The knowledgeable gentleman comprehends that his image does not begin with how society views him. Rather, the gentleman’s image begins with how he sees himself. He alone determines and dictates the manner in which he is presented to the world. When he gazes into the mirror, the reflection of greatness should readily greet him. It does not begin with the clothing he chooses to attire himself in, nor the vehicle he selects to navigate city streets. Not the place of employment where he makes a living. Not the amount of money presently residing in his bank account. Why? Well, because character starts with his self-worth. His esteem is not erected upon a mountain of biodegradable materialism – subject to decay and waste. No, the gentleman’s image is based on gentlemanly fundamentals that are concrete and certain. Virtue. Honor. Principle. Forthrightness. The Gentlemen’s Standard.
Sometimes perception, no matter how ignorantly misguided or foolishly erroneous, can be tragically dangerous. And as an African-American male, I fully comprehend the concept of perception, especially when viewed through the myopic lens that is the American eye. Seriously, don’t fool yourselves. Since the birth of this nation, the identity of the black male has been deftly manufactured and slyly constructed by a white power system that, by any means necessary, hungers to retain power. We are a stereotype that has been permanently branded into the psychology of this nation, leaving behind a charred residue of racial prejudice and bigotry that many people pretend doesn’t exist. And before you claim that I am overreacting, forget that you know Glen Antoine Palmer, the affable gentleman that writes this blog. I am a 6 foot 1, 240 pound black male with a bald head and thick beard. I rarely smile, not because I am in a foul mood, but because I really don’t like my smile all that much. No matter – I have a perpetually angry look all the time. Add in what someone has seen in a few rap videos, the more than occasional homicide in inner city Detroit, and the overall history of the black male being a hyper-sexual, violent savage – and voila – you have your stereotype.
Doesn’t matter that Glen is a devoted husband, a loving son, a mentor, a hard worker, a godfather, a friend, and an overall gentleman (with a nice suit & necktie game); I can be a threat or danger to anyone at any time, if they deem it within their minds. I will never forget, back when I was in college, a woman who lived upstairs in my apartment thought I could be a potential rapist. How did I know? Well, ironically she mentioned the big bald black guy who lived downstairs to my girlfriend, and future wife – Stephanie, who was in her study group. When Stephanie realized what apartment she stayed in, and the only big bald black guy around was me, she calmly explained to her that I wasn’t that sort of man. Going forward, the lady upstairs was perfectly fine, well, since Stephanie vouched for me. Fact is, I was a stereotype. And it’s frustrating to be a stereotype, especially when you aren’t a stereotype. I don’t think I should be a tragedy waiting to happen based on another person’s misguided prejudice. But that is the sad reality; a reality that has existed since the birth of this nation. And unfortunately, it is a reality I have to live with everyday.