I have a lot of men in my family. One brother, a few uncles, some nephews and a whole bunch of cousins. I love them all, but I really don’t have a lot in common with any of them.
And this applies to me from their perspective as well. I’m sure from their perspective, their gay (brother, uncle, nephew, cousin) isn’t really the most relatable person in the clan. However, many of them don’t even know I’m gay, and if they do (or suspect), I’m not vocal or outwardly gay around them. It just never comes up, neither by me or them. What I do project is success, intelligence, love of family, the ability to talk to anyone on their level and generosity.
My younger brother is great and I love him…Our father passed away when we were very young so we he kinda only had me to look to when he was growing up. Not to brag, but I think he had a decent role model with me. I never got into trouble, did well in school, went to college, started a career early and became pretty successful at it (well, at least enough to support myself).
But besides our mother, his marriage, two kids and frivolous pop culture, we don’t have a lot to talk about with each other on a non-superficial level. He’s religious, I’m not. He doesn’t really talk politics past the news headlines. We can’t discuss my dating (or lack thereof) since he’s straight. He doesn’t really drink and he no longer “turns up.” And although he has a great full time job, he’s constantly broke, borrowing money from me or our mother.
I have a bigger social media following than my 21-yr-old introverted rapper nephew. He gets zero replies or likes, yet he posts 5x more than me…If he’s not reposting memes, he rants about girls and all his “haters.” If I comment on one of his posts/photos, he deletes the whole post/photo by the end of the day. I get it, Unc might embarrass you to your friends…but with no other likes or comments, clearly no one else is checking for what you have to say, Neph.
I love the dude, but I do wish he was a bit more scholarly, sociable and extroverted. Same with my 15-yr-old nephew. He has no interests, goals or hobbies besides eating and watching YouTube. Typical for a teenager, but usually you see some signs of who they will be as adults around that age.
They both just kinda take up space. Nowadays, I see so many 16 to 21 year olds who are HUNGRY AF. They are business owners, collegiate scholars, musicians, athletes, articulate advocates for causes, party promoters, YouTubers and Podcasters, etc.
Not all young Black men will be Marques Brownlee, but can I at least get my nephews to rise to Chief Keef status, building a successful career while on house arrest?
Say what you will about Meek Mill and Chief Keef, they put in a lot of WORK. After buying him equipment to make music, I asked my aspiring rapper nephew to send me some tracks to forward to a colleague who could help him get exposure (something he says he desperately needs help with). After getting no response for over 24 hours (he keeps his phone on him at all times), he informed me that he (coincidently) just had a hard drive crash so he lost all of his music. I can’t imagine even Meek or Keef having the same response when they were as young as 16 years old.
There’s still hope for my youngest nephews (under 6 years old), and I haven’t given up on the older ones, but I hope one of them turn out to be something more than just alcoholic baby making machines.
My Uncles have never been traditional Uncles. None of them have ever done anything for me in my entire life. Not even just gifts, even just advice or being much needed male role models after my father passed away when I was a pre-teen. If anything, all I was taught (by example) was to not do crack cocaine (middle uncle) and, if possible, cut off your entire family and create a new one (oldest uncle).
Even to this day, I don’t have a relationship with any of them besides cordial “hellos” at family functions. Just last summer, one of my uncles bragged about having a “good job” making $12/hr (without benefits) in a 100˚ industrial factory (youngest uncle, still older than me). Without any living grandparents, I don’t have any older men in my family to look up to.
Pretty much all of my male cousins are typical blue collar midwesterners, hourly factory jobs are seen as “winning.” Conversations consist of liquor, weed, hoes and “getting money.” They all say they want to come to Atlanta, not to network or look for career opportunities…they want to go to the strip clubs and go “where the hoes at, cuz?”
There is ONE male cousin (my favorite), about 8 years younger, who is dope AF. He has a well paid engineering job in addition to owning several businesses around the country. He’s smart, articulate, a master at code-switching and has traveled the world way more than I have. The diamond in the rough. Even his own brothers are nothing like him.
The women aren’t that much better, only one or two of them are close to Michelle Obama territory (intelligent, successful, articulate women who can hold their own in a board room as well as a backyard barbecue). At the end of the day, I do love all of my family. The hood fabulous and all.
And I’m not saying that I expect all the men in my family to be molded out of a cookie-cutter Black Millennial web series spinoff of Dear White People where everyone causally quotes Friedrich Nietzsche, Tupac Shakur and Steve Jobs in the same freestyled monologue about Technology, Politics and Race in America:
No I don’t expect this (it would be nice though), but I do kinda wish I could go to a family reunion or gathering and be in awe about how dope and inspiring the Black men in my family were, both young and old.