Men with My Skin

Updated: Feb 7, 2020

Here we were again – another movie; another partially true story. I feel that same question rising up within me. Those same feelings of fury, distrust, depression, and confusion. There’s another whip across the back; another blind eye to the obvious path to justice. I watch and ask myself, afraid to say it out loud and give it life. Why do they hate us so much?

I blame these actors for being so good at telling these wicked stories. I see the hurt in their eyes and I cry. I hear the frustration and desperation in their voices and I shake. I feel the curse of my skin as I rub it, this time watching Just Mercy. I’m supposed to be entertained and informed, but instead I’m questioning how far we have really come in my lifetime. Some of these stories started or were continuing at my birth. I am only 30 years old. 30 years ago, another brother of mine was being held on death row for no reason. They would have rather executed a Black man than the actual murderer.

What’s amazing is that it made sense. I watched, as Jesus and Barabbas was happening all over again. An innocent man was being crucified while a murderer walked free by the vote of the people. There were arguments and fighting over what was right, but to appease the people – a certain people – justice was ignored. Thankfully, McMillian was saved before buffoonery claimed his life. However, the stress alone claimed him in the end. I can’t help wondering how many men with my skin fell between the cracks.

Although I am grateful to all of the saviors of my fellow Black men, if I can be honest, I’m tired of being portrayed as this victim. I can hardly ever name a good, Black male character in film these days. We are always portrayed as playboys, thugs, African royalty, slaves, or just men having to cope with oppression. We’re never simply good men unhindered. We always have to battle and endure something. It’s not like Morgan Freeman hasn’t played God, but how many other pure roles do we occupy?

I’ve watched our riches associated to Africa or drugs, gang violence, and prostitution. I’ve seen our heroes fight local enemies but never space aliens or other sci-fi mega bosses. Did the Black Panther even land a punch on Thanos? What irritates me further is the lack of representation in fantasies, westerns, or lead roles in film that show us having the same elegance as the leads of movies like Crazy Rich Asians. How many black people sat upon thrones in Game of Thrones? In certain themes, we still disappear or are still reduced.

To be fair, it could be my point of view. Tyler Perry has created very many roles of decent Black men, and I can’t act like Bryan Stevenson wasn’t a great model in Just Mercy. There are characters that are good at heart. But as much as I hate to admit it, I miss a character like Cliff Huxtable. I miss Uncle Phil, Carl Winslow, Burton Guster, Joe Clark, Julius Clark, Ray Campbell, and some other unique characters that made me feel great about being a Black man. I felt proud.

Currently, I see all the popular shows like Power, The Chi, Snowfall, Greenleaf, Empire, Scandal, and others depict us in ways that are unfavorable. We’re always gay, submissive to our powerful black women, drug lords, gang leaders, cheaters, abusers, police targets, or slaves. We always play the servant and never the king. Our kingships are always tainted by foulness. Sometimes, I wonder if these symbolisms are all we ever display in our communities. Sometimes, I wonder if that’s all people want us to be. This keeps me feeling disconnected from my people.

I understand the characters I want offer little entertainment, but can we still see them more often? Can we see married Black men trying to better their marriage than destroy it? Can we see Black kings outside of Africa or African attire? Can we see Black priests with nothing to hide or cover up, but rather doing the will of the Lord as close to Christ as one expects? Can we see older Black men being wise and sharing their wisdom? Can we see us thriving without having to hurdle racism and systematic oppression?

I’m tired of my strength only being seen in how I push through racism. I’m tired of my marriage always being tested by adultery and greed. I am tired of seeing me interact with police and courtrooms. I am tired of seeing my home in shambles. I am so much more than a racism champion. I fight for more than my skin tone.

I believe we can be innocent. I believe we can be royalty. I believe we can be stronger than bigotry. I believe we can thrive without needing to fight the white man. I believe we are great in our own right. I believe we can protect and raise our children. I believe we can protect and love our women. I believe we can hold the highest of jobs and the most respectable positions. I believe we can be better simply because we want to be better.

I understand history needs to be remembered. I understand the stories of those times need to be told, and we need to constantly be reminded that we need to keep progressing. I understand we need to know that the racism my grandmother went through is alive for me to go through it as well. I get it, but I want better imagery for us.

The last black angels I can remember were Tess, on “Touched by an Angel”, that was played by Della Reese, and Dudley, on “The Preacher’s Wife”, played by Denzel Washington. I can’t remember seeing a black man on a throne not associated to Africa. I can’t even remember the last black millionaire or billionaire I’ve seen portrayed in film.

Can we get a Gatsby, a James Bond, an Ethan Hunt, a Katniss Everdeen, a main character Jedi, a blockbuster Enterprise captain, a major superhero (Green Lantern and Idris Elba. All I’m saying), or some other great character? Can we get a fantasy, sci-fi, romance, big business, thriller, or horror film that is just us being awesome and not a comedy? I’m not asking for our Black characters to have the same names or plotlines, but having the same affect and cultural impact would be great. I know we can do it, but I also feel like America hates us.

Can we fight something greater than systematic oppression, police, and racism? We have men battling against men suppressing emotions. We have men fighting against our children being aborted. We have men fighting to protect our black women. We have men, literally Lebron James, fighting against lack of education. We have men who have lofty dreams and big goals. We have men… that’s it. We have men. We’re not stupid, careless, or trash. We’re men.

I’m tired of always seeing us being called the weakest link. We’ve had Black Generals, Black business leaders, Black millionaires and billionaires, Black inventors, Black Geniuses, Black husbands and fathers, and even a Black President. We are far from the weakest link, and the very second we stop allowing ourselves to believe what the police, the media, or film say about us we’ll be great.

I am not above being wrong. If I’m misunderstanding the trend, please point out some of the greater characters you’ve seen this decade – not typical, but great. If I’ve missed pure characters, let me know. House of Payne (and associated spinoffs), Blackish (and associated spinoffs), and This is Us are all I can think of when it comes to remembering good, Black men in today’s active shows. I’m not asking for perfection. I’m asking for us to be represented by those who are trying to prove we can be great. I’m tired of what I’ve been seeing us portrayed as. I long for the good to become the norm..

Black men have to do better. I know this. I just wish we weren’t getting kicked for every mistake engrained in us from false teachings in our upbringings. If I can make it beyond it, I know all my Black brothers can as well. I know we haven’t done the greatest job for ourselves, and it shows. I won’t make excuses. I just want to see more men like me. I know I can’t be that rare or that much of an anomaly. We’ll see how long I have to wait.


Thanks for listening,


Dario Augustus

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