“Fam you said you’d be here at 7.30pm but it’s 9pm now?”
“Allow me, bro. I am moving on black people time.”
If I paid myself £20 every time I had this conversation with my friends, then I would probably have enough money to afford a mortgage in Chelsea.
In the black community, especially among black men, the belief that we are always late is almost treated as a universal truth. Black people always being late for work, for parties even for their own wedding is just expected because of ‘black people time’ (BPT)
Even I used to laugh about this and treat it as a joke.
Until one day something happened.
Then I realised BPT is a dangerous stereotype that is designed to stop the progress of the black community.
The insidious agenda behind the idea of ‘black people time’
It was around my mid-20s and still in the very early days of my marketing career.
Innocent-eyed and with an ‘I-ain’t-that-bothered’ attitude to work at the time, I remember consistently arriving in the office ten minutes late.
To my surprise, my colleagues, who were mostly white and middle-class, didn’t reprimand for my tardiness. Quite the opposite. They would make jokes like “Leke is late again” or “Leke, forgot to set that alarm clock again.” And me, like the mug I was at the time, would laugh with them, thinking that my co-workers didn’t mind that I was late.
In hindsight, what I realised was that they subconsciously expected me to be late based on my skin colour and instead of me to prove them wrong, I proved them right. In my naivety and foolishness, I thought I was bonding with the team when really all I was doing was confirming their preconceptions of black men as unreliable and tardy. This would have negative repercussions for me as I was overlooked for promotion on several occasions.
What we, the black community, need to understand is that some of these jokes about black people, which might appear harmless or dismissed as ‘bants’, are actually designed to paint black people in a negative light and can actually foster bias in non-black people to not give us a position because of the perceptions of us as “lazy” and “unreliable” which are reinforced by these so-called BPT jokes.
The racist origin of the term
Recently, I’ve been very curious about where the notion of BPT originated from? How did this come to characterise and popularise black people so much? Who started this propaganda?
After doing some reading around the subject I discovered that the phrase had been used as early as 1912 where it was called “coloured people time.” It was a derogatory term deriding black people as lazy.
Yet here we are in 2020, popularising the phrase and using it within the black community lightheartedly.
Now this wouldn’t be a problem if we weren’t taking it seriously.
The problem is we are taking it seriously and living by it.
Why we must not internalise black stereotypes
I’ve lost count of the number of times I have gone to black-organised events where the event has started late or, sometimes, not even started at all. Honestly, I went to Afronation last year and I was astounded, yes astounded, by how flawless the whole event was. Things happened on time!
Within the black British community, there is always this expectation that events will not go as planned and will be disorganised. As much as it pains me to admit it, for the most part, it’s true. When events don’t start on time or are disorganised, we throw our hands in the air and proclaim “black people time” and “so typical of black people” and then proceed to keep it moving as if this is just the reality of black people.
This is a significant problem that goes beyond the issue of BPT. For some reason, many of us in the black community have seen the negative characteristics that have been purposefully placed on us and then, rather than reject these proclamations against our character that are not rooted in anything scientific, we have internalised them. I am guilty of it myself.
Sometimes, it’s difficult not to internalise these negative portrayals of black people. Jokes such as BPT are reinforced by our cultural artefacts via movies, comedians and music. All these subliminal messages eventually seep into our subconscious until we begin to accept it as reality without even realising.
By accepting that ‘black people operate on their own time”, we are now holding ourselves back to progress as a people because we are allowing ourselves to think that being late or disorganised is fine – it’s just a black thing.
"...rather than reject these proclamations against our character that are not rooted in anything scientific, we have internalised them."
But by doing this, we are now collectively seen as untrustworthy and lazy, halting our progress as a people. Some of us, who do not adhere to the foolishness of BPT, now have to work even harder to fight against this negative stereotype placed on us which has also been reinforced by many of us.
So the next time you find yourself running late because of BPT really ask yourself: why you think it’s ok to be late to meetings, gatherings, parties etc? How do you think that makes you look? There is already so much working against black people's progression, does it make sense for my own development to never be on time for anything?
It’s not too late. You still have time to change (pun intended).
The biggest killer of young black men in London isn’t knife crime. It’s the absence of a positive existence.
A few days ago I read a statistic that saddened me but didn’t really surprise me.
According to Scotland Yard, almost three quarters of under 25-year olds killed in London homicides last year were from the Afro-Caribbean community.
Sir Stephen, Deputy Commissioner for Scotland yard had this to say:
“Of 149 homicide victims in 2019, 54 of them were under 25. Of those 54, 39 were from the Afro-Caribbean community, which is 72 per cent.”
Now some of us in the black community will read that statistic and instead of us to be concerned about this, we’ll either ignore it entirely or absurdly believe that Scotland Yard has fabricated the data because the establishment has an ‘agenda against black people’ which is an absolutely idiotic notion by the way.
The fact is young black men are disproportionately killing one another on the streets of London. You don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to figure it out. On an almost weekly basis now there is another tragic news story of another young black boy, often well under the age of 30, who has died from violence. Later, we find out that the perpetrators shared the same skin colour as their victim.
Yet knife crime isn’t the biggest killer of young black men in London.
Do you know what is?
The lack of a positive existence.
Everyone in our lives (and those absent from our lives), everything we see and everything we experience moulds us, like clay, into the person we are going to become, whether we realise it or not.
For many, not all, black boys growing up in London, they are living in and shaped by a negative environment both internally and externally. The statistics only reinforce this.
Let’s look at the negative internal factors first. It’s been widely reported and proven that many black households are single-parent ones. In fact black households have the highest proportion of lone parents at 13%. Single black mothers often raise their sons without a father present in the home and if he is somewhat in the picture, the father himself is rarely effective as he himself is a lost and irresponsible man, disheartened and angry about the lack of opportunities in the UK. It’s a generational curse that sadly hasn’t been broken – lost black men giving birth to sons who are statistically likely to grow up to be just as lost as their fathers.
My life would have been very different, and not in a good way, if my father had not been in my life. He was and still is a hardworking and responsible man till this day. As any African young man can relate, my father sometimes beat me, shouted at me and punished me severely to the point where I disliked him occasionally.
However, my father’s harsh discipline was necessary. By being strict, especially when I was displaying signs of bad behaviour that many boys begin to exhibit during our formative years, my father taught me to respect authority and the importance of hard work. Many of the black boys who kill other boys, black or otherwise, lack both the mentality of working hard and the importance of respecting authority simply because they’ve had no father figure to show them the way.
Boys will always seek out a father figure. If their father isn’t around who do you think they are going to turn to? Often, it’s going to be the older men in their council flat or at school who are living a negative experience to make money. Being young and impressionable, these young boys will model their masculinity on the behaviour of older, criminalised black men. Again, it’s generational cycle.
Now this isn’t to say that mothers cannot raise black boys by themselves. I have seen, even within my own family, black mothers step up and raise their sons very well. But, on the flip side, I have also witnessed, within my family, black mothers failing to raise their sons well and not because they were bad mothers, but because they simply lacked the faculties to teach a boy how to behave like a responsible man.
If we move on to the external factors, of which they are many and complex, therefore beyond the scope of this blog, we can also see the negative aspects of our wider society which often propels young black men into a life of crime, violence and drugs.
Firstly, our wider black culture encourages black boys to be violent, to misbehave and to disrespect authority. Music is the biggest conduit for spreading this negative message. As much as I listen to drill music and even like it, it does sadden me that drill music has become the most popular outlet for young black boys to express their ideas and lives.
Popular drill artists like Headie One talk exclusively and excessively about drugs, girls and their perceived enemies on the streets. Drill music does not communicate a hopeful message or even discourage the ‘trapping’ lifestyle; it merely glamorises it.
All of this is compounded further because the negative perception of young black men, already reinforced by black culture, is further reinforced by much of the mainstream culture in the UK. Newspapers like The Sun or Daily Mail, two of the most popular newspapers in Britain, negatively portray young black men as either bad and if they are not bad, then they are silly or irresponsible.
And these tabloid newspapers can boldly make these claims and even back them up because young black men, shaped by the negative experiences of their internal lives and encouraged externally to criminalise their lives through messages communicated through our black cultural artefacts such as music and films, give these newspapers a lot of ammunition. As much as I loved Rapman’s Blue Story, did it really do anything to change the perception of young black men in London or did it just reinforce the negative perception of us?
There is hope and change is slowly happening
Although this article sounds like it’s all doom and gloom for young black men in London, I must remember that violence and drug dealing is not the common existence for many black men in the capital.
I know many black men within my own social circle who are doing amazingly well both professionally and in their personal lives. I’ve seen black men earn six-figure salaries in good jobs, get married and raise wonderful families.
But the problem is that these positive representations of black men are outnumbered by the negative representations both externally and internally. Strong and responsible black men are simply not visible enough in our culture but, as I said, things are starting to change. Organisations like Dope Black Dads is doing a great job of changing the narrative around black fathers and has garnered great media coverage so far.
While there is still much work to be done, I must take solace in the fact that black men are doing much better now in the UK than they were 40 years ago, even if it feels like we haven’t sometimes.
But change takes time and I remain positive. What other choice do I have? There’s enough negativity in the black community already.
London has a population of 8.9 million people. A variety of people and cultures. So much to do and so much to see.
And yet it can be one of the loneliest places to be especially as a young person.
It must have been in late 2011 when I first developed a serious case of loneliness. I was a fresh graduate and had returned to London after studying and living in Brighton for four years. When I returned to the city, a lot had changed.
The city felt unrecognisable with the influx of white middle class people (i.e. gentrification). Many of my friends had changed or stayed the same so we no longer had the connection we once shared. My girlfriend at the time was still living in Brighton. Since I don’t like long distance relationships, I broke up with her which only heightened my loneliness.
Soon, I oddly fount myself alone in a city that I had grown up in. It was a depressing period and I found myself doing a lot of silly things, partly because I was a young man but also because I was just so annoyed spending time with myself.
What loneliness means
Loneliness is described as “sadness because one has no friends or company.” It’s a condition that has become an epidemic among young people across the UK.
Despite the immense popularity of social media and all the virtual friends who follow us on these digital networks, many of us still experience acute loneliness because we don’t share any real connections with many of these people who we follow on social media.
Most of the time we follow them because they either went to our school or live in our neighbourhood, but they aren’t our friends. You could pass them on the street, and you would completely ignore them because, in real life, there is no friendship between you and them.
Why we become lonely
A lot of young people, especially those under the age of 25, have this problem I’ve described above. They are so invested in social media that they haven’t really cultivated any real relationships in the physical world. After a while, when they go outside, they realise they don’t really have any genuine friendship groups within their proximity.
Other times, loneliness can occur when you move to a new environment. Last year, I made friends with many people from all over the world who came to London. All of them have described how easy it is to become lonely in the capital. Most people in London are very guarded and stick to their own people.
London is a vast maze with pockets of different communities that are closed off to new people. It’s a city for individuals not collectives so it can be difficult to forge relationships when people living in London are so individualistic.
You can also experience loneliness when you return to a place you’re familiar with after so many years of living elsewhere. But you’ve lost touch with what’s happening as everyone has moved on without you or you’ve moved on while everyone has stayed the same. Suddenly, you no longer feel like you belong to the community you grew up in.
Being by yourself is important for your self-growth
An important lesson I learnt last year is that being alone is necessary for a period of your life.
Western society is addicted to romantic relationships. Our most popular TV shows are centred around relationships – looking at you Love Island. Our society’s fixation with relationships means that so many people are desperate to hook up with someone because the very idea of being alone or single is weird – as if it’s inhuman.
Having this mentality often means that to avoid being alone, we end up getting into relationships that aren’t good for us – both romantic and platonic. We don’t realise this until the damage has been done. Even though I did love my ex partner to some extent, in hindsight, I got with her during my period of acute loneliness. I was in no position to really be in a relationship, but I entered one anyway and now I am dealing with the consequences of that.
Harry Potter actor Emma Watson recently got some flack because she said she was “self-partnered” but what she was saying resonated with me completely. She understood that, for a segment of your life, it is better to be alone so you can focus entirely on you. It is not anyone’s responsibility to make you into a better person. That’s on you.
Once you know yourself and improve yourself, you will choose better friends and better romantic partners
If more younger people embraced being single and alone, then I think a lot of us would end up in healthier and long-lasting relationships.
Instead of looking at single life with dread, we should see it as an opportunity to improve every aspect of our lives. We can learn a new language. Save for that mortgage. Get that driver’s license. This is a time where you don’t have to think about anyone else but yourself. Use that to your advantage.
That isn’t to say that we shouldn’t have friends we talk to. It’s crucial to build genuine relationships with other humans. However, if you spend time doing activities by yourself then you will better understand who you are. Consequently, you will choose friends and romantic partners that are a better fit for you, and you will attract more quality people because you’ve taken time to work on yourself.
"It is not anyone’s responsibility to make you into a better person. That’s on you."
A big city like London can make you feel lonely but only if you let it.
Explore the city by yourself, go to the cinema by yourself or even take yourself to Winter Wonderland. It’s scary and weird at first but, if you embrace it, you might just find that doing things alone is not so bad. You might even begin to love yourself.
Right now, my two favourite black British rappers are Stormzy and Dave.
These two are head and shoulders above anyone else in the grime/British rap scene right now.
And this isn’t an opinion only shared by me.
Dave won rave reviews for his debut album ‘Psychodrama’ and the Streatham-raised rapper bagged the Mercury Prize this year as recognition.
Stormzy’s second album, ‘Heavy Is The Head’ has been flooded with positive reviews across the UK music industry, cementing him as the current king of grime for the foreseeable future.
So what makes Stormzy and Dave two of the best black British rappers right now?
Both of them have an effortless and distinct flow (a major critique of black British grime is all that all our inner-city accents sound the same), intelligent bars and witty wordplay. But these attributes are only part of their greatness.
Stormzy and Dave killing it right now in the culture and mainstream because they both share a significant characteristic:
To be a black man is to never show weakness. Never
If there is one belief that is consistent across African and Caribbean men, it is this: never show weakness and never admit defeat. Growing up, I witnessed this behaviour a lot from many black men around me, both young and older.
At school, black boys were usually (not always) the boys getting into fights for any disrespect, real or perceived. We would never apologise to teachers if we were rude. Many of us wouldn’t even confide in each other if things go south in our lives; we always had to put up the front that we are “killing it” when, behind closed doors, we are struggling to cope with reality.
It’s like black men have been conditioned to put a lid on their psychological problems. It’s no wonder so many boys ‘in the ends’ are angry all the time – many of us are walking time bombs.
This notion that the black man is always strong is perpetuated not only by our black culture but the mainstream culture as well.
From music to films, black men are portrayed as either very strong, very violent, very confident or very funny. Rarely, do we get a nuanced portrayal of the black British male struggling with the everyday problems of life (unrelated to gang life). Although we are starting to have these discussions around black male depression in the mainstream discourse.
Vulnerability allows black men to confront their demons
But why do black men need to be vulnerable? Why should we risk exposing ourselves in such a way that could potentially compromise us or be used against us?
Because being vulnerable allows us to confront our personal demons.
Let’s go back to Stormzy and Dave.
Stormzy’s latest album features a lot of tracks which reveal Stormzy’s state of mind following his huge success as a rapper and cultural icon in the British public. Most noticeably he talks about his struggles with mental health in the track “One second.” In the track “Lessons”, Stormzy bears his soul as he admits his wrongdoing by being unfaithful to Maya Jama, a woman who showed him the realest love according to his own admission.
In “Psychodrama”, Dave talks about his troubled upbringing and his own battles with mental health in tracks like “Purple Heart.” For Dave, it’s the relationship with his incarcerated brother, jailed for a brutal murder, which gives us an insight into Dave’s psyche, as he stays loyal to his older brother despite the horrendous crime he committed.
Both Stormy and Dave are opening their souls to the public. And while they are lining themselves up to be shot by the guns of judgement and scrutiny, they are also letting out their demons and confronting them.
"It’s like black men have been conditioned to put a lid on their psychological problems. It’s no wonder so many boys ‘in the ends’ are angry all the time – many of us are walking time bombs."
Obviously, I am not saying black men need to be sharing their inner struggles to the public. But it’s important for us to confide in our families and friends about the troubles we are facing in life, instead of just saying “Yeah, I am out here, fam” or “It is what it is, fam.”
When I went through the terrible breakup with my ex and witnessed the breakdown of my family, it was a difficult period that could have destroyed me. It nearly did. What saved me was that I was able to express all my negative thoughts, fears and worries to people who were close to me. I also solo travelled to be alone with myself so I could really confront my thoughts, process this terrible loss and ultimately move forward with my life.
Being vulnerable saved my life.
The world is tough, and black men need to be tough. But it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t admit our faults
As a black man, I know how it is. For us, the world is tough and unforgiving. Most of us in this country were not born to wealthy parents or even complete family homes. We must work twice as hard as anyone else. Black men need to be tough because the world is not always going to be kind or even fair to us.
However, that shouldn’t stop us from being honest with ourselves. Too many of us, young and old, often wear this fake mask that we are doing fine, driving our nice cars, wearing our designer clothes and popping bottles in the club. Yet behind all the bravado and showing off, we aren’t doing very well mentally. Many of us are even lonely.
More black British men need to follow Stormzy’s and Dave’s example and learn to be more vulnerable albeit with the right people. Society likes to characterise us young black men as overly sexual, overly aggressive and overly confident but, like every other human, we bleed; we feel and we fall.
True strength is being able to admit that we aren’t strong all the time.
Nipsey Hustle, may his soul rest in peace, gave the world music that hit you hard as a man.
Asking me to choose my favourite Nipsey track is like asking me to choose my favourite colour in a packet of skittles – it’s almost impossible since nearly every track of his hits me in some way.
But if someone put a gun to my head and threatened to blow my brains if I didn’t choose, then, to save my life, I would pick Nipsey’s Hustle’s Double Up. Since reaching 30, it’s a song which resonates even more. Throughout the song, Nipsey raps about how he doubled up in life; constantly achieving his dreams and becoming a truly self-made man.
It’s a mindset I am trying to cultivate now that my twenties are behind me.
Every man is his own king. And every king needs his castle
I truly believe that every man on this Earth is a king. Every man on this Earth was made to rule. However, when I say rule, I don’t mean govern other people but to have total control over his own life. So every king needs a castle.
Unfortunately, the way western society has developed over the past 20 years - a terrible economy, over sexualisation of women and men and the pursuit of instant gratification - means that most men have not behaved like the kings of the earth that we are supposed to be, particularly a lot of us black men.
If I look back at my twenties, myself and many other black boys around me (although it’s a behaviour across all race of boys in western society) were not focused on building our castles the way men like my father would have been. In my case, wild parties, casual sex, splashing money and bad decisions colour most of my twenties.
But, in all honesty, I don’t regret any of those experiences.
My 20s were one wild and crazy movie. I had some unforgettable times and experienced two immature but emotionally and physically intense serious relationships (one which resulted in the birth of my beautiful daughter) and I certainly have some interesting stories to share one day.
But my 30s cannot be the decade-long party and drama that my 20s was.
The decade of building my empire
If you haven’t realised already, I am a highly ambitious man with some big ideas and big dreams. God-willing, I will live long enough to accomplish them.
Yet to realise my ambitions, I must build. Brick by brick. Doing this takes time and effort and at 30, where I haven’t accomplished much as far as I am concerned, this will require a drastic shift in my focus. Below are the three things I have promised myself in order to ensure I have built my empire by the time I am in my late 30s.
No serious relationship till 60% of my goals are accomplished – As I’ve spoken about in a previous post, relationships are a distraction. Depending on where you’re at in life, they can be a good distraction but when you’re a man in the stages of building your castle, a relationship is a bad distraction. Most women these days aren’t going to help you build your empire as they want your attention most of the time. Until at least 60% of my goals are accomplished, I am not investing in a serious relationship with women. Just keeping it real ladies but, for now, I am keeping it strictly casual.
Work harder than you play – I played a lot in my twenties – way too much. There was a period in my twenties where I would go out hardcore partying and drinking on a weekday and go to work the next day completely shattered, affecting my performance. All that stops and has stopped for a while. I love a good party, so you’ll probably still find me at a rave in Shoreditch, but it’s limited to only a few weekend evenings. The rest of the time I am on my grind.
Save money – My greatest vice is my reckless spending. It’s not that I don’t know how to save, I just severely lack the discipline. Since university (blame student loans) I’ve had a “I’ll make it back anyway” attitude to money which I simply need to rid myself of. I am not fully there yet, but I’ve made significant progress and becoming better at saving money. No longer do I care about buying brand names – I’d rather use some of my disposable income to travel.
More than I ever did in my 20s, I now have a clear vision of where I want to be and what path I need to take to get there. Due to the childish ways of my 20s, I have created some fires I now need to put out, but I am well on my way to extinguishing those flames.
My throne awaits me. I am going to spend the next few years building my castle so I can take my crown and sit on my throne. Afterwards, I’ll see if there is a queen out there worthy to sit beside me but that’s a post for another time…
Just a couple of days ago, I turned 30. The BIG THIRTY. Ask anyone who knows me, and they will tell you, a few days before the big day, I was stressed. Was this the end of my youth? Have I accomplished anything? Have I made too many mistakes?
Once the big day arrived and went, I felt oddly at peace. For the first time in a while I felt balanced. Of course, no one ever stops growing and learning but I realised that I know myself now: my weaknesses, my strengths, my likes and my dislikes and I was completely comfortable with who I am.
So, after being inspired by this great post from fellow University of Brighton alumnus Ross Asubonteng (a great personal blog by the way with inspiring teachings), I have decided to write a list of the six pieces of advice I would tell my younger self if I was given a time machine (apart from going back to 2015, the last perfect summer).
1)Women are fun but not as important as your friends are making them out to be
Don’t worry too much about the opposite sex. I know most of your friends, particularly when you arrive at university, will be focused on sleeping with as many women as their hormones will allow. But don’t be too quick to chase women all the time or have a girlfriend just because your university friends have girlfriends. Take time to explore meaningful pursuits outside of girls because in your 20s, girls are mostly a distraction anyway. Trust me.
2)Don’t be too reckless with money. Cultivate the attitude of saving
Instead of the miniscule pocket money you used to receive from your parents, you will begin to start making some decent money after university. Try not to squander it all on alcohol and partying – that isn’t to say don’t have fun – but set some money aside for a later day. Trust me, you’re going to wish you had because your life will be rocked by a huge bombshell in your mid 20s and you will struggle with this new shift in your life partially because of your recklessness with money.
3)Don’t be so naive about raising a family
That bombshell I was talking about? Well, you end up having a baby with your then girlfriend at the age of 26. At first you will be ecstatic and excited, thinking about all the things you will do with your baby daughter but you are foolishly unaware of how unprepared and naive you are about the realities of raising a family. You’re naturally a nice man, having been brought up responsibly, but while you will be a good father you will be a terrible family man at 26 (there is still much you want to do with your youthful energy, staying at home with a crying child constantly will make you deeply miserable) and this will ultimately lead to the breakdown of the relationship with your daughter’s mother. But it’s ok. Everything happens for a reason and you’ll be fine in the end.
4)Don’t be afraid to cut off friends. Loyalty is not a given
There will be friends you’ve known for a long time who will deeply disappoint you. There are friends who you will realise were never really your friends to begin with. This will hurt you but, in the process, make you stronger. You will tolerate less bullshit from people, and you will become more ruthless in your ability to cut off friends if they cross your boundaries. You are a nice guy and you will realise you’re too nice and need to be an asshole sometimes. It’s a realisation that will stand you in good stead as you move forward in life and deal with more cunning people in your personal and professional life.
5)You will move jobs. A lot. But this is not a bad thing in hindsight
After graduating you will have a series of jobs because you’re naturally charming and people like you. However, some of these jobs will be good experiences and some will be very bad experiences, but you will certainly move around a lot for various reasons. At times you may feel like a failure for not staying in a single job for such a long time but as a result of this you will pick up a range of experiences from different types of companies and different types of people. This will make you a more well-rounded person, both personally and professionally.
6)Learn to be alone for a while – it will take time for you to grow into your own
Don’t be afraid of being alone. It is this fear of not being around someone that will make you rush into a new relationship when you just left one and put up with nonsense from some friends just because you don’t want to lose them. But being alone will be crucial for your development. Due to being pampered by your parents during your formative years and your friends holding your hand throughout university, you’re not very good at standing on your own two feet but this will change gradually. You will travel alone and start to enjoy being an independent person and become comfortable in your own skin.
There will be many twists, turns and bumps throughout your 20s but you’ll be ok. You’re a strong guy, always have been. You just need to realise that for yourself. And thankfully, you will.
“I don’t want to be with you anymore.”
As a man, but especially as a Yoruba, Nigerian man, hearing those words come from the mouth of my then girlfriend and the mother of my daughter snapped my heart like a twig and was like a point-blank shot to the face of my pride.
As soon as she said those words, there was a lot of shouting, insults, tears and pleading. Here was I, as a man, witnessing my family fall apart before my eyes. Deep down inside, I knew that my ex-partner was making the best choice for herself and for me as well– our relationship was basically a sinking ship with a gaping hole, and everyone needed to abandon it. But my Nigerian pride was too much and, to be honest, I was afraid of being alone and single again.
Having been fully single for nine months now, I have pretty much moved on and accepted the fact I am going to be a co-parent to my daughter most likely for the rest of my life now but never say never right? However, being single again has taught me a few things about the importance of being emotionally independent as a man, discovering who you are as an individual and self-reliance.
The problem with many relationships – particularly with African men
Although it’s slightly changing, for the most part, African men are still very conservative regarding their relationships. The man is leader and the woman must follow his lead. This was exactly my way of thinking too. Even though I was born in England, I was still raised in a Nigerian household, so my parent’s marriage was what I used as a template for my own relationships.
Some women like this set up especially if the man is very capable and she’s naturally submissive. However, with women now working and earning, such a structure might not work in the times we live in. I know many African men who still want their wife to cook, clean the house, look after the child and still bring home the coin. It’s unrealistic and unfair to expect women to carry all those responsibilities and the man does nothing apart from go to work and come home to a cooked meal. England isn’t Nigeria (and things are even changing over there).
African men, from my observations, can be too reliant on woman to clean up their lives. I was like this as well. I am not arguing against a woman doing domestic chores, but men should be helping in equal measure. We should know how to cook our own food. Iron our own clothes. Wash the dishes. Which brings me to my next point.
Building self-reliance as a man
A man, especially by the time he gets to his mid-20s (If not earlier) should be fully self-reliant. If you can’t even operate a cooker by the age of 25, then I fear for you. If anything, most of a man’s twenties should be him learning how to take care of himself. Know how to pay bills. Keep a steady job. Try to keep your credit rating decent. These skills are critical for a man to become a fully mature adult but gaining these abilities requires a man to be a lone wolf for a period of life which means no girlfriend living with you who is basically doing all these things for you. Let’s be real, a quality woman wants to date a man who can handle himself not a baby boy she has to handle herself.
Get your money up first
Whether you like it or not, women are attracted to a man who has accomplished something. This does not mean you have to be rolling in it (although some women do have their ridiculously high standards) but in a time where women are making their coin, they will expect their man to also be making a decent living. Just because you’re a man doesn’t mean you are owed a wife. You must earn a wife.
Hence why it’s important for a man to get his money up first. Spend a significant part of your 20s just working tirelessly on your career, your side hustle or whatever it is you’re doing to make paper (as long as it’s not illegal of course). It makes no sense to be spending most of your time chasing girls when you’re broke, or you’ve just started your career. That isn’t to say you shouldn’t have fun with women but that’s all it should be – fun. Spend the majority of your 20s and even your 30s, if you have to, working on yourself and you will attract high quality women down the line.
"Let’s be real, a quality woman wants to date a man who can handle himself not a baby boy she has to handle herself."
Learning to be happy first before having a girlfriend or wife
This is the most important point in this whole piece. You must be happy first before you get into a relationship. In recent times, women have started to understand this concept but I think a lot of men haven’t quite understood it. There still a lot of African men who can only be happy if they have a woman by their side to start a family.
Now I am not saying having a wife and a family shouldn’t make you happy but you’re happiness should not only come from that. Men become very needy because they place so much emotional responsibility on a woman to make them happy. Instead, a man should spend a period of his life being single so he can learn to find happiness within himself first before finding a woman to add to that happiness, instead of being his happiness.
All men are created differently. Some men reach a level of independence and self-sufficiency at 24 and some men at 34. But what is important is that a man gives himself some time to be single so he can grow as a man without a woman having to carry him. It is not a woman’s job to mother a man like a child. Instead it’s a man’s job to grow himself so he feels and looks like someone who carries himself like a king.
A Prophet Who Loved Her, Leke Apena’s first novel, will be published in 2020. Find out more here.
A few years ago, I was on a date with this pretty, young girl. She had winked at me from across the table and with a cheeky smile said:
"I know you have a baby mama."
I smiled at her and, in a playful tone, I replied:
“Maybe I do, and maybe I don't, so what?”
By the way, I didn’t have a daughter at this point in my life. I was newly single after ending my three-year relationship with my girlfriend I had met and dated at Uni.
This girl I was on a date with laughed at my response and we continued the rest of our evening, talking very casually about our past sexual experiences. I don’t need to spell out what happened after we got the bill.
A year later, I recall speaking with a close friend of mine about a young woman from Liverpool that he had met in Bournemouth. They had slept with each other. I was sitting in the passenger seat of his car when I asked him:
“Bro, what happened to that nice girl from Liverpool you were kinda seeing? She was alright?”
A wry smile formed on my friend’s face.
“She didn’t want to date because I am a black guy and she thinks I’ll cheat on her. Can you imagine.” His tone was thick with mockery. Of course, he would.
Looking back at these two exchanges from my past, it got me thinking. Why is it that many heterosexual, westernised women and men think black men are cheaters? The word ‘player’ is synonymous with the phrase ‘young black men" but why is that? Why do many black men feel like they are supposed to be very sexual? Are infidelity and sexual prowess somehow innate within the DNA of black men or is this a myth perpetuated by western culture and the media?
I love girls, girls, girls
Most heterosexual men love women. Most heterosexual men are capable of cheating. Infidelity is universal across all types of men and women as well (but this post is not about that). But yet, I’ve heard many women tell me they would never date a black guy because they honestly believe nearly all black men are players. To them, white men are more loyal. More faithful. Whenever I hear it, I always roll my eyes. Where does this notion come from? It must be from black culture of course.
Culture is like an invisible language that we all understand. It gives us a common reference point in which to provide some meaning to the things around us. Hip Hop and R'n'B culture is arguably the most visible black culture across western society. And in this culture, men portray themselves as highly sexual and highly promiscuous. Listen to Jay-Z's "girls, girls, girls," for example. Listen to almost any song by Trey Songz. Watch most of the rap videos from the 90s and noughties. Heck, even the recent furor around Offset cheating on Cardi B. Black male rappers are singing about cheating on women (and doing it), sleeping with an abundance of women and boasting about their unrivalled sexual prowess under the sheets. A lot of women have swallowed this image of black men whole and therefore view them as highly sexual and highly promiscuous.
Now, if you look at music genres dominated by Caucasian men such as rock or pop music, their subject matter is rarely about how many women they have slept with or how many times they will make a woman orgasm. If they sing about women, it’s in a way that is admiring and rarely misogynistic. David Bowie never oversexualised himself the same way R Kelly did.
Over the years, with the introduction of more sensitive and less sexual rappers like Drake and Kanye West, we have seen this oversexualised image of black men diminish in Hip-hop and R'n'B music and culture. But still, the legacy of hypersexual black male rap artists and singers from the 90s and 2000s still lingers.
Are some women oversexualising black men to their detriment?
Going back to the scene of the date I had years ago, would my date had made a joke about me having a baby mama if I was a white man? Even though I had been coy about it for humorous effect, what if I did have a baby mother I wasn't taking care of? Would she have cared? A big part of me doesn't think she would have because to her "black men have baby mamas" and this is what she expected from a black man.
I am not saying black men don't leave a trail of women with their children behind. But this is not a behaviour typical to only black men in the way society and our culture continuously perpetuates. And I'll concede that absent fathers happens more in black communities but this is the result of a lack of education and not because "it's what black men do."
The myth that all black men have the biggest penis (I've spoken to a few girls who have told me this isn't even true), is another way that women overly sexualise black men. I remember the first time sleeping with one particular girl, and she said to me:
"I hope it doesn't hurt. I know what you black guys have down there."
At the time, being in my late teens, this inflated my ego but, looking back at it now, it irritates me. To be reduced to the size of my penis.
On another occasion, following a holiday fling in Ibiza in my early 20s, the girl who I had slept with, while putting on her clothes, had said to me:
“I thought you’d be more aggressive in bed?”
“Really? Why?” I asked.
"Because black men are usually proper aggressive in bed, right?" She told me that she had only slept with three black guys, which included me, so how could she make such a wide-spread statement about how black men are 'supposed to be' in bed?
What some women are inadvertently doing is giving some black men a free pass to cheat on them without even realising it. When women tell black men “I know you have a big dick” or “I know you’re a player” or “I know you’ve slept with so many girls” and yet still sleep with him, she’s objectifying him by sexualising his blackness. What happens when they do this? Many black men think that because these women will still sleep with them anyway because they like the fact he behaves in a very sexual and promiscuous way, they continue acting like this. Simply put, these women don’t expect any other standard from black men and black men know this.
A caveat though. This objectification and over-sexualisation of black men are often carried out by women who aren't black. In my experience, black women don't examine black men the same way. Of course, they too can find a black man attractive because he has a nice body that is appealing and he looks like he might be good in bed (I still don’t understand how a woman can tell), but this is rarely assumed just because he has black skin.
We need more representations of black men that aren't hypersexual or hyperaggressive
As I touched on earlier, if there is one development that I am thankful for in Hip Hop and R'n'B culture, it's that black men are no longer portraying themselves as hypersexual and hyperaggressive. There is more humanity in black popular culture. Citing examples such as Kanye West, Drake and Kendrick Lamar, these rappers speak more about their emotions rather than just their sexual dominance and sexual exploits. Even films like the Academy-Award winning Moonlight, directed by the talented Barry Jenkins, are deconstructing this stereotype, portraying the sensitive sides of black men rather than only showing our sexual or aggressive sides as was the case in the past.
" When women tell black men “I know you have a big dick” or “I know you’re a player” or “I know you’ve slept with so many girls” and yet still sleep with him, she’s objectifying him by sexualising his blackness. "
One of the main reasons I wanted to become a writer on the side was because I wanted to write stories which portray black men as flawed, complex, funny and multi-faceted humans. I want to move away from this caricature of black men as overly sexual and overly aggressive.
Promiscuity is not something that occurs mostly in black communities. Watch an episode of Jeremy Kyle, and you will see stories of white men cheating as well. It’s not a black man thing.
Lastly, black artists have a responsibility not to oversexualise themselves through our art by only talking, writing and rapping about sex with women. That's so 90s, and we must continue to move past that.
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Black, British and wealthy: Why does the British press love Anthony Joshua but despise Raheem Sterling?
When you’re black, British and wealthy, the media spotlight will be on you. Depending on how you behave, you will receive one of either two types of treatments from the media: one of contempt or one of praise. No other two people better encapsulate this than Raheem Sterling and Anthony Joshua.
Even as we approach the end of the year, Raheem Sterling can’t seem to catch a break.
Firstly, there was the whole uproar around the MI6 assault rifle tattoo on Sterling’s leg, drawing criticism from the media and absurd demands from anti-gun campaigners that he should have it lasered off.
Then came the World Cup in July. Despite Sterling’s stirring efforts in Russia, England fans and Jose Mourinho himself condemned him for another goalless performance for the England Squad.
Raheem Sterling’s year couldn’t get worse, right?
On December 8th, the attacking midfielder received a torrent of abuse at Stamford Bridge from Chelsea's fans during Man City's 2-0 loss to the hosts.
Now let’s look at Anthony Joshua.
The British mainstream media have lavished Anthony Joshua with so much praise and goodwill, he recently retained the world heavyweight title, that at this point he could accidentally punch the Queen and the media would legitimately laugh it off. Recent press stories have focused on Anthony still living with his mother in his flat or his humbling mid-life crisis now that he’s heavyweight champion.
And make no mistake, Anthony Joshua doesn’t have a squeaky-clean past. In 2011, the GB boxing team suspended him for possessing cannabis with the intention to supply. But his history has not affected his ‘golden-boy’ reputation with the media.
So why is the British media so harsh to Raheem Sterling but so love in Anthony Joshua? After all, they’re both black, British and wealthy.
A Black British man’s wealth must always measure up to his performance
To be clear this post is not about football racism and why racism is still an issue for black footballers in 2018. And while this does play a role in how the tabloid press treats sterling, more qualified people than myself have examined that particular issue.
Instead, this post is examining how performance, humility, and class are massive factors in how wealthy black British people are treated by the British press – which is mostly made up of British, middle-class men.
I like Raheem Sterling. He's a bit younger than me, but he's like most of the boys I played football with in my local park growing up. But, to be honest, his ignorance surprises me.
Raheem Sterling accused the tabloid newspapers of racism because of the negative way in which they reported a story about a black footballer buying a house for his mother. This story is in contrast to the more positive light the same paper published about a white footballer, from the same team, buying a house for his mother. Sterling has made an acute observation on how the British press reports on wealthy black men and wealthy white men, but it’s a lot more complicated than the British media ‘fuelling racism.'
It’s no secret that ethnic minorities in Britain, especially black people, have to work twice as hard in general to succeed due to racial bias. This unspoken expectation doesn’t just disappear just because you’re a footballer.
Even though I personally feel Raheem Sterling is a highly skilful footballer, a significant and vocal group of football fans and many of the white middle-class journalists in the media think Raheem Sterling has not worked hard enough or accomplished enough in their eyes to justify his football wages and lavish lifestyle. But this alone isn’t the full picture. Young black footballers like Danny Welbeck have been criticised for underperforming but don’t’ face anywhere as near as much media backlash as Sterling.
What gets the British media riled up about anything Sterling is his ostentatious displays of wealth, particularly on social media. Do you remember, in 2016, when he showed off his crystal-studded sink after many criticised his performance against France? In general, the white British middle-class and, by extension, the British media, do not like the wealthy flaunting their wealth. It is in bad taste made worse when they don’t even feel you deserve it.
Now we can probably blame some of Sterling’s colorful displays of his fortune on the fact that he comes from a working-class background. From my experience, working-class black boys often need to overstate their wealth with eye-rolling displays of luxury to illustrate to their detractors and admirers that "they've made it." I understand it because it's what rich Black American athletes do and black Americans have always been a role model for black British working-class kids because they’re so visible in the media. Just take a look at Floyd Mayweather’s ridiculous Instagram account. But America loves its loud black athletes because everything in America is loud. Not the case in Britain.
To the average white middle-class and middle-aged journalist, Sterling is acting like someone who does not appreciate his wealth and, more insultingly, his refusal even to show humility when he has underperformed, in their minds, is a big factor as to why the British press constantly have their crosshairs aimed at him.
If your rich and black, you better learn to eat humble British pie
Although slightly older than Sterling, Anthony Joshua, by contrast, understands the subtle relationship between wealth, blackness and middle-class Britishness. Unlike Raheem Sterling, Anthony Joshua has eaten that humble British pie.
Having won the heavyweight title, Anthony Joshua could easily post pictures of himself eating caviar from a diamond-encrusted plate while receiving a shoulder massage from a bikini-clad model. But he doesn’t. Anthony Joshua understands that to win and keep favour with the British media; he must show himself as a humble and thoughtful athlete. Loud and lavish won’t make you friends with the British press if you're black and wealthy.
It’s funny because Anthony Joshua grew up working class like Raheem Sterling, but unlike Sterling, Anthony Joshua has an acute understanding of how he ‘should' behave, so he doesn’t invite criticism from the media.
"To the average white middle-class and middle-aged journalist, Sterling is acting like someone who does not appreciate his wealth and, more insultingly, his refusal even to show humility when he has underperformed, in their minds, is a big factor as to why the British press constantly have their crosshairs aimed at him."
Despite facing a jail sentence in the past, Anthony Joshua has managed to craft an image of himself as a wholesome, hardworking and skilful athlete who still lives with his mum in their humble flat despite rolling in riches. Even if this image is disingenuous, merely a persona that has been carefully crafted by Anthony Joshua’s PR and brand team, he has not strayed from the narrative, and it feels sincere and genuine to his character. Even if he were to lose his next bout, Anthony Joshua has built up so much goodwill with the British media, that it would not tarnish his reputation.
Raheem Sterling does not have the same goodwill from the British media because he hasn’t built the persona of a grateful and humble black British working-class kid who is now rich.
Being black and wealthy in America is different than being black and wealthy in Britain
As I mentioned earlier, black American athletes or black American celebrities are allowed to be loud and brash with their wealth. America is a country of noise, bright colours, and big personalities and this is also inherent within its media.
Middle-class British culture and the middle-class British media are opposed to garish displays of one’s wealth. It’s dirty, unwelcomed and even insulting.
So, if a black working-class boy, like Raheem Sterling, shows off his lavish lifestyle on social media while underperforming in the eyes of British sports journalists, it is not surprising that the British press snaps at him like blood-thirsty piranhas. To them, anything Sterling does, like having a gun tattoo on his ankle, invites criticism and scorn.
Sterling isn’t so much a victim of racism by the British media, although I’ll concede that this plays a part. But also, it’s because his attitude to wealth and humility is at odds with how the British media expect its wealthy, black British men to behave.
If you look at Anthony Joshua and other wealthy black British men outside sport like actors Idris Elba and John Boyega who are adored by the British media, what’s the one thing common between them?
They’ve never posted a video of their jewel-encrusted bathroom on social media.
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