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Black men are often thrown into boxes by mainstream society–they’re seen as scary, a threat, a menace. But when Black men show each other love, far too many of us make limiting, and often times incorrect, assumptions about their sexuality.

Recently, Creed collaborators Ryan Coogler and Michael B. Jordan sat down with Vanity Fair to discuss what it means to be a “style disrupter.” But the image of the pair caused an uproar amid some folks who wondered why the pair of powerful Black men would pose in such a “soft” manner.

Here’s a brief sample of the negative reactions to the photo (via Mic):

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To be clear, there’s nothing suggestive, “effeminate,” or “gay” about the photo, but it seems like the image of two Black men touching each other in a non-aggressive, friendly way turns some people off, or worse, causes them to argue that Black men are being feminized.

The overreaction to Coogler and Jordan’s photo only illustrates the limitations we place on Black men’s, and by extension Black people’s, ability to love each other. After all, if a hug has to be followed by “no homo,” or two men can’t share a space without retreating to the farthest corner for fear folks will think they’re together, or little Black boys are constantly told to “man up” and act tough whenever they dare to show pain, fear, or any other emotion, of course people have such a negative reaction to this photo of two grown ass Black men in the middle of a friendly moment.

But what does that say about us?

Writing for the Grio, Robert Jones Jr. argues Black folks inherited our limiting notions about Black men and masculinity from our colonizers.

We’ve gone on to police each other just as much as we have been policed by them. Like any appointed overseer, we take pride in being able to note when a girl is “fast” or a boy is a “sissy.” For breaching the boundaries our masters have set in place, for daring to step foot off the plantation, we wish to see each other punished, even if by our own hands. And there is too much glee in our hearts when we tell each other that we deserve whatever happens to us next for not heeding. And this we call love.

In the end, Jones concludes that we must push past our misguided notions of masculinity to embrace Black love…in all its forms.

Whether Jordan and Coogler are “just boys” or something more; whether the photo signifies platonic friendship or romantic love: It shouldn’t matter. Love between black people should always be celebrated given how much violence between black people is always encouraged.

Personally, I’d rather see more brothas embracing each other out of love than trying to flex and compete for who’s the “hardest.” But perhaps that’s just me.

What do you think of the photo? Weigh-in below! 

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