The Black Man's Guide to Life

A righteous Black man ain't perfect, but he does his best.

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senses about what should, and does, make you uncomfortable around other races exist for a reason. They’ve been honed by a lifetime of responding to slights, subtle and grand, real and perceived. The caveat: As legit as your guarded posture might be, it may be helping to limit you. Think about it: When’s the last time you asked for a colleague’s help with an assignment or your boss’ advice on a promotion? If you answered “never,” your defensive posture may be getting in the way of your ascension. Our 13.5 percent unemployment rate may be the only labor statistic in which we outpace White men, so we can’t derail our own progress being too concerned about the perceived biases of others. “Don’t get caught up in projecting what you think other people are thinking about you. That will put you in a bad position,” says Rich Jones, a career consultant and recruiter in New York. Check out the November issue of EBONY for advice on how to properly handle issues of race on the job. 

5) Perfect the Art of Code Switching

Early in my career, I went to a meeting with my boss at Boston’s Ritz-Carlton. The session was in the presidential suite, which had a basic-for-$1,500-a-night bathroom that included side-by-side toilets. That’s what my 26-year-old mouth sputtered to my boss, whose face registered something less than, “I’m firing you today,” but more than, “I can’t believe you opened your mouth to say that!” Today, my world-traveled self knows that second toilet was a bidet. Race and racism aren’t our only limiting factors.  How we navigate those spaces successfully, without losing ourselves, is known as code switching, the cultural equivalent of being fluent in two languages. In 2013, it has new connotations because brothers have expanded our reach to everywhere from academia to newsrooms to the White House. “This is very much about building social capital,” says Brandon Frame, a 25-year-old educator and founder of The Black Man Cana nonprofit that provides curriculum for young brothers on how to operate beyond their comfort zones. “It starts with education, which largely is about maintaining the status quo. But we have to learn how to network and be comfortable beyond our norms [to experience the] norms of the larger community.” 

6) Master Your Style

How you look walking into a room is as important as what you do inside the room. What do people know about you at a glance? Nothing. Your character is even less visible than your socks, staying hidden until after people make their assumptions about you. This is doubly true for Black men, whose images are already blotted by media portrayals and die-hard stereotypes. In church, on dates, at work, during happy hour or in the street, you’re being judged, so the imperative to step up your sartorial game isn’t just about keeping up with the Joneses; it’s about getting in the door—whichever door—unscathed by the court of public opinion. “A lot of times, specifically in places that are melting pots, you are the representation of what a Black  man looks like, how he dresses and how he acts,” says Chris Law, a New York-based style blogger. Don't miss Law's tips on what items every brother should own and how to keep your wardrobe fresh without replacing it each year in, you guessed it, the November issue of EBONY. 

7) Please (and Be Pleased) Between the Sheets

Two things to note about brothers and sex: We love it, but we don’t need a side of “I love you” to be satiated. That, however, doesn’t mean we always know what gets her there, so let us help you out: Blow her mind by being all-the-way honest. You know what a woman’s biggest erogenous zone is? Her brain, bro. Sure, you might be able to find a few hot spots to help things along, but if you really want it to go down, you’ve got to engage her mentally. And that starts with being able to actually hear what she’s saying. It also means being up front with your intentions. In other words, if you only want sex, tell her. If sex alone isn’t enough, tell her. And if you feel the terms of engagement shift in the middle of your, ahem, relationship? Tell. Her. You might not get the response you’re looking for, but you’ll be giving her the space to make an informed decision, and you’ll both benefit in the end. Go there: I shouldn’t have to tell you where there is; if you’ve followed our advice on listening, she will. Sure, men are visual, but women fantasize, too. And the more willing and open you are to what her ideas of a great   freak session are, the more likely you are to have your fantasies reciprocated. Lower your inhibitions;