Thinking About the Steve Harvey Industrial Complex and the Interior Lives of Black Men: On Black Masculinity

barack and curtisImage via Black Public Media

I haven’t written about Django Unchained, and I don’t plan on doing so, because so many others have been eager to do so and I don’t have anything to add.

But I will tell you this, earlier to day I was having a conversation on The Facebook with @RahaReiki about this Crunk Feminist Collective post which explores ratchet culture, pop culture and Black masculinity. In the conversation we began to explore why it appears as though Black women can see the writing on the wall and start taking care of themselves, that they start taking care of their interior and exterior lives.Yet, on the other hand there doesn’t appear to be a similar public effort on the behalf of Black men. At least at first glance.

I ultimately came to three conclusions. First, I think that some Black women hold on to their dysfunction like a warm blanket, others are invested in becoming whole human beings and they are willing to do the personal development work to grow and evolve. Often times we are a combination therein where we are trying to evolve and hold the warm blanket at the same time. #struggle.

Second, I stated that I suspect that the reason why some Black women may get to the point that they realize that the old way are not working sooner than Black men is because we deal with the intersections of racism and sexism, at school, at work, on the street, in our families and especially in terms of media representation. This intersection kills us health wise.

Third, I went on to say that we can’t assume that this work isn’t being done by Black men, just because we don’t see it. In fact now that I think of it, I know of quite a few Black men who do public work around Black masculinity such as Dr. Mark Anthony Neal, Dr. Gary Lemons (one of my college professors), Dr. Lewis, Kevin Powell, Byron Hurt and Tony Porter. There is also this engaging project, Question Bridge, which that @marquette_jones just told me about. This project uses multimedia to interrogate and examine Black masculinities. This is an interesting project as well.

Last, given the emotional investment in terms of Black public discourse on Django Unchained and given how Steve Harvey has been able to leverage his dating advice book into an empire of sorts, perhaps the energy that is being placed on Black women’s dating lives can be placed on interrogating Black masculinity and the interior lives of Black men. Yes, it is far less sexy, but the work needs to be done.

I think personally, that I have accepted the fact that pop cultural icons are not going to embrace a kind of Muhammad Ali oppositional stance. The stakes are too high. I sill think that it may be useful to actually look for the people who are doing this intergenerational healing work around gender roles and Black men and  masculinity that doesn’t make hyper-patriarchal ideas the norm.

In my blog work and my academic work I am drawn to and I focus on the interior lives of Black women. From blog posts about Kathleen Collins, to posts about Zora Neal Hurston and Pariah. The interior lives of Black women fascinate me, because if I assume we have an interior life, I am also asserting that we are human, which is important.

Perhaps there is time for a dedicated public space, time for art work that explores the interior lives of Black men. Is their a space online that talks about the humanity of Black men that isn’t rooted in patriarchal norms? What conditions would need to be met in order for it to be created?

Women will not be free until men are free.

When Black women are free everyone will be free. ~The Combahee Collective.

The Steve Harvey industrial complex!?!?!?!

Do you think that there is a gender distinction between how some Black women and some Black men approach healing and personal development? If so, why?


Renina is a cultural critic, author, instructor and a blogger. She is also the founder of Black Girl Everything, New Model Minority. She is book "Black Girls Are From the Future: Essays on Race, Digital Creativity and Pop Culture".

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  • MsWorld

    The Steve Harvey industrial complex is indeed in-effect mode and will be solidified if his current talk show does well enough to stay on for a few years. It’s a weird show because he’s trying to appeal to a wide audience of women who are deemed the typical daytime audience. I’ve tried to watch the show just to see it and it is weird because Steve is working hard trying to appeal to the white audience and he seems uncomfortable. But he does like to dole out the “how to get, keep, or make your man happy” advice to women of all races (Harvey’s face lights up when he’s telling a woman what she needs to do). 

Regarding gender distinctions between some Black women & Black men approaching healing & personal development– if I’m understanding the question correctly- my gut answer is no. I think there’s a class distinction between how some Black women & men approach healing & personal development. I think people with some economic means may make the decision to try to heal themselves sooner than others because they may have the tools more readily available to them to do it. I’ve been engaging in personal development for years but major growth happened when I started seeing a therapist who I liked and felt comfortable with and I can do that because I have a job that gives me access to good medical insurance. However, I don’t think you have to have money to engage in personal development & healing. I do think you just have to be in a state of mind that’s open to it though. And I think some Black people are so wrapped up in maintaining their masks (because it may be all that they have) or their dysfunction that admitting that they need healing is viewed as weakness.
    I do agree that Black women may be closer to seeing the writing on the matrix wall and just go for self because they realize that it may be the only way to save themselves. I also think Black women may have realized that this battle we engaged in with sexism & racism is pretty much not winnable if you are playing on their terms, therefore that best thing you can do is take care of yourself and develop strategies for living well and/or trying to change a messed up system.
    I also agree that Black women dealing with the intersections of sexism & racism can be soooooo overwhelming that they know they need some help and healing. I hope that all makes sense.

    • Reninaj

      I think there’s a class distinction between how some Black women &
      men approach healing & personal development. I think people with
      some economic means may make the decision to try to heal themselves
      sooner than others because they may have the tools more readily
      available to them to do it.



      I hadn’t thought of a class distinction in terms of personal development and recovery. But the other side, at the minimum creating space for faith practice/Church and journaling has class implications in terms of time but not necessarily money, but in 2013, these two categories are invariably.

      …Writing on the matrix wall..<————.#genius…

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