I'm all for pushing black progression and expression, but not at the blind ignorance of our current situation.
Recently, liberal black bloggers and social media has proliferated this sudden rise of the "#Carefreeblackboy movement" -- a growing sign of brothers living their lives more openly than ever before.
Some say it is pushing back against the stereotypes of black masculinity when Jaden Smith decides to openly wear a dress in public. Others say it is redefining black creativity when other artists and talents such as Frank Ocean, Jussie Smollett and many others choose to adapt to this arguably "radical" sense of creative exploration.
But please note that those who have become the face of this movement are wealthy and live with a level of privilege that protects them from the various dangers and social barriers that most young black boys face everyday. Even the slightest sense of fun, such as having a pool party, seems to have harsh consequences for everyday black children.
It would be foolish and reckless to act as though such freedoms can be afforded to lower-income black males who are already targeted when acting quite conventionally. Furthermore, to not acknowledge that the current #Carefreeblackboy movement is not a euphemism for rich black men who can afford to do whatever they want safely is inconsiderate and problematic to black survival as well.
Let's get something clear -- young black boys would love to the have the freedom and luxury to not censor their talk and fashion like their white counterparts. I grew up not understanding why I couldn't wear Nike Air Force Ones with my suits like I saw Usher do once on the red carpet. My younger brother wanted to dye his hair gray like Sisqo back in his hey-day, but my mother wouldn't approve.
Because at the end of the day, poor black boys can't get internships or jobs with those kinds of looks. Jaden can get a movie role at his father's referral in an instant. Jussie has enough followers and a publicist who can have his back.
Who was going to have ours?
When I went to college, my fine Ivy League education at Penn afforded me the chance to be more creative and hippie. My freshman year, I dawned a gold leotard with zebra stripped cloth for a toga party. I felt safe, carefree and elite... something I hadn't had the chance to feel if I ever repeated similar actions back home on the Southwest side of Houston, Texas.
It was not until late that night I stepped away from the party to get something to eat at a McDonald's nearby in West Philly that I reminded of this.
Automatically, I heard the homophobic and sexist insults; I actually had some try to approach me in a threatening manner. Meanwhile, there was a police car parked that didn't even intervene until they saw other white boys and girls dressed similarly that they decided to step in.
My "carefree" black boy moment wasn't what saved me... it was the white privilege around me that did.
Jaden has a bodyguard with him every time he decides he wants to put flowers on top of his head. He doesn't have to walk across a street at 3 a.m. in the hood alone. Nor does he have to fear law enforcement the same way I do.
Jussie can sing at the top of his lungs while driving because if he does get stopped, it will garner attention in the media. Only if I am shot dead unarmed that it might get the same level of press for me.
What we need to reevaluate when forming such vapid movements and trying to align them with the overall narrative of black progress is that class privilege and commercial capitalism is often a nasty vessel that makes these parallels hard to make.
You cannot tell me in one breath that such celebrities are starting a movement that can inspire many black boys in America, without acknowledging the unequal level of protection and privilege the former has in this scenario.
It's almost like bashing lower-income blacks for not eating organic, when many of them are placed in food deserts. You cannot call for a carefree black boy movement until you call for the dismantling of the systemic barriers that actually hold them back from such expression.
It's not as simple as making a snap choice. It's political, economical, social, spiritual and any other intrinsic intuitional set up that the rich can override any time they choose.
So let's call it for what it truly is: a #carefreerichblackboy movement. Because until Frank Ocean has to be accountable for the jobs he doesn't get for dressing the way he freely chooses... then he's out of touch with the real hurdles black men like him elsewhere have to face.
Looking back at where I am today, I have afforded myself some room to be a carefree black boy. I'm not rich, but I don't live the life that I grew up from, if that makes sense. But it's not worth it when even college educated brothers like Martese Johnson had to wait months before careless charges were dropped after enduring a reckless bloody arrest over an ID issue.
I think that as black young lives continue to be discarded while some of these celebrities attempt to make attention-seeking fashion statements, I will focus my energies on being the radical black man that I know I can be instead.
Because there is too much going on in our community to simply be "carefree." I won't even pretend to have the white privilege to be so when so many lives need to be healed, liberated and saved.
At 23, I'm so over visibility movements -- let's push for the more proactive ones.