One of Those Weeks has turned into One of Those Months in One of Those Years. In some ways, it feels cathartic. The trembling in the foundations you always knew were unstable has become powerful enough to be felt where it matters. Weinstein, Moore, Franken, and all the others, the 90oooooooooooooooooooooooooo (you know what, the cat walked on the keyboard there but it’s a good estimate so I’m leaving it) men we always knew were either a direct problem or complicit in allowing the problem to continue are being named. Who knows what will come of it. Maybe nothing legal. But I’m a firm believer in shame as the immune system of society. People who say nothing comes of shaming racists, sexists, transmisogynists, and all those other ists are fundamentally wrong. Maybe those individuals won’t learn or change, but everyone who sees it happen will understand at a gut level that we don’t do that here.
I’m careful with my friend-lists. Careful with my feeds. I filter, I tweak, I repeat. I have to spend a lot of time on social media for work, and I don’t need my personal feed to be a minefield. So I’ve been spared a lot of the “notallmenning” and the “oh gosh” performative surprise (and if we’re friends and a lot of your friends are doing this on your posts, I’ve probably unfollowed you. Nothing personal. I’ll be back when your bros have their shit together. Tell your bros to get their shit together).
No, my feed is a list of “when this one comes out, it’s the one that’ll really upset me.” Not if, mind you, when. So far we’ve decided that Obama has probably not tripped over the very low bar set for men in this world, mostly because he’s been under 8 years of scrutiny and the best anyone has come up with is some fake news about his birth certificate. (Note: Obama has done some problematic-ass shit like drone strikes, but it was presidential shit and not personal douchebaggery, and I’ll deal with it some other time on a political level.)
So here goes, world.
I’m gonna be real unhappy if Mr. T shows up on this list.
Yeah, Mr. T. The ex-wrestler. Star of the A-Team. Cartoon hero. But more than that.
I grew up a very white kid in a very white town. Other than the interracial couple that ran the little country store in “the dip” on “the old highway” (yes, that’s how we gave directions, honest, you can’t miss it) and the one black kid that moved in (and out) of our school district in 8th grade even though Julia Petersen broke some kid’s rib for calling them a n****r, all I had for knowledge of how nonwhite folks lived were my friends Akemi and Susannah, and TV. And we didn’t get the channel with the Cosby Show.
I sat down to write this essay and I’m gonna write it, but I don’t know if I have the words yet to explain how Mr. T shaped my – shaped all our, us kids of the 80’s – understanding of Black manhood. The guy who wasn’t just muscles, wasn’t just presented as a big animal. The guy who loved kids. The guy who used force when he had to and kindness when he could. The guy who was always, always there for you. Yeah, there were problems in the character. Of course there were. But B.A. Baracus and Mr. T were inseparable for us.
Mr. T didn’t abandon you. He wasn’t a drug addict, like so many Black men on TV. He wasn’t a deadbeat dad. He treated people around him with respect when they deserved it and violence when they didn’t. Mr. T taught me that anger was an emotion that happens in the face of injustice. Mr. T taught me not to judge people by their rage, but by what made them angry.
Mr. T taught me that Tough Guys(tm) cry. Mr. T is still teaching people that Tough Guys cry. Mr. T went to Baghdad while my partner was there, to talk to the troops. Mr. T stopped wearing gold after Hurricane Katrina. Mr. T refused to be in a movie where B.A. Baracus killed a man. (Dirk Benedict, of course, gave no fucks.)
I googled Mr. T Scandal. So far, there’s nothing.
[ Image By Miguel Discart (Flickr: 2014-04-05_21-30-35_NEX-6_DSC08713) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons ]