This piece is dedicated to Michele, T.Dot, John, and Pepe
Shout out to Bianca for the above image.
While on an awesome date last weekend, Pepe hesitated, then proceeded to challenge me on the idea of Black Male Privilege. He didn’t want to because he suspected that it would derail the date.
In fact I appreciated the conversation because he forced me to think of things I had not conceived of.
The first thing was a question which was “What is the difference between Black Male Privilege and Male privileges period, name some Black male privileges.”
The first is that Black Men are born male in a society that is organized by and for men.
The second is that Black men (who read as heterosexual/straight) can go from point A to point B, from the train to the house without the risk of sexual verbal and physical violence. By sexual verbal violence I mean men yelling out at cars, men leaning into you as you walk down the street, hearing fifty eleven hey baby’s, or can I get a piece of that.
Yesterday I had two confrontations with Black men.
9 either honked or said something.
One on Rhode Island and 3rd, the other a block from my house. It was hot, my skirt was short. In both instances these Negros were surprised that I spoke back. By the time dude said something to me near my house I had had enough. HE claimed that he was BEHIND ME ON THE PHONE TAUMBOUT he wanted to take me to Red Lobster. What he really said was that he wanted to take me to bed. He lied to kick and said he ain’t say that, but you can’t sprinkle sugar on shit and call it ice cream. I heard him.
The psychological costs of being treated like a sex worker on the streets is lightweight unspeakable.
The truth of the matter is that they would NEVER talk to White women like this loud, open and in public because they would be in jail as sure as rice is white.
For many Black men in the street, an attractive Black woman is prey to get at, not a human being returning from running errands so she can go home to write for the evening.
The privilege here is that they know that if they say it to us, more than likely they can get away with it, and that shit is wack sauce. Not the kid.
If you think that I am putting ten on two and that negro men don’t really be fucking with us on the street see,
Black Woman Walking, by Tracey Rose
Hey Shorty, a Doc on Street Harassment by Girls for Gender Equity
Going back to Pepe’s question, means that by being born male, they will benefit from the social structure that says that MEN naturally have the right to public space.
The right to earn more than women doing the same job. (statistically Black men’s unemployment is hella high, but when they do work they work in jobs that, across the board, earn more than women, they often tend to be union jobs. See Paula Giddings When and Where I Enter for more on this.)
The right to dominate women and children and be violent towards them if they get out of line.
The right to beat another Negro mans ass if that negro man threatens his property which is his house, car or “his woman.”
The right to be visible leaders and to make directional choices about the future of the household, community and society.
I responded saying that Black male privilage is different from male privilege because Black masculinity is different from White masculinity which is different from Latino masculinity. Yes they have elements in common, however they read differently.
Black men have a different relationship to the police than white men. Oscar Grant, Sean Bell etc. Black men also have a different relationship to each other than white men do. Derrion Albert & Philly’s, Newark’s and Chicago’s homicide statistics. Black men have different relationships to trying to get and keep a job than white men.
They also read differently based on the persons class, their social standing, their income.
Different masculinities have different kind of privileges. This is how patriarchy works.
In addition one further thing that I have realized while writing this is that Black male privilege is different from “male” privilege in the same way that Black Feminism is different from Feminism (which is known as being organized by and for middle classed White women), further more there is Womanism to knowledge as well.
The second thing he said was that he thought the term Black male privilege may do more harm than good, in that it could alienate Black men, who may otherwise be allies.
My response was that first, that I find the words that I choose to be very important. Second, while it is true that using the term Black Male privilege may alienate some cats, so be it. When dealing with violence and oppression this is not the time to get coddled. He disagreed with me on this point and I am fine with that. I don’t want Black men to think I am attacking them, I am not, I am asserting ALL of our humanity and if they can’t that, that’s between them and they Jesus.
In reading Dumi’s post on Black male privilege I had an epiphany today. I realized that it is a challenge for many people to understand that victims can be perpetrators.
Dumi gets at both Black male privilage and the idea that victims can be perpetrators when he writes,
The hidden and overlooked nature is what is crucial for understanding privilege. It is the careful analysis of the social fabric of our world that will make privilege visible, even to Black men.
BMP is akin to White privilege in that it is often invisible to those who benefit from it the most! It is the accumulation of these unearned advantages that matter but are often dismissed as inconsequential. These advantages are often thought to be insignificant, unless of course you are on the receiving end of the oppression.
Meaning that Black men who are oppressed in a society dominated and controlled by Whites, turn around and try and dominate Black women, because thats what society says that men do.
There are many people who feel that because they had fucked up childhoods, or that they were oppressed as Black men or women, or for that matter as White men and women that they have the right to be rageful or abusive to others.
You don’t. No one does.
Just because my father was an addict for more than for nearly half my life, that that shit was fucked up and that drugs took him away from me and my mom and that our lives were profoundly impoverished after he left, doesn’t give ME the right to take that shit out on the people that I meet today. FULL STOP.
Conversely just because the White world treats Black men like shit doesn’t give THEM the right to be abusive and violent towards us.
The more I experience and read and write about this topic I believe that a street harassment awareness/education campaign may be awesome.
A whole new value system is needed. #ummhmm.
Here are some resources to start with:
Girls for Gender Equity does work around street harassment.
As does Men Can Stop Rape.
Read Kevin Powell’s Ending Violence Against Woman and Girls and take one of the recommended action steps.
Men having conversations amongst themselves around how they treat women in the street can be powerful too. #Ummhmm
You buying my Black Male vs. Male Privilege?
Is it all patriarchy?
Or does it read differently on differently bodies?
Someone sent me a video of a young Black woman on the streets of Brooklyn walking from home to the train, dealing with street harassment.? Please leave that link again! Thank you.