Bryant Cross, Contributor
I don’t know if this blog will ever come across the eyes of Richard Sherman, but if it does I just want to say –
Thank you Sherman for violating the G-Code (that’s a euphemism for “the gangsta-code”) yesterday in your post-game interview.
Now the G-Code is a bit 80’s & 90’s in language, so ya’ll may not know what I’m referring to so let me break it down. According to urban dictionary (which believe it or not is a more reliable source for urban definitions than Merriam-Webster’s meaning of “twerking”), the G-Code is:
1. Set of rules to live by; a code of conduct for surviving on the streets
2. The G-code is a set very basic rules that if you follow very carefully, you will have the upper hand on anyone who means to do you harm. it is not so much a secret, as a humble understanding of the ways of the world [emphasis mine].
3. Stayin true to tha streets. A way of life. Street culture.
Now in the G-Code, there are many rules you must live by. One of them, for example, is not snitching. But a core tenant of the code is to never show emotion. Many in contemporary times call it “the cool pose.” Ever noticed how when a brotha takes a photo he tries to look at tough as he can? He’ll usually lean back, puff up his chest and resist every urge to smile to take a photo.
It’s all part of the code – don’t show emotions. Be tough. Don’t let anyone affect you.
The underline fallacy of that though, is to believe that emotions make you soft. That emotions are not “tough”. While white Twitter world was calling Sherman a thug, Black Twitter world was ridiculing Sherman for “being all in his feelings” and for “Draking” (a new euphemism for showing emotions as a Black man). Now I can care less about what white Twitter says, for I’ve learned recently that no matter what racism will always dehumanize, demonize, and infantize people of color – no matter what. I’ve bowed out of the game of defending Black life to white folks who will choose to be racist no matter what truth is presented to them. What I am more interested in now is redefining Black masculinity for the empowerment and social-uplift of our own community. With that being said, let me ask you a question…
When was the last time you can recall a Black man being honest, raw, and expressive about his emotions publicly? Seriously, I’ll give you some time to reflect and answer this question to yourself…..
If you’re like me, the last time you can recall a Black man being so raw in his emotions publicly is when Morris Chestnut, aka Lance Sullivan, broke down in intense tears at the burial site of his wife in Best Man Holiday. Of course, that was a fictional character. But that was honestly all I can come up with. Maybe you’re better than me and was able to think of a more relevant event. Point being, seeing a Black man being publicly emotional is a rare sighting. Very rare.
When you research the communicative practices of “being hard” you find its roots in slavery. When I read the slavery accounts of former slaves (like Frederick Douglas) I’ve learned that being hard, not showing emotions, was a way of surviving for you & your family. The more you screamed, the more the master whipped. The harder he whipped too. Black pain excited racist action (and still does today). As a Black man, the more you showed pain, the longer the master would continue to rape your wife, sister, cousin, friend, etc. If you remember 12 Years a Slave, Solomon Nortman bites his lip as the slaveholder raped Patsey outside the cabin. That biting of the lip, that pushing down of pain, anger & hurt – for Black men AND women – was the only way of dealing with things.
This became true during Jim Crow, the 80’s & 90’s. If you showed too much emotion, you could excite a cop to beat & kill you then say “I felt threatened” (hell lets be real, that still happens today). Being hard has been a way for Black men to survive for years. But doesn’t just apply to those urban environments. That brotha in the suit & tie, that has an office in cooperate America, lives this way too. He too must hide his emotions, put on a smile, and keep his mouth shut about what really bothers him if he wants to advance or flat out keep his job. He would never, ever, keep it real on the job…
Now don’t take that last video literally. It’s comedy so many things are exaggerated. Of course, when a Black man chooses to keep it real, it won’t always be about anger & violence. But even if it was about that, shouldn’t a person who has been always forced to be someone other than himself while living in an environment that mocks, threatens, and belittles his life be a little angry?
Sherman did something radical. Something I’ve always said Obama & Drake have been doing for the last two years – carving out a public space where Black men can be vulnerable, honest, and…a little emotional. Flat out, they’re making Black men appear as humans.
I remember when Obama got honest in an impromptu speech about how racism has affected his life in light of the George Zimmerman verdict. Then his tears during Sandy Hook. Then his frustrated comments towards Congress during his many speeches and addresses. Or the time a woman was passing out right behind him during his speech and he broke protocol and helped her. He cracks jokes, throws jabs, and gets frustrated – all while in the public eye.
Back in the 90’s, 50 Cent destroyed Ja-Rule for his emotional songs about love, heartbreak, & desire and not being the tough, street rapper that hip-hop was used to. 50 Cent’s first album cover was a portrait of himself; sagging jeans, du-rag, gun holster, no shirt, and a bullet hole. Many have argued that the tough image captures the idea of Black masculinity like no other:
A man like that doesn’t admit that someone has hurt their feelings. A man like that doesn’t admit that someone has gotten to him. A man like that keeps his cool, doesn’t break protocol. A man like that will resolve his conflicts with violence because talking about your problems is not cool. A man like that sticks to the G-Code.
Unfortunately, a man like that also gets bullet holes.
Times are changing and it’s time that Black men adjust, and that the world lets us. I think all the emotional shots towards Drake is only because we wish we could be just as brave. As Dr. Brené Brown writes in her book Daring Greatly:
Vulnerability is not weakness, and the uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure we face every day are not optional. Our only choice is a question of engagement. Our willingness to own and engage with our vulnerability determines the depth of our courage and the clarity of our purpose; the level to which we protect ourselves from being vulnerable is a measure of our fear and disconnection (pg. 2)
So I personally want to thank Richard Sherman. Ain’t nothing wrong with admitting that what someone has said gotten to you. Ain’t nothing wrong with “being in your feelings”. Ain’t nothing wrong with “Draking”. If you’re angry, speak that. If you’re hurt, speak that. If you’re proud, speak that. Be the full human that God has made you, and my prayer is that as you continue to be who you are – it will in someway give other Black men the permission they feel they need to be vulnerable as well.
This is not about what is sportsmanlike conduct or not. This is not about what white Twitter world thinks. This is about Black men letting go of the G-Code amongst ourselves. This is about creating a time where Black men are praised for their vulnerability instead of shamed. We need to separate who we are as men, from what we do to survive in a world that hates us. The G-Code works in some ways, but we should’ve never defined our masculinity by it. I’m sure that if our Black boys didn’t feel shame to admit that someone has hurt their feelings, that someone has pissed them off – then less guns would be used to resolve conflict.
With that being said, thank you Richard Sherman for that moment of vulnerability.
And death to the G-Code.
Happy Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.