Notes on Black Male Privilege x Towards a New Black Masculinity

Robert Johnson, Blues Musician This post is for my nephew, who inspires me to this work.

Black Mothers Raise Their Daughters and Love Their Sons ~Saying I/we have heard

…The oppression of women is a difficult issue for our community partly because it is such a personal one. It is passed on to us through media, schools, religious institutions, friends and families. Although it has been said that Black women are held in held in high regard by the black community, the reality is that black women are either denigrated as whores or enemies or are placed on a confining pedestal as superwomen….~Black Men for the Eradication of Sexism

The act of simply being willing to question masculinity and learn about it threatens how society is organized. #ummhmm. Peace to the men and women who are willing to learn ~nains

Yesterdays post on Black male privilege was a hot one.

I received mostly positive ones and a few angry ones that were unpublished because they were anonymous and were more interested in being angry than listening and reflecting. Disagreeing with me is one thing. Thats fine. I have been trained to argue, I am? good at it. But coming at me sideways because you think I? “keeping the Black man down.” Puhlees. Last time I checked, Black women didn’t run the country, the Courts , probation, the Federal government, Fox news, Goldman Sachs etc.

People tend to react strongly when I write personal and they should.?? The intensity that I receive when I write about dating a giver, or about misogyny? in hip hop or about the consequences of Black boys not being raised to feel their feelings is the similar to me because it comes from the same place.

In this post I am going to respond to some of the comments yesterday, discuss some more ideas around Black Male Privilege and talk about what a new Black masculinity may look like.

I laid these out as notes? number 1-4.

Note #1

The post was guided, perhaps unconsciously as I have reread it 5 times this month, David Ikard’s essay “Like a Butterfly in a Hurricane, Reconceptualizing Gendered Resistance in Walter Mosley’s Always Outnumbered Always Outgunned.” Like a Butterfly is significant because takes it to the gut around Black anger, Black gender relationships and a new Black masculinity.

Ikard On Black Anger Quoting Walter Mosely

The anger that Blacks harbor towards whites stifles Black social and economic potential.

When I read this, I couldn’t believe it because I KNOW how draining anger can be, but I never thought of how our collective anger towards white folks could harm our ability to do MORE with and for ourselves, collectively.

Ikard on Black Honesty

Mosely asserts that ….if we Love each other…and our race, then we have to be critical of ourselves and honest.

Critical and honest and Loving. Trust. I wouldn’t spend the time if it didn’t come from a place of Love.

Note # 2

Black Male Privilege, the premises

These three factors lay the foundation for the existence of Black Male Privilege.

-Black women are raised to take shit from, Love and take care of and tolerate Black men. This means we tend to put ourselves last.

-Many Black mothers raise their daughters and Love their sons (however we also raise our boys NOT to feel, which creates men who don’t know how to Love, mindboggling, I know!) Read the comments here.

-This is a society organized by and for men.

Is Black Male privilege a term that I am going to stick by forever? I don’t know. What I do know is that unless we name it, we can’t do anything about it.

@tkoed reminded me repeatedly that this term may alienate more people than it enlightens.

I’m sure people said the same thing to Malcolm, Zora and Barbara, all three of whom inspire me.? #ummhmm.

I get his point, however, until I find another term that gets at what I am talking about,? what we are discussing, I am sticking to this.

Talking about violence IS painful, and it does anger folks, but more than anger we need to find the language to learn how to grieve the losses that have occurred because of the violence that has happened between Black men and Women. #ummhmm. That Black men have done to Black women, Women to Men, Women to Women, and Men to Men. #nohetero.

Beyond anger is an awesome title, #ummhmm.

Note # 3

Some Black Male Privileges

There are three that come to mind. First, the physical? and verbal violence that Black men commit against Black women tends to not be taken seriously by Black men and Black women for that matter.

Second. The privilege of being sexual without being rendered all purpose ho’s (more on this saying in another post.) Many of us suppress our desires because of what I call our internal “ho tape.” The tape that dictates who we are sexually, largely defined by our families, and broader communities schools, churches, the media from childhood on. Josephine has written about the ho tape and desire? here, recently.

Third, Black women are socialized to, are expected to and receive pressure to date and marry Black men only. If we choose to date a non Black man, or a woman for that matter, all hell breaks loose.

Socially, it is as if the “Health of Black American Communities” rests on who we date.? Black men get way more leeway in this area.

Its also as if the crack epidemic related violence, crack cocaine sentencing disparities didn’t have a profound impact? our ability to sustain healthy heterosexual relationships. As if the lack of a state and federal commitment to live up to its civil rights promises of decent housing, schools and jobs has not created the conditions under which we date.

Jewel Woods offers:

1. I don’t have to choose my race over my sex in political matters.

3. When I learn about the Civil Rights Movement & the Black Power Movements, most of the leaders that I will learn about will be black men.

7. I can live my life without ever having read black feminist authors, or knowing about black women’s history, or black women’s issues.
8. I can be a part of a black liberation organization like the Black Panther Party where an “out” rapist Eldridge Cleaver can assume leadership position.
9. I will make more money than black women at equal levels of education and occupation.
10. Most of the national “opinion framers” in Black America including talk show hosts and politicians are men.

48. I have the privilege of believing that black women are different sexually than other women and judging them negatively based on this belief.
34. I can hear and use language bitches and hoes that demean women, with virtually no opposition from men.

82. I have the privilege of having not been raised with domestic responsibilities of cooking, cleaning, and washing that takes up disproportionately more time as adults.

85. I do not have to worry about being considered a traitor to my race if I call the police on a member of the opposite sex.

Let me know what you all think about this list. I’m SURE you have things to say.

Note #4

Towards a Feminist Black Masculinity

Folks seemed to want to engage in this conversation and I am excited. I think that a conversation about a New Black Masculinity, or Manhood is needed and many ways it has already begun. I think what is new on this blog is that it is happening online and within the context of privileges.

There are several scholars who have written about this such as the above mentioned David Ikard, as well as Mark Anthony Neal and bell hooks.

In a blog post on Tea Cake as an Imagined Black Feminist Manhood, Mark Anthony Neal casts Tea Cake Black male feminist? work in progress.

“Janie saw beyond Tea Cake?s youth, lack of money and cavalier attitude (perhaps best captured by his gambling addiction or hustle, depending on your vantage), in large part because of Tea Cake?s ability to be attentive?not simply in the way that one is attentive to someone that they are attracted to?but attentive to the womanist reality that was Janie?s life. To that point there?s a simply lovely passage in the novel where Janie wakes from a nap as Tea Cake combs her hair and she ask ?Whut good do combin? mah hair do you?? and Tea Cake responds ?It?s mine too?it feels jus? lak underneath uh dove?s wing next to mah face? (103)”

But for Tea Cakes violence, given how he BEAT Janie, he does in fact represent a work in progress towards a new Black manhood.

In my post,{ Black} Masculinity: Fragile and Illusive I discussed this using Harry Broads text.

In my post Black Men x Love x Domination I used bell hooks to discuss how when we raise our boys to suppress their feelings we end up with men who don’t know how to Love. #ummhmm. Read those comments too.

I will close with David Ikard’s words. In the conclusion of the book “Breaking Silence, Towards a Black Male Feminist Criticism” he says,

The black male feminist project is most useful because it strives to establish visble notions of black malehood are not premised on black female subjugation…Identigying the underlying problems of black male identity is necessary for a productive approach to the problem…it is equally important to esablish alternative models for Black manhood to offset conventional ones.

A new Black manhood and for that matter womanhood entails recognizing that we don’t have the language to grieve the violence that we commit against one another and that we? need such a language in order to heal from it.

Black men need to take the verbal violence that we endure on the streets seriously and understand that we are dominated because of our skin color and because of what is between our legs. In 1969 Black feminist Frances Beal called this double jeopardy.

Black Women heterosexual, lesbian and queer need to understand the importance of working with men to create the spaces in our lives for boys and men to be able to simply feel.

While looking for an image to accompany this post. I found it hard to settle one one. First was The Mack film poster (not visionary enough), then a photo of Alice and John Coltrane (too hetero), Just Another Girl on the IRT film poster (not broad enough), and then something told me the Blues!

I don’t think it is a coincidence that I thought of the blues. Blues music is a place where historically Black men were able to, encourage to, and appreciated for feeling their feelings publicly. Maybe, just maybe the Blues may be able to tell us something about what we are grappling with here.

What does a new Black manhood look like to you?

What do you think of the Black Male Privilege List?

What are some of the ways, where are some of the spaces where we can engage each other and start to unlearn this shit so we can learn some new?

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Comments

  1. says

    i see you over here putting in WORK. *nods*

    What does a new Black manhood look like to you?

    *a new black manhood looks like parents/communities raising boys & men to embrace their emotional complexities. not beating boys into “men” or what we perceive men to be. it’s about loving & raising a PERSON without the weight of our gendered stereotypes.

    What do you think of the Black Male Privilege List?

    *interesting & true. i felt myself nodding.

    What are some of the ways, where are some of the spaces where we can engage each other and start to unlearn this shit so we can learn some new?

    *i think it all starts with conversation. no one can talk AT anyone else. i wish there was some place where we can get massive amounts of folk together & work it out, but i think it happens on personal basis. small groups. people continuing to engage in discourse (written + conversations) and working it out.

    8my friends & i used to have a “black love forum” back in college. basically a big group of black men & women coming together to discuss issues. of course there was a fair amount of bitterness from some, but we usually were able to leave on some common ground & like we had accomplished SOMETHING. having those types of convos is how we change this.

  2. RalphKenolEsq says

    There was once a poetry to the interaction between men and women on the street. This is not something that was exclusive to black/african culture. I mention this because there was a balance that appeared to work. I’m sure many people have experienced an encounter on the street, an approach, a joke a smile, that lead to something wonderful. All of society has been vulgarized. I guess you can blame this on patriarchy but I am aware of a sex positive element in feminism that promoted something that did not support the better nature of men.

    To be clear, this is not an attempt to place blame on women but to acknowledge a truth. Increased sexual access to women will generally reduce commitment on the part of men. (Why buy the milk..) As patriarchal, sexist as this may sound it is simply true. I’m sure you can get a whole gang of dudes to say I’m talking trash but trust me on this one. (A few convos with sex workers will tell a lot of truths)

    To return to the street harassment, there are actually some women, feminists at that, that appreciate being admired by men on the street. There are even some women who resent not being admired at all.

    There can be a new masculinity that embraces a new femininity but it has to be based in reality. Part of that reality is that there are different paradigms for different orientations. The same rules just don’t apply.

    To make it plain, individuals just have to have real conversations starting from a space of love and respect and make it work for them. The realities of differences in gender coupled with individual personalities just make general solutions impossible. We also have to respect that some things are innate and until we can identify them with precision, we just gonna have to work it out.

  3. RalphKenolEsq says

    Oh one another thing, judging by the homicide rate, the streets are in fact much more dangerous for black men then for black women. I think that women often consider the reality of the street that all men (one of the really bad things face because of patriarchy) walk through life aware that they can lose there life in a confrontation with another man. I don’t think women walk the earth in fear of women like that and the homicide rate of women pales in comparison. I just raise this to try to share a perspective some men have.

  4. Renina says

    Hi Ralph,

    Thank you for taking the time to respond. I am going to respond to to some of your comments then ask you some questions.

    but I am aware of a sex positive element in feminism that promoted something that did not support the better nature of men.
    ==========
    What does this mean?

    Increased sexual access to women will generally reduce commitment on the part of men. (Why buy the milk..)
    ========
    How is this relevant to my post?

    To return to the street harassment, there are actually some women, feminists at that, that appreciate being admired by men on the street.
    ========
    I am working on a post on “Black Womens Complicity in Being Dominated”….Fun stuff. Another reader John, has been prodding me on talking about the role that Black women play in this societal dance.I am on it. Just looking for some theory to frame it.

    There can be a new masculinity that embraces a new femininity but it has to be based in reality.
    =======
    I am not interested in a new Black masculinity that embraces femininity but one that takes sexism as serious as racism.

    One that understands that treating a person like shit because they have brown skin is JUST as awful as treating them like shit because they were BORN with a Vagina or because they READ (appear to be in self presentation) like a woman. That Black women by virtue of being double minorities, INNATELY get this double treatment in a world organized BY and for MEN. #ummhmm.

    Oh one another thing, judging by the homicide rate, the streets are in fact much more dangerous for black men then for black women.
    =========
    First. Read closely. When I talk about the verbal and psychical violence that Black men do to Black women it is NOT a moment to talk about the harm that Black men do to Black men.

    I am talking about WOMEN now.

    Furthermore, I am making a VERY nuanced statement.

    What I am saying is that Black women, on the streets are subjected to violence FROM Black men, based on the fact that they are born with Brown skin AND a vagina.

    Black men do in fact kill each other. And that, in and of itself is racist.

    However, the violence towards US is rooted in race (brownskin) and gender (being a woman) CAN barely be acknowledged by Black men and Women, therefor it cannot be dealt with, nor grieved over, nor moved on from.

    Oh and if you do believe that men and women are innately different, do you believe that whites and Blacks are innately different? And if they are whats to stop you from reasoning that one group is naturally superior or inferior to another?

    I hope this cleared somethings up.

    Looking forward to your response.

    ~R

  5. izabellaspoppa says

    “While looking for an image to accompany this post. I found it hard to settle on one…and then something told me the Blues! I don?t think it is a coincidence that I thought of the blues. Blues music is a place where historically Black men were able to, encourage to, and appreciated for feeling their feelings publicly. Maybe, just maybe the Blues may be able to tell us something about what we are grappling with here”

    ^^^^^^^^THIIIIIIIIISSSS!
    I have been kicking this around in my mind for months. I’m a blues fanatic…
    Anyhow, I’ve been trying to cultivate a chart/study on how black masculinity in black popular music (from blues to soul to rap) has transformed and possible reasons why. I’m struggling trying to find how we got to where we are now, because as far as I can tell, some (read:not all, but a good number) of the sweetest of crooners who sang about love and togetherness and the like were abusive lovers or just plain misogynist outside of their songs. Not sure if this has more to do with their status as famous celebs than the environment they came from….Anyhow, thanks for that point because it lets me know that there is some currency in what I am aspiring to do.
    As far as the post: EXCELLENCE.

  6. arieswym says

    Oooh, these last two posts have been the truth. I’ll come back to comment when I have more time and fully formed thoughts

  7. ralph kenol says

    In attempting to create something new, it is a good to have an appreciation for the old. I am saying that if we don’t acknowledge that there are innate differences based on gender then we have no “appreciation for the old” In the area of sex positivity and accessibility, this simply has a weakening influence on the ability of many men to enter into committed relationships. Now I understand that a progressive politics might suggest otherwise but I think there is enough lived experience that would support my assertion.

    When you talk about the verbal violence that black men to do black women it is precisely the moment to raise the harm that black men do to each other when we are speaking of black male privilege. A privilege suggests a superior position, a better place. If women have to contend with catcalls but men have to contend with death then I would argue that black men do not have a privileged position on the street. (Btw, they certainly do not have one in the family court system)

    Black men killing each other is racist? I’m not really sure what you are saying here. Are you asserting that racism is an explanation for everything? Were it not for racism there would never be conflict between black men? Really? Prior to the commencement of the transatlantic slave trade everything was love in the Motherland?

    Race and gender are different. How and why can fill a lot of textbooks and dissertations but it is something that is like the universe being infinite. We don’t have to come to conclusions about superiority just because difference exists. We do have to build new relationships based on the acknowledgment of that difference.

    If race and gender aren’t different why does the progressive community shun the transracial idenity yet embrace the transgendered. If I decied that I (a black man) want to live my life as a black woman that’s ok, but if I decided that I want to have an operation to appear more like a chinese man or an Irish woman then I’m not sure how the response would be on that one.

    We have to recognize the reality of the “privileges” that we all posess as well as the differences between us before we can forge a new relationship. Failure to start from there can make so much of this academic.

  8. Renina says

    Thank you for your kind words.

    I have been working on Ikards work, in fact you may like this book and the essay that I quoted cuz he talks about Mosely and The Blues.

    I posit that, Black mens music changed because two things,

    How lucrative Black music increasingly became, and White masculinities possessive investment in Black male violence via rap music. Heavy shit. But necessary.

    Rap music presented jobs for black folks and wealth for some white folks, so here we are..

    #ummhmm.

    ~r

  9. says

    You know, when Jewel Woods’ black male privilege checklist was first published, it caused like, an e-riot, over at the Liberator Magazine blog. I kid, sort of. It was an enlightening discussion but also a little frustrating for all the reasons you highlighted here.

    A lot of times, when you bring up the term “privilege” to someone who sees themselves as struggling against the mainstream, it makes them defensive. They think, “How can I possibly be privileged when black men get shot in the streets? etc.”

    But isn’t it privilege to kind of dismiss the very real sexism Black women have to face both externally and internally, in their very own communities?

    Also, isn’t a privilege to be able to wear whatever you want and not, as Renina has described it before, “being treated like a sex worker”?

    Isn’t it privilege to assume you have the right to dominate your partner, even refer to her as property “That’s my woman/that’s my girl”, simply because she’s a woman?

    My point is, being oppressed doesn’t preclude one from having privileges over someone else. And ackknowledging that,

    a) those privileges exist &

    b) we need a new way of relating to one another,

    doesn’t mean we’re ignoring the realities and discrimination that black men face. But right now, we do need to talk about the ways black men and black women relate to each other and how we’re raising black boys and black girls.

    Because let me tell you, I’m working in a high school right now and it is crystal clear to me that many (not all, but many) black boys are being raised to treat women with zero respect, and many (again, not all, but many) black girls are being raised with the belief that that kind of treatment is something to be tolerated and I think we know that’s so not the case.

  10. izabellaspoppa says

    Renina…

    “I posit that, Black mens music changed because two things,

    How lucrative Black music increasingly became, and White masculinities possessive investment in Black male violence via rap music. Heavy shit. But necessary”

    very true words. thanks for the response! and I’ll check out that book and essay!