoming album, “DONDA: With Child.”


While West’s outlandish behavior in the past produced ridicule and criticism, his latest episode has resulted in empathy, which is a good thing.


In the back of my mind, it is possible that his latest episodes are a publicity stunt to promote his upcoming album.


But what if it is not a ploy?


What if West is crying out for help but people ignore the cries?


I would rather err on the side of caution then to live with regret.


But that is why it was good to see celebrities come to assist Cannon and West.


Comedian Dave Chappelle and entertainment executive Damon Dash reportedly flew out to Wyoming to spend time with West, while celebrities like comedian/actor Cedric the Entertainer posted messages of support to Cannon via social media.


Like any other community, the African-American community has many flaws.


One of the biggest flaws is that our men were always taught not to heal, only to survive.


Whatever problems life threw at us, we were taught to push through.


Death.


Financial woes.


Racism.


Marital infidelity.


Dysfunctional family life.


Police abuse.


No matter what form the trials and tribulations manifested, African-American men were taught to persevere and that is good in some ways.


However, perseverance without replacing the pain can become extremely problematic.


Yes, all people should persevere through life’s adversities.


But what happens when one overcomes an obstacle?


What happens when one perseveres through racism and discrimination?


What happens after we survive our encounters with some bad police officers?


While we need perseverance to accomplish our goals, if we do not deal with the problems we had to overcome to reach success, those problems only fester and become much worse.


But mental health awareness and having an outlet to vent is crucial to African-American men, especially, because no matter what we accomplish in life we still have to deal with the nonsense that comes with being an African-American male.


We cannot take out our frustrations in the workplace.


We cannot take out our frustrations when we have run-ins with law enforcement.


African-American men have to be the epitome of strength, respect and meekness all day, everyday just to survive in this country.


Having to live 24/7 while putting on a façade cannot be healthy at all.


Therefore, it is crucial that African-American men have people that they can voice their pain to.


Sometimes, an African-American man cannot even do that with his own spouse or significant other because of the need to provide strength and resolve for those in his circle looking for guidance and leadership.


Recently, some of my fraternity brothers were there for another fraternity brother who had gotten bogged down with the struggles of life.


Twenty years ago someone might have brushed off his cries for help with a laugh.


Now, brothers rushed to his aid giving him helpful advice and wisdom to navigate the roller coaster called the human existence.


But on the flip side of that coin is a tragic incident that happened to a fraternity brother of mine that I did not personally know.


During a Zoom conference call, a fraternity brother asked us to pray for one of our brothers because his grown son had just committed suicide.


Although life’ struggles are not simple to solve, would he still be here if he had someone to talk to about his struggles?


Did he feel comfortable discussing his doubts and pain without fear of condemnation?


Having people to console him might have made the difference between life and death for that man.


Despite what men will tell people, every one of us has had our moments of despair.


Those moments when we thought that our pain would never end.


All men, and women for that matter, have had those moments when we felt like a failure because our life and goals had not progressed as fast as we would like.


But any man that has overcome those doubts knows that it always gets greater later.


Those who know that it gets greater later, and know that this too shall pass, need to reach out to our brothers struggling with the harshness of life.


We have to let them know that we are our brothers’ keepers.


Many of us cannot afford a real therapist.


Some still feel that seeking professional help is still taboo.


But it should never be taboo to be a listening ear to one of our brothers trying to stay in the fight when their demons are telling them to throw in the towel.


We might not all be therapists or professional counselors, but we are all brothers and if one of our brothers is in trouble we have to do our part to keep them.


This article was published on Friday 24 July, 2020.
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