Missing the Black Man


One of the sights I quickly begin to miss when I’m abroad in Asia is the sight of a black man.

During routine trips to the bank or grocery store or romps around town, I find myself looking in the direction of a confidently approaching young Filipino man and thinking “he’s got Black man swag.” Or when I spot a man in the mall holding on proudly to his “bad chick,” I think to myself, “he’s holding on to her like a brotha does when he knows he’s got a good thing.” And sometimes, while carefully trying to decipher heavily accented English, I notice the round full lips of the speaker and think quietly, “he’s got Black man lips.”

Now I know these thoughts could stem from any number of things. It could simply be my frame of reference growing-up in and around Atlanta where Black men reign like evergreens. It could be that deeply rooted, hard to suppress adulation and appreciation for the creation that is unequivocally the Black man that when deprived of his presence, I cannot help but search for glimpses of him in others. Or it could be that I just need a date. Whatever the cause, the bottom line is I miss having the black man in my view, purview and peripheral.

I have always disliked the word “swag” but in this case I find it otherwise difficult to articulate in a word the disposition, mannerisms and general presence of the black man. Just think about it, his walk has its own beat. The melody is in his laugh. There is a weighted gravity in his hands while the concave of his back tells the collective story of a thousand generations. Again, his absence from my everyday is sorely missed.

As I look and the Asian men around me look back, I am reminded that I only know how this game works with the black man. He is familiar to me. When our eyes meet, there is a knowing I immediately understand. When he throws his chin in my direction from the other side of the street or tilts his head and smiles when we make introductions, I know he likes what he sees. Even the subtle, and not so subtle, way he licks his lips, I know the game has commenced. The way he spills over the sides of a chair when he’s just chillin’ versus the way he sits when he means business is language I understand.

I am now orbiting a different world where men do funny things with their eyebrows, engage in weird handshakes and lock you in a gaze I refer to as the “no-blink death stare.” Perhaps, I can learn to play a new game and learn new rules with another team but today, I really miss the black man.

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