Breaking the Silence: Why Black Men Neglect Self-Care and How to Change It

By | December 3, 2023

For two solid weeks, I stumbled around with a fever of 103.

Along with the fever there were night sweats and the inability to sleep.

While most people would have seen this as a signal to seek out medical help, I chose to soldier on and disregard my health. In earlier writings, I have directed attention to the ways that black men completely disregard their health and physical well being.

As a black male in this society, I was given a load of crap regarding the importance of my health and no suggestions of ways to stay healthy.

One of the ways that we learn to disrespect and not listen to our physical bodies is via our jobs.

When I was growing up, many of the men that I knew worked in car plants or did some type of physically demanding and exhausting work. It was a very big deal to get a job at the car plant.

“Making good money with benefits” and doing jobs that required the willingness to offer yourself physically on the altar that was capitalism so that all of America and Detroit could have nice “rides” was touted as the ultimate male goal.

To the people in my father’s and grandfather’s generation, work meant something to do with the body.

Work meant something physical.

Although I never dreamed of doing this type of back breaking monotonous work (and was looked at with much suspicion as a result), I somehow got indoctrinated into this belief system even though I vowed to never be a part of it. Growing older and seeking various jobs, I often fantasized about work that respected and required my mind.

I often dreamt of work that was constantly innovative, fresh and constantly changing.

After years of false starts, I ended up in teaching wherein, my dream of being creative and respected began to take form. Many folk believe that if what you’re doing is not using your body then what you’re doing is not “real” work. If what you spend so much of your day on is not real work, then when your body begins to send messages of “help”, you foolishly push these voices away and or ignore them completely.

We have to understand and reteach ourselves and our young men that our bodies are for more than labor and sex.

We have to model what it means to nurture and listen to the physical self while simultaneously not discounting our need for body expression.

While this is not an either or proposition, we are very confused about this subject and could use some help from cultures and individuals who have successfully integrated both.

We are obliged to seek out healthy ways of existence to prevent walking around with 103 degree temperatures.

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