We’ve Got to Love Our Black Boys in Healthier Ways

Our featured writer is Nicole Knight-Justice, Atlanta educator and mother. She recently spoke on the topic of toxic masculinity at the Profound Gentlemen 4th Annual Conference. She is the wife of longtime EdLanta blogger Shamar Knight-Justice.

Young Black boys are continuously being inundated with messages about how they should show up in the world.

Don’t cry.
Toughen up.
Stop acting like a girl.
Don’t talk about how you feel.

And these messages can act like a smog. Whether or not we are aware, we as educators can begin breathing in these beliefs—deciding that our young Black boys don’t need hugs or that positive words of encouragement are too “soft.”

We choose to hug and affirm young girls more than we do boys–especially after boys’ voices deepen and they become bigger than us. Seemingly our Black boys have become threats because of their newfound size.

Love and Affection

I’m grateful to teach alongside educators who understand the value of hugs, fist bumps, and words of affirmation.

I remember hearing one of my coworkers talk about a time when a young man came to her for a hug. She was in the middle of a conversation but still embraced him with one arm while continuing on.

She soon realized the young man was crying on her shoulder.

As she relayed the story, I wondered . . .

. . . how often the hugs and affirmations we give to our young Black boys are likely their only positive touch points throughout the course of their day.

There is no one on this planet who can be whole and healthy without positive human interactions.

We hope our Black boys will grow up to be emotionally intelligent, healthy members of our community. And yet we deprive them of the space to share freely, love deeply, or hear positive and encouraging messages about who they are and who they have the power to be.

We’ve got to love our Black boys, all of our boys, in healthier ways.


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