A year after the 2016 election, I overheard my first conversation in which two young men of color discussed the political issues of the day. I don’t remember what they were going on about, but the fact that they were going on about politics—and with such fervor! — was what struck immediately, as young men discussing politics was a rarity in my working-class Miami neighborhood, where typically it was older men who engaged in these sometimes heated discussions.
Sitting across from them at Starbucks, I noted their interaction as an entertaining anomaly and chalked it up to the current hyper-politicized cultural moment in which anyone, at any time, might surprise you with their clearly newfound interest in politics. Which is to say that I expected to encounter no more than a handful of these political squabbles between young men of color in the ensuing years of the Trump era, as the possibility of a broad political realignment driven by this traditionally disinterested demographic went against all conventional wisdom and seemed far-fetched, even to someone on the ground witnessing its inception — boy, was I wrong.
In the months and years to follow, all over Miami, in bars, coffee shops, and at the gym, I would overhear–and was sometimes pulled into — these rudimentary political conversations between young men of color. What was immediately obvious was that a majority, if not all, of these young men were brought into their nascent political awareness by issues relating to their masculinity and manhood. An archetype emerged: these were young men who never thought about politics until politics knocked on their door and made them aware of its existence. Like so many, personal grievance is what drove them into the political arena and what was driving their politics. The gist of their beef: When the hell did it stop being okay to be a regular dude?
My initial impulse was to think that these encounters were statistical outliers, the product of living in a community that sometimes suffers from overly chauvinist tendencies, but as their frequency increased, I realized that if you come up against enough anecdotal evidence, at a certain point it stops being anecdotal. There was clearly a trend, and my amateur hypothesis at the time was that this phenomenon wasn’t localized to Miami, but that young Hispanic and African-American men all over the country were politicizing, and whether they knew it yet or not, would play an important role in the next presidential election. I suspect that this trend has been obvious for some time now to anyone who lives in an urban center, but recently, New York Times columnist Charles Blow was recently caught off guard by the new reality and tweeted:
“Today my friends in Atlanta (black) saw a Facebook message from their old barber (black) imploring them all to vote for [President Donald] Trump. Don’t think that Trump’s message doesn’t resonate with a certain sector of black men. Also, barbers have a lot of sway in the black community.”
Blow’s alarm comes from the realization that this new voting bloc — a young, multicultural male coalition — might not be traditionally conservative, but on account of the progressive left’s post-2016 stance on masculinity, definitely won’t be voting democratic if they vote at all. The size of this coalition is not yet known, but if the polls showing Trump drawing support with Hispanics and slightly increasing approval among African-Americans are accurate, we might already have the answer — large enough to play a significant role in the election. The upcoming election will be won on the margins, and if this multicultural male coalition shows up and votes, there’s no doubt who they’ll be pulling the lever for—Trump.
The responses to Blow’s Twitter warning range from disbelief to outright rage, but what these hardcore progressives are really saying is, “Why? How can this be? Aren’t all minorities and people of color on our side?” (RELATED: The Caudillo President: Trump’s Temperament May Scare Liberals, But Latinos Have Seen It Before)
The race-essentialist line of thinking that has taken over the Democratic Party in which race determines worldview and political affiliation — and everything else for that matter — leaves one blind to other traits and beliefs that play a significant role in constituting a person’s identity. In this case, they missed what is painfully obvious to anyone who isn’t blinded by race obsession: most men, irrespective of color or creed, think of themselves as traditionally masculine. The political awakening of young men of color, then, can be traced to the media’s treatment of white Americans, and more specifically, white men, after Trump’s victory in 2016. Unable to look inward and reassess as to why they’d completely misread what was going on in the country, the media and its acolytes in the Democratic establishment needed a villainous scapegoat in order to explain the catastrophic failure of understanding that had delivered the final blow of obsolescence to the expert class. The new narrative was as quickly constructed as it was lacking in nuance: white Americans, seeped and soaked in white rage and white privilege, wanted to take the country back to its racist past.
“Toxic masculinity,” a new catchphrase that had escaped academia and taken root in the demented Internet hive-mind, was added to the mix, and the post-2016 explanation was set in stone: white men, who suffer from toxic masculinity more than other men — due to the weakness of their whiteness, of course — were specifically to blame for Trump and the rest of the country’s ills. If you were online during this time, I don’t have to remind you that for months on end, a steady stream of articles and essays and tedious explainers were published on a near-daily basis by mainstream outlets.
In short, the idea behind toxic masculinity is simple: traditional conception of masculinity, even in its most benign facets, is at the root of all civilizational rot — men must be rehabilitated, lest they continue ruining the country and the planet. The mainstreaming of this narrative cleared the way for what would become a full-on assault on masculinity and the cultural uprisings that followed. There was the rise of the well-intentioned Me Too movement and the overreach of said movement; the derangement of the Kavanaugh hearings, in which anything said by a woman, no matter how unbelievable it may sound, was to be believed.
And on top of all of this, the media landscape, academia, the corporate world, and other institutions which had been feminizing and increasingly catering to an effete woke mindset, accelerated their efforts in creating spaces devoid of men and masculinity. All of this cultural engineering was framed as a way to remove toxically masculine white men from positions of cultural and political power, but once again, the expert class was blind to a major unintended consequence of all their maneuvering: young men of color started to catch wind that this anti-white male hate would soon come for them. What had started as a project to get rid of those evil white men had transformed into a war against masculinity itself. (RELATED: Columbia University’s Band ‘Enthusiastically’ Dissolves Due To Realization It Was Founded On ‘Racism’ And ‘Oppression’)
The Aziz Ansari case, in which the comedian/actor was pilloried and Me-Too’d for what was essentially a bad date, signaled to men of color that they weren’t going to be exempt from the anti-masculinity crusade on account of their POC status. This was a huge problem for men of color — specifically African-American men — as they’ve historically been the greatest victims of false rape accusations.
Much ink was spilled during this time by cultural critics and blue-check experts on the masculinity scourge that must be eliminated, but the “toxic masculinity” narrative was codified when, in early 2019, the American Psychological Association released a document stating that “traditional masculinity ideology” often negatively affected the mental and physical well-being of young men — the APA, shockingly, had said the quiet part out loud.
The cultural engineers declared victory, completely unaware that a multicultural male coalition had been watching and coalescing. These young men who grew up online and attended the institutions that first cultivated and disseminated this anti-masculinity ideology were the same young men I was encountering on my rambles around Miami—the very same men Blow fears might now vote for Trump.
Is this demographic of young multicultural men the new “hidden Trump voter” that might deliver him a victory? Blow, and others in his cohort, seem to think it a distinct possibility.
Even if the Me Too movement hadn’t gone off the rails and if the APA hadn’t pathologized traditional masculinity, young men of color were already drifting toward the right anyway, if at a less accelerated rate. For years now, the Democratic Party has rejected any masculine sensibility in favor of a gung-ho girl power aesthetic that caters strictly to the highly feminized, whether male or female. The Democratic National Convention was the apotheosis of this progressive feminization, a four-day event that resembled a weepy all-girl sleepover more than a political function. I was half-expecting Joe Biden to give his convention speech wearing a dress, but mercifully the old coot was allowed to wear a traditionally masculine and toxic suit.
All this to say that the Democratic Party is now the party of women and those who identify with the overly feminine sensibility. There’s nothing wrong with this being your cup of tea, of course, but Democrats shouldn’t be surprised when young men of all stripes are turned off by a party that is completely devoid of any masculine energy.
This is obvious to anyone who has ever associated with young Hispanic and African-American men, but as the Democratic Party is run by ultra-white and woke coastal elites who only ever pander to, but never actually associate with people of color—especially men—let me spell it out for them: Black and Hispanic young men, most of whom don’t reside in progressive coastal cities, are traditionally masculine and do not respond to the overly feminine posturing found in progressive circles. To most men of color, traditional masculinity isn’t a toxic ideology, or, for that matter, an ideology at all, but simply the natural order of things. They think and behave like men because it is what’s demanded of them and what it is necessary for survival in the real world. To tell a young man of color living in the inner city that his way of thinking is toxic is to place him in peril, as his survival depends not on buzzwords or the tampering down of his masculinity, but on signaling masculine strength when confronted by a world that is not beholden to the passive-aggressive femininity of elite cultural spaces.
It’s an open question as to whether young men of color will turn out for Trump, but if the Republican National Convention was any indication, the Republican Party is making a play for their vote. Much has been said of the convention’s America-is-great message, but what was played up almost as much, whether intentionally or not, was the power and virtue of traditional masculinity.
There was Sen. Tim Scott’s speech, in which he traced his family’s rise from slavery to the highest reaches of American power, delivered in the oratory style of a man who had never given up, whose familial legacy of overcoming nearly insurmountable odds would make the thought of accepting his plight inconceivable. The speech spoke to all Americans, of course, but it can’t go unnoticed that it was delivered by a man of color who had risen to the top, in large part, due to classic masculine virtues — stoicism and stick-to-itiveness.
Then there was Cuban-American old-timer Maximo Alvarez, a self-made businessman, and like Scott, the epitome of the American Dream, who spoke with the masculine ferocity and power of Vince Lombardi. Here was a man who other men would listen to, unlike Billy Porter, the actor who sang at the Democratic Convention and is best known for parading up and down red carpets in dresses, who is seemingly only famous among the brunch-attending career gals who make up the Democratic Party.
The greatest example of masculine strength at the Republican Convention occurred when Madison Cawthorn, the disabled young man running for North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District, stood up from his wheelchair after delivering a barnburner of a speech. It was an incredibly moving moment, made all the more so by the fact that he was flanked by two friends who assisted him as he stood. Here was a prime example of masculine strength, as well as brotherly kinship, being displayed for all the young men of America to see. It was not toxic or problematic, but simply good and true, and it hearkened back to times when such virtues were considered indispensable and undoubtedly American.
These three speeches — two delivered by men of color — made a case for the nobility of traditional masculinity, and I have no doubt, spoke to young men of color in a way they can understand: You are an American man. Stand up. Do what needs to be done.
I can’t imagine a better message, not only for men of color, but all men—a message that might drive them to vote in record numbers in November.
Alex Perez is a Cuban-American writer from Miami, whose work has appeared in Tablet Magazine and Arc Digital, among others. Find him on Twitter @Perez_Writes
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