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"Black men don't cry - especially on camera'

GRIEF: A man cries as flowers are laid in tribute to Princess Diana following her death 20 years ago

BLACK men don’t cry. Everybody knows that. Real black men don’t even sigh. We cuss and we buss and we fuss and we truss. But we don’t cry. We don’t do it. We just don’t do it.

Don’t ask me how come. We cuss bad wud, we buss bad blud, we fuss and fight and we truss no one. But we don’t cry. We don’t do it. We just don’t do it. Ours is not to question why. Even if I knew I wouldn’t say.

Suffice to say that since the beginning of time real black men have never cried, and we are not about to start now. To the chagrin of all those wonderful ladies out there who are single and have been looking for a black man to show his lovey dovey emotional side so that they could get together and maybe make something work, but because they’re not looking for a ‘thug’ they can’t find a black man who is in touch with his feminine side so they either stay on their own for the rest of their days or go and find themselves a white man – so I am told.


“If only we could get a black man to cry a little...” they say (so I’m told). To which my reply would be, “You may as well get a black man to die a little.” Because to cry a little is to die a little, and to die a little is to die a lot. And black men are nearly half the population of black people. That’s a lot.

Do you really want us to die out, ladies? Are we not an endangered species already without you lot wanting to kill us softly with your song and your feminine wiles to make us more like you and to neuter us of that which (as infuriating as it may be) is the essence of who we are – which is too strong and too black.

Like I say, black men don’t cry. At least not in public.

Apart from those two black men who 20 years ago this week were bawling their eyes out on national television at the news that Princess Diana had passed away. Do you remember them? Of course you do. You don’t forget something like that. Especially if you are black. Until then, there had been no public recognition that black men even have tears.

Remember, since enslavement days, they had flogged us and whipped us to within an inch of our lives and, though we may have yelped with pain, we didn’t shed a tear. Not one of us. At least not in the presence of the b*****d who enslaved us. He was determined to see us weep and kept flogging until his arms were too tired to flog us anymore, and all we did was grit our teeth. Maybe back in the enslavement quarters, the enslavement cabins that were barely fit for human habitation, maybe there at night when nobody (not least our wife and children) was about, maybe then we had a quiet little whimper. Which is not the same thing as bawling your eyes out – and certainly not in public.


Which is why the public display that I talk of 20 years ago this week was abhorrent and uncalled for. Many of us black men have still not recovered from it. Don’t get me wrong we all loved Princess Diana and we all regarded her as one of our own.

But for a black man to not be able to control his emotions when the BBC and ITV news cameras are pointed directly at him is horrendous and unforgivable. As Donald Trump would say it’s ‘Bad. Very, very, very, very, very, very bad.’

The fact that it was two black men who were weeping together is ‘worserer’ (as Miss Lou would say) than worse. Why did the one black man not nudge the other in the ribs to say, ‘Hold it down, man. Hold it down. We’ll find a quiet spot to have a private hug together later. But right now, man, the whole world is watching us on these television cameras, we gotta keep it real. Ya know what I’m saying?’. Why did one of them not say that to the other?

I’ll tell you why not, they were both too busy sobbing like they were Gazza. Because up until then footballers were the only men who ever cried in public. And now these two eedyat men come along and start bawling their eyes out and of course it goes the equivalent of ‘viral’. Out of all the hours of footage of people weeping at the death of Princess Diana, you can guess which one moment the news networks chose to show over and over and over again.


I bet you any money you like that they showed it again this week as they remember that momentous 10 days in British history following the death of the princess.

Let’s not pussyfoot around. The reason that those two weeping black men amounted to the most disturbing and corrosive televisual experience is because when black men saw that we lost whatever it is that is indefinably us. Or at least some of us did.

While there are still some good ol’ ‘hard’ men out there, most of us are flaccid to say the least and will as sooner weep in public as we would bawl out for our ‘mummas’.

Why, just the other day some bloke called me up when I was live on air and started talking about how, many years ago, when I used to do a book phone-in on the radio, he called-up and said he had never read a book in his life because he struggled with literacy and found it hard to read.


And that I suggested that he start out by reading Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mocking Bird as it is a grown-up book told through the eyes and the language of a 12 year-old girl, and that he read it and it changed his life because he has now became a voracious reader.

Well, I don’t know who turned on my water works but I was choked-up with awe and humility that after all these years of wondering what is the good of being a radio broadcaster I had managed to change one person’s life. That is good enough for me.

And if it hadn’t been for those two eedyat black men crying in public when Princess Diana died, I would probably have received the call and gone home and locked the door of the bathroom and shed two or three (but no more) tears. But those two eedyats have turned me into an eedyat too.

Dotun Adebayo is Britain’s most listened-to black radio talk show host. He presents Up All Night on BBC Radio 5 live Thursdays through Sundays on 909/693 MW, The Sunday Night Special on BBC 94.9FM and Reggae Time on BBC London 94.9FM on Saturday evenings. Tune in if you’re ranking!

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