Being a black man in South Africa has to be one of the strangest things ever, it is a joy, and it is so refreshing when I see fellow black brothers do good and contribute to the greater good of our nation, lives, and our peace. However, being a black man in South Africa has a very dark side, it’s as if we have been institutionalized to bring each other down, to hurt each other, to hurt and kill women and children as if they are the enemies, we wake up to fight every day. As an average black man in South Africa, I feel I remain against the ropes, from a financial to a social standpoint, from family to how one might view themselves after waking up black in South Africa, let me explain so you understand in a better light:
Financial: we live in a world where, if my pockets do not do the talking for me, I am disregarded and seen as a flop because I am not seen by those who regard paid men as men.
Social: it doubles back to the financial part, if I am not Mr. Money in the bag, society does not gel well enough with you to see you as somebody, you are just another lame who’s part of the statistics.
Family: It’s in too many instances where we see men taking their own lives because they can’t find the balance between being strong enough to endure the hardships that come with being a law-abiding citizen who tries to do right in the hardest of times, where the family looks to you to put food on the table, where school fees are due, where, being head of the house is a title that brings too much stress yet, a man must do whatever it takes to be just that; regardless of it all.
Mentally, as black people in South Africa (excluding sex), we’re fighting to survive each day, we’re fighting to find a place in a world that requires more from us, we are fighting a never-ending battle.
The mental health behind it: It is wise as black men to talk about things, we need to have a brotherhood where we can open up about the issues we face, a brotherhood that’s true and honest. We spend too much time trying to mask the pain we face, wherein truth, we are hurting ourselves in the process. Not seeking help is not helping one’s self, it is adding to the damage done, it’s stopping us from being the men that our loved ones need us to be. How can you expect someone else to break down their walls and give their all when as black men, we’re not trying to unlearn all we are taught; from the fact that men don’t cry, we are human, we feel pain when we’re hurt, we feel heartache when we get our hearts broken yet we bottle it up and pretend that all is okay. We put on a mask and pretend that we’re fine but those things turn us into toxic people within society. We’re quick to react in a bad way, even if we don’t react immediately to whatever it is that might trigger the anger, at some point, we snap and that’s where the damage is then caused.
My advice: If we try and let go, if we try and unchain our hearts and minds from the bondage, we can work towards being better men for our women, our children, and our families, alongside being better men in the world.
Zinhle James is a creative, writer, producer, lyricist and a black man working on his mental health.