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I received mostly positive ones and a few angry ones that were unpublished because they were anonymous and were more interested in being angry than listening and reflecting.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?

Black Male Privilege x Male Privilege

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.

It didn’t.

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

The college student who was shot in DC for not giving out her number

The Comments in this post

Hey Shorty, a Doc on Street Harassment by Girls for Gender Equity

Walking Home

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.